Escaped killer caught after Alberta shootout

William Bicknell is pictured in this RCMP handout photo from Oct. 2010. THE CANADIAN PRESS/ HO- RCMP

SEXSMITH, Alta. - A dramatic shootout following an alleged hostage-taking landed escaped killer William Bicknell back in custody Sunday, more than a week after he broke free.

Police said they were able to track Bicknell down in northwest Alberta after an elderly woman he was allegedly holding hostage broke free and contacted authorities.

RCMP alleged Bicknell, who is 6-foot-6 and weighs 500 pounds, entered the woman's home near Sexsmith, Alta., early Saturday morning and held her hostage for more than eight hours until she was able to escape and get help.

The Mounties alleged that when they arrived at the woman's home, Bicknell was attempting to drive away in a Chevrolet Impala they said he stole shortly after he escaped custody March 10.

Police chased the car for about 25 kilometres, with Bicknell allegedly shooting at them as he fled and disabling a police vehicle in the process.

Bicknell eventually ended up in a ditch, but police said he kept shooting at officers, who returned fire until he finally surrendered.

One officer received minor injuries in the shootout and has since been released from hospital. Meanwhile, Bicknell, who received more serous injuries, was flown to Edmonton for treatment, where he remained in hospital Sunday night.

"It's an incident that brings great relief in terms of the fact that our one member did not sustain an extensive injury. As well, no one from the public was injured. And lastly, of course, that Mr. Bicknell has been returned to custody." Cpl. Carol McKinley, an RCMP spokesperson, said Sunday.

RCMP didn't specify what type of injuries Bicknell suffered when he was taken into custody. They also didn't elaborate on how the woman he allegedly held hostage on Saturday escaped.

"My understanding is she simply left the residence, I believe on foot. I don't know for sure," McKinley said. "The details of her departure are forming part of the investigation at this point."

Police said charges are pending against Bicknell in connection with his escape and alleged hostage taking. It wasn't clear when he would appear in court to face the allegations.

Bicknell escaped 10 days ago as he returned from Edmonton during an escorted temporary absence from Drumheller Institution. Mounties warned at the time that the 42-year-old fugitive was armed and considered extremely dangerous.

On March 14 while still at large, police alleged Bicknell held a 72-year-old man at gunpoint at a farm home in the Vegreville area east of Edmonton for more than 10 hours before releasing him unharmed.

Police said Bicknell, who was a minimum-security inmate, overpowered a guard during his escorted absence, took the guard hostage, and then picked up guns and ammunition. He then headed to a home where police said they believed he knew the owner, forced his way in and stole a car. He then left the owner and the guard, but disabled the telephone.

Investigators have not released where Bicknell got the firearms.

Bicknell's sister, Sandra Lynn Myshak, 47, was arrested March 18. Police said the Edmonton woman faces several charges that include assisting a person escaping custody and aiding in a kidnapping with a firearm.

Bicknell was convicted in 2003 in the beating death of Angela Steer, who was from Maple Ridge, B.C. The 37-year-old woman's body was found dumped over an embankment in Mission, B.C., in April 2001.

News reports from his trial said Bicknell and Steer got into an argument over a bank machine scam in which Bicknell deposited empty envelopes and then tried to withdraw cash

The argument happened in Steer's Maple Ridge apartment. Steer reportedly hit Bicknell with a bat and Bicknell struck back with a bat of his own, killing Steer.

At trial, Bicknell argued he had acted in self-defence because Steer, who was 5-foot-4 and 130 pounds, struck him first. But the judge convicted Bicknell of second-degree murder and handed him the mandatory life sentence with no chance of parole for 10 years.

Note to readers: This is a corrected story. A previous version said Vegreville was west of Edmonton.