A Surrey cop killer originally sentenced to death by hanging has had one of his parole conditions removed and two more imposed by the Parole Board of Canada.
Surrey RCMP Constable Roger Pierlet, 23, was shot in cold blood on 176th Street in Cloverdale, near the railway tracks, on March 29, 1974.
John Harvey Miller, 28, and Vincent John Roger Cockriell, 18, were drunk and hunting for a cop to shoot as they drove through Cloverdale in their 1964 Dodge. Cockriell wanted revenge, blaming the law for the death of his brother, who was killed during a high-speed police chase.
The pair threw a beer bottle through the police station window. After luring Pierlet out, and he pulled them over, the young Mountie told Miller to get out of the vehicle.
As Pierlet stood in front of the open car door, Cockriell, from his passenger’s side, squeezed off a shot from a 30-30 Winchester rifle. The bullet hit Pierlet in the chest, killing him almost instantly. It would have been the Mountie’s last shift before he went on leave to get married.
In Pierlet’s memory, the 176th Street overpass just south of Highway 10 was named after him and two bronze plaques were mounted on concrete pillars on its north end. Originally hailing from Montreal, Pierlet had been posted to what was then the Cloverdale detachment. He is buried in the RCMP’s graveyard at Depot Division, in Regina.
The two killers were originally sentenced to death, but these were commuted to life sentences after capital punishment was abolished in Canada in 1976.
Miller died of a stroke in 2009.
Cockriell, now 63, received full parole in 1998. On Oct. 1, 2019 the Parole Board decided to remove a condition requiring him to abstain from all intoxicants.
“Your health and medical issues are significant and have limited your daily functioning and mobility,” it reasoned. “The recommended change in special conditions does not alter the expectations of the Board that you abstain from substances and take medications only as prescribed.”
It imposed two other conditions: “Not to consume, possess or purchase alcohol,” and “not to consume, purchase or possess drugs other than prescribed medication. To be taken as prescribed and over the counter drugs taken as recommended by the manufacturer, excluding cannabis purchased, consumed and possessed in accordance with the Cannabis Act.”
The Correctional Service of Canada suspended Cockriell’s full parole in December 2000 for being intoxicated at a welfare office and suspended it again in June 2001 and sent him to a drug treatment program after he “blacked out” at a grocery store. This suspension was cancelled in July 2001 and he was returned to a community residential facility.
Outside prison, he has been on a disability pension for shoulder, neck and arthritis problems and also related to a cancer diagnosis. In October 2011 all of his teeth were removed, and he underwent surgery in January 2013 to have part of his esophagus removed and in March 2013, was put back into a residential facility for “over-using” prescription medications, and having a fall outside his home.
According to the document, Cockriell required hospital treatment on several occasions and his weight dropped to under 130 pounds. In August 2014, his parole was again suspended after police spotted him “having trouble walking,” slurring, and with two cans of beer and an empty bottle of pain medication that had been prescribed just five days earlier. He “transitioned” back to his own home and in January 2015 moved in with two other long-term offenders.
The board noted Cockriell had recently “self-reported” two breaches with marijuana after his parole officer smelled in on him. He said he was using it for “pain and nausea reasons.”
“Psychological assessment information on file indicates low risk to re-offend,” the board document states. “You completed all recommended programming many years ago.”