It started with a broken conveyor belt. When the mechanical malfunction brought eighteen-year-old McDonald’s employee Derek Wood into the restaurant’s back room, he saw the safe and got a dangerous idea. It would be so easy to prop the back door open, allowing two friends to sneak inside and steal the money. Wood assumed there was at least $200,000 in the cashbox - an incredible haul for just a few minutes’ work - but things would not go according to plan.
The robbery went wrong from the start and within minutes, a fast-food restaurant in Nova Scotia was turned into a bloodbath. Wood and his accomplices attacked the employees, killing three instantly and leaving the fourth for dead. In the safe, where they had expected to find a fortune, there was barely $2,000. They fled the scene, instigating a manhunt that would captivate the nation.
In May 1992, 18-year-old Derek Wood had just started working at McDonald's in Sydney River, Nova Scotia, when he got the idea to rob the restaurant. He talked to two unemployed friends, Freeman MacNeil (age 23) and Darren Muise (age 18), about it and they decided to do it. They figured they'd score about $200,000. Wood left his knapsack in a basement door to keep it open so they could sneak in late one night after one of Wood's shifts. In the aftermath, Wood's co-workers, Jimmy Fagan (age 27), Donna Warren (age 22) and Neil Burroughs Jr. (age 29), were brutally murdered and Arlene MacNeil (age 20) was left for dead (she ended up disabled and passed away this month). All they got was about $2,000!
This book details the incident, the victims and killers and their families, the economy and mentality of Cape Breton at the time, the police investigation, the activities of Wood, MacNeil and Muise after the murders, their arrests and their trials. It is written by Phonse Jessome, the ATV/CTV reporter who was covering it at the time. Despite the subject matter, I liked the writing style and this book. It's a sad sad story that didn't have to happen. The editing could have been tighter as there were typos. As a head's up, there is swearing and obviously violence.
Wood and MacNeil were given life sentences with no eligibility for parole for 25 years. Muise was sentenced to life in prison with no parole for 20 years. He was released in 2012 with full parole and is apparently living in British Columbia.
From 1977 until 1983 (ages 15 to 21), I lived in Sydney River, a couple blocks from this McDonald's. By the time this incident happened in 1992, I was living here in Toronto. I had followed it on the news at that time and hadn't thought about it until I heard that Arlene had passed away.
The McDonald's was torn down in 2000 and another one is a couple blocks away. It sounds like it's just an empty lot now.
|The McDonald's where the murders happened|