The man behind a canoe and truck theft on the West Shore last year has been found not criminally responsible for his actions.
On Jan. 31, 2019, Brendan Marney was walking precariously across the railing of an overpass near Burnside Road and Island Highway when driver Nancy Sermons saw him and pulled over her Ford 150 truck. Sermons dialed 911 and when she hung up, herself and another passerby approached Marney and coaxed him down from the railing.
Court documents reveal how the two witnesses tried to keep the very agitated Marney present until police or ambulance arrived. Marney asked Sermons for a ride to the University of Victoria, but when Sermons told him that she had called 911, he bolted, running to Sermon’s truck, stealing it and driving it in the direction of the Helmcken Road overpass ramp. Marney careened the truck over several medians and then struck a street light with so much force the pole bent. He fled on foot down an embankment.
When police arrived, they located Marney in the Portage Inlet, paddling a canoe in circles. RCMP coaxed him to shore.
Marney now faces three counts of canoe theft, theft of a motor vehicle and operation of a motor vehicle in a manner dangerous to the public.
He pleaded not criminally responsible by reason of mental disorder, claiming that in the days leading up to the incident, he achieved a “heightened awareness concerning the true state of reality” in which he realized that the entire world was fake and a trap that made everything appear real even though it wasn’t.
Marney began to consider all other people zombies and that he had to bring one of the zombies “to his side” to awaken their power. He chose one of his UVic instructors for this mission and had begun walking from his home on the West Shore to the university when he encountered Sermons.
“He felt it was part of that trap to keep him inside the system. He worried that the captors might become aware of his critical insight into the nature of reality,” court documents read.
But the Crown likened Marney’s evidence to the basic plot of the Matrix movie series.
The Crown asked the court to disbelieve Marney’s evidence, but a staff psychiatrist with Island Health reported his belief that Marney was suffering a severe psychotic episode on the day he stole the truck and canoe. The psychiatrist found the man’s actions were “consistent with what [he] thought were reasonably necessary to save his own life.”
The Crown also argued that even if the court believed Marney, it should consider that his cannabis smoking in the days leading up to Jan. 31 was the likely cause of his mental state, not a mental disorder as suggested by the not criminally responsible plea.
But in her decision, Judge Lisa Mrozinski disagreed, writing that on Jan. 31, Marney’s mind was governed by his psychoses, which caused him to perceive the real word as false and malicious.
Mrozinski also pointed to evidence from the psychiatrist, who said cannabis use may have been an exacerbating factor in Marney’s underlying mental health issues, but was not the root cause of his psychosis.
Mrozinski referred the case to the B.C. review board, an independent tribunal that makes orders for accused people found not criminally responsible on account of mental disorders.