Justice inches forward in Loretta Saunders case

Preliminary inquiry into the murdered SMU grad student begins

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As the Crown played a video in Halifax provincial court Monday morning, Blake Legette covered his eyes with his hands and Victoria Henneberry buried her face in her arms. The acoustics in the room were poor, the judge noted, but as the clip played, sobs and sniffles from the second row where members of Loretta Saunders’ family sat were audible. A tissue box made its way through the gallery.

The Coast can’t reveal the contents of the video just yet. Justice Anne Derrick ordered a publication ban on evidence to ensure that, if the case has legs, Henneberry and Leggette, who are accused of killing Saunders, will have a fair trial. This week’s preliminary inquiry into her murder is meant to establish whether there’s enough evidence to go to trial. Leggette and Henneberry are both charged with first-degree murder—a crime that involves pre-meditation or planning.

About 30 people including reporters crowded the gallery. Several of Saunders’ family members and supporters wore white t-shirts displaying a photo of the 26-year-old Inuk woman and her father surrounded by the words: “Speak the truth, even if your voice shakes.”

Saunders’ body was found off the Trans Canada highway near Salisbury, New Brunswick the day before Valentine’s Day. She was three months pregnant. Before her death, Loretta, a SMU student from Labrador, was researching the murders of three indigenous women from Nova Scotia: Anna Mae Pictou Aquash, Nora Bernard and Tanya Brooks, according to CBC.

The inquiry into Saunders’ death is expected to continue through the week. An additional day has been set aside Aug. 1.

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