Speaking from her home this morning, Wilma Derksen, with husband Cliff by her side, told reporters she still believes Mark Edward Grant abducted and killed 13-year-old Candace in 1984.
But Wilma said she respects the justice system, and if there is doubt about his guilt it should be dealt with in the courts.
The Supreme Court agreed with the Manitoba Court of Appeal that overturned the second-degree murder conviction of Grant in 2013. The Manitoba Crown was appealing the appeal court decision, and will now have to decide whether it will prosecute Grant a second time.
Wilma said she is "convinced" about what happened to her daughter and is satisfied the real story has already come out at trial.
She said she's spent years dealing with the case and has pored over the evidence, and believes her daughter's killer is Grant. "It really doesn't matter," she said of the high court's ruling.
But, she admitted, others need to be convinced, too. "I think everyone else needs to be satisfied."
She said the Manitoba Crown's office will make the final decision on whether a new trial is warranted.
"Winnipeg is very, very cold but the people are very warm inside."-Wilma Derksen
"I really assumed this would be over," she said, adding she was "95 per cent certain" the Supreme Court wouldn't order a new trial for Grant, who was convicted of killing their daughter Candace, who today would be 43.
"We've had to kind of change our mindset."
Derksen said the family has been able to keep their composure thanks in part to some advice a Crown attorney gave them years ago in court: only worry about what you can control.
"We're not in control of anything" that the courts decide, she said.
The kindness and support of Winnipeggers has also helped, they said. "Winnipeg is very, very cold but the people are very warm inside," said Wilma.
Grant’s lawyer, Saul Simmonds, said earlier this morning he plans to apply for bail as soon as possible.
"In light of all these developments, there is sufficient evidence that he isn’t responsible and we will apply for bail," Simmonds told the Free Press.
Grant has been in custody since he was arrested in 2007. Simmonds would not discuss whether he has spoken to his client yet today, or where he is currently being held.
Simmonds said he's pleased with the Supreme Court's finding.
"Our position continues to be and Mr. Grant’s position has always been, that he is not responsible for this death," Simmonds said.
Wilma said she doesn't believe Grant will ever really be free, adding the man will exist in a 'prison of guilt.'
She said if Grant is released on bail, "I don't think he'll ever feel like, or be, a free man."
Cliff Derksen said he admires the tenacity of Grant 's lawyer. "He's a bull dog, that man," he said, of Simmonds.
The Derksens smiled throughout the press conference and even joked with reporters but acknowledged they were still in shock that their long legal battle is not yet over.
"There will be anger and tears later on," said Wilma.
In its ruling the Supreme Court said the original trial judge erred when he did not allow Grant’s attorneys to raise evidence of a similar crime which allegedly took place months after Derksen was killed.
In that case a 12-year-old girl was found in an abandoned boxcar, tied up with rope, just a few kilometres from where Candace’s body was found. The girl was found by a witness who is now deceased.
The victim, now an adult, testified under oath as an adult that the incident had actually never happened.
However Grant’s lawyers argued there were similarities in the case including the age of the victims, the fact they were both abducted leaving school at a similar time of day, found in the same area and the same gum wrapper was found at both scenes. Grant was in custody at the time of the second alleged incident and could not have done it, which his defence team argued opened the possibility another person was responsible for both crimes.
The trial judge agreed with the Crown that the evidence in the second case was prejudicial and shouldn’t be admitted. The Supreme Court disagreed, and also took issue with the fact the trial judge put the onus on Grant to prove the second incident took place.
"There is no such evidentiary burden on the accused where he seeks to rely on the defence that an unknown third party committed the crime in question," wrote Justice Karakatsanis in a unanimous decision of the court.
Derksen was abducted in 1984, bound with rope and left to freeze to death in a shed. The case went cold for years. In 2007 Grant was arrested based on DNA evidence found on the rope used to bind Derksen.
Crown attorney Ami Kotler told the Supreme Court in November the evidence gathered in the case did not show clear links to the Derksen murder and to allow the jury to hear the evidence was too risky.
The Supreme Court disagreed, and said evidence of an unknown third party should be admissable if it is relevant to the facts of the case, and the value of the evidence outweighs whether it would prejudice the judge or jury.