A convicted murderer involved in the 1992 botched robbery of a McDonald’s restaurant in Sydney River, N.S. has been granted 24-hour unescorted passes from prison.

Three men were convicted for the violent incident that left three McDonald’s employees dead and a fourth with life-altering brain injuries. All three attackers, who ended up stealing $2,017, were convicted of first-degree murder.

After decades behind bars, Freeman MacNeil, now 51, was approved for two 24-hour absences for the next two months. The conditions of these releases include MacNeil not having any contact with the victims' families.

One of the victims was 29-year-old father Neil Burroughs who was shot and stabbed before being hit him over the head with a shovel handle. The two other victims were James Fagan, 27 and Donna Warren, 22.

A fourth worker, Arleen MacNeil, suffered life-altering brain injuries. She died last year.

The most recent unescorted passes were for MacNeil’s “personal development” and the logical step in his reintegration into society, the Parole Board of Canada said.

MacNeil has reportedly had about 300 escorted passes out of prison since 2016. He has been held in minimum-security institutions since 2012.


Cathy Burroughs, the sister of victim Neil Burroughs, said she was shocked by the news.

“It’s just inconceivable to me that we have a justice system that definitely just still protects the offenders,” she said.

Burroughs doesn’t believe MacNeil has changed since the killing and said he even smirked at her family when they attended his second-to-last parole hearing.

She added this latest news didn’t surprise her. Another one of the convicted murderers, Darren Muise, received full parole nearly seven years ago. Burroughs believes MacNeil will eventually be released from prison as well.

She doesn’t believe Derek Wood, the third man involved in the murders, will ever be released, despite being the “only one who has ever apologized for his actions that night.”

Regardless of what ends up happening with both Wood and MacNeil, Burroughs said the pain from her brother’s murder will never fully disappear.

"They're not the only ones who got a life sentence. So did we,” she said, adding she’ll be at MacNeil's next parole hearing.

"As I told Mr. MacNeil the last time, we still have some unfinished business. He will always have to contend with the Burroughs family. And especially me."