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(Reuters) - A man who killed three Royal Canadian Mounted Police officers was sentenced on Friday to five life sentences in prison, with no possibility of parole for 75 years, the harshest sentence handed down by a Canadian court since the death penalty was eliminated.
Justin Bourque, 24, pleaded guilty to three counts of murder and two counts of attempted murder in the June shootings, when he walked down the streets of the eastern Canadian city of Moncton carrying multiple weapons and then shot police who responded to calls from concerned neighbors.
The RCMP said the sentence, under which Bourque will be 99 years old before he can apply for parole, does not make up for the pain and suffering he caused.
"I am glad that the accused accepted responsibility for his horrific actions and pleaded guilty, sparing the family a long emotional trial. But like any crime, you can’t undo the damage inflicted on the victims and in this case, there are many," RCMP New Brunswick Assistant Commissioner Roger Brown said in a statement.
The incident was one of the worst of its kind in Canada, where gun laws are stricter than they are in the United States and deadly attacks on police are rare.
While there was no trial due to Bourque's guilty plea, he apologized to the families of his victims earlier this week at the sentencing hearing, saying he'd taken the easy way out. But he'd also bragged without remorse about his shooting skills in a police interrogation after his arrest.
The widow of Doug Larche, of one of the slain police officers, said their daughters will grow up knowing their father was "an incredible man and a hero," but their lives will never be the same. She said the unprecedented sentence will spare them some pain.
"It won't bring our husbands back, but at least our children won't be subjected to coming to parole hearings," Nadine Larche said outside the Moncton courtroom.
The RCMP said Bourque was armed with a rifle and a shotgun and carried a gas mask, binoculars and two knives. He evaded arrest after the shootings, sparking a 28-hour lockdown and manhunt, but was found in a yard close to the shootings the following day and gave himself up without a fight.
Prosecutors had asked that Bourque get three consecutive life sentences, while Bourque's defense lawyer asked that his client be allowed to apply for parole after 50 years.
A 2011 legal change allows judges to hand down consecutive sentences in the case of multiple murders. Bourque's 75-year prison sentence is the longest handed out since the change in the law and the harshest sentence since Canada abolished the death penalty in 1976.
Reporting by Andrea Hopkins and Allison Martell in Toronto; Editing by Jeffrey Hodgson, Peter Galloway and Andrew Hay