Man considered mastermind of 1992 Cape Breton McDonald's murders denied parole

·2 min read
This former Sydney River McDonald's restaurant was the scene of a triple murder in 1992. The building was torn down in 2000. ( - image credit)
This former Sydney River McDonald's restaurant was the scene of a triple murder in 1992. The building was torn down in 2000. ( - image credit)

A man considered the mastermind of one of the most heinous crimes in Nova Scotia history has been denied parole.

Derek Anthony Wood, 49, was convicted of two counts of first-degree murder, attempted murder, robbery and forcible confinement after a horrific robbery at a McDonald's restaurant in Sydney River, N.S., on May 7, 1992.

Wood has spent 29 years in prison for his role in the crime. As a McDonald's employee, Wood knew money was kept in a safe in the basement. He believed the safe held $200,000 but he and the two accomplices he recruited made off with only about $2,000.

According to court records, Wood shot three employees in the head; two as he and his accomplices entered the restaurant and a third after she opened the safe for them.

A fourth employee, 20-year-old Arlene MacNeil, was shot in the head and left severely disabled. She died in 2018.

The three other victims included Neil Burroughs, 29; James Fagan, 27; and Donna Warren, 22.

The Parole Board of Canada reviewed Wood's case last Thursday. He refused to participate in the hearing in which Board members decided he was still too high a risk to be released from prison. Wood had been considered for day parole in 2015, but was refused.

While in prison, Wood was convicted of stabbing a fellow inmate in 1998. He assaulted two correctional officers in 2007. He told the court in that case he assaulted the officers in order to get transferred to a different institution.

As is usual in parole board decisions, the names of the institutions where Wood has been held have been redacted. However, this latest review was conducted by parole officials in Quebec.

While Wood's official criminal record began with the McDonald's murders, the parole board noted in this latest decision that he was suspected of taking part in a lengthy series of robberies and break and enters prior to the events of May 1992.

Risk of re-offending

Wood has refused to participate in assessments and programs while in prison, including an assessment by a psychologist in May of this year. "Despite your many years of incarceration, little progress has been made in addressing your risk factors and understanding your offending cycle and use of violence," the board wrote in its decision. It considered his risk factors for re-offending are moderate to high.

Wood has spent more than three years in segregation and has at times threatened violence if correctional officers tried to transfer him into the general prison population. The parole board notes his status has never been lower than medium security.

One of Wood's accomplices, Freeman McNeil, was gradually eased back into society from his life sentence.

The third accomplice, Darren Muise, was granted full parole in 2012.

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