Image: Vince Li
John Woods  /  The Canadian Press via AP file
Vince Li, accused of stabbing, beheading and cannibalizing another man on a Greyhound bus in Canada, is brought to a Portage La Prairie, Canada, court last August.
updated 3/3/2009 4:51:21 PM ET 2009-03-03T21:51:21

A man accused of beheading and cannibalizing a fellow bus passenger pleaded not guilty Tuesday at the start of his murder trial. His lawyers are arguing that he should be found not criminally responsible because he is mentally ill.

Vince Li, a Chinese immigrant, is charged with second-degree murder, accused of killing 22-year-old Tim McLean last year in what passengers described as a random, horrific attack.

When he was arrested, Li apologized to police and begged officers to kill him as blood was still smeared on his face. "I'm sorry. I'm guilty. Please kill me," Li said in an agreed statement of facts read in court Tuesday. Li had made a similar statement during a court appearance in August, pleading for someone to "please kill me."

Unprovoked attack
Three dozen passengers were aboard the bus as it traveled at night along a desolate stretch of the Trans-Canada Highway in western Canada in July. Witnesses said Li attacked McLean unprovoked, stabbing him dozens of times.

When the bus pulled over near Portage la Prairie, Manitoba, Li was engrossed with stabbing and mutilating McLean's body, according to a statement of facts read in court Tuesday.

As horrified passengers fled the bus, Li severed McLean's head and displayed it to some of the passengers outside, witnesses said.

A police report said an officer at the scene saw the attacker hacking off pieces of the body and eating them.

It was then that Li also tried numerous times to leave the bus. But he was locked inside and, according to the statement read in court, he returned to McLean's body and methodically carved it up further. Police arriving on scene asked him to drop the knife and he said he "had to stay on this bus forever."

Tried to escape out window
But he eventually tried to escape out a window and was taken into custody.

Police said McLean's body parts were found throughout the bus in plastic bags, although part of his heart and both eyes were never found and were presumed eaten by Li. The victim's ear, nose and tongue were found in Li's pocket.

McLean's family and friends, many wearing T-shirts with his picture on them, wept as the grisly details were read out in court.

The statement said Li attacked McLean "for no apparent reason" and McLean fought to escape before he died. The statement said Li mutilated McLean's body.

A court-ordered psychiatric evaluation had declared him fit to stand trial.

The victim's mother, Carol deDelley, said she wants the law changed so anyone found not criminally responsible for a crime still serves prison time.

Man said to have 'mental problems'
The court heard Tuesday that Li was born in China in 1968 and came to Canada in 2001. He became a citizen in 2005. He graduated from a business college, but never got a job in his field.

He didn't have many friends and was divorced in 2006. Li had "mental problems," according to those who knew him, but they had not known him to be violent.

His former wife said he used to be gone for long periods of time, took unexplained bus trips and sometimes rambled. He was hospitalized briefly but never sought medical attention.

Before he left on his final bus trip, he left his wife a note. "I'm gone. Don't look for me. I wish you were happy."

Copyright 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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