The B.C. government gave $5,000 to a convicted serial rapist even as it was claimed in court that he's a potential suspect in the province's worst wrongful conviction case, CTV News and W5 have learned.

Vancouver plumber Don McRae received the money through a court settlement four years ago. McRae claimed he was injured during a fall in prison, where he was serving a five-year sentence for three sexual assaults in the late 1980s.

Meanwhile the Vancouver man who spent almost three decades in jail before his rape convictions were thrown out, Ivan Henry, is still fighting in court for compensation.

“Nothing’s fair, right? Nothing’s fair,” Henry told CTV News and W5.

McRae didn’t face rape charges in the 1980s. Vancouver police reinvestigated the file more recently using DNA technology, and McRae was convicted in 2005 of a series of basement knifepoint sex attacks.

Authorities found those attacks were similar to the attacks for which Ivan Henry was convicted on 10 counts only a few years before. Henry had been declared a dangerous offender in 1983, but always maintained his innocence.

In both cases, the attacker targeted basements, used a knife, and struck in the dark, making it difficult for police to catch the offender.

The similarities in the cases was one factor that led to reopening Henry’s convictions. He was acquitted in 2010 after an appeals court found problems with the trial. But he was not exonerated, and the Vancouver Police Department and some victims believe he is guilty of at least one offense. Henry is suing for compensation.

Retired Vancouver police officer Gord Elias ran the surveillance operation that had McRae in its sights and followed him in an operation in 1987.

Police suspected that McRae was raping single women in Mount Pleasant basement apartments and followed him, locking him up for a series of peeping offenses in Mount Pleasant in Vancouver, said Elias.

“There was a window he went up to, he was peering inside, and it turns out that was a young female that lived there,” recalled Elias.

There was no way to analyze a suspect’s DNA at the time, so police didn’t have the evidence for a rape charge. But Elias said officers knew what was happening.

“I interviewed (McRae) for a very short period of time by myself,” Elias said. “I basically told Mr. McRae that I knew he was the person committing the sexual assaults and I told him right then that we may not have gotten you right now but one day we’re going to get you.”

Elias was right – two decades later DNA evidence would show McRae did attack three women. He pled guilty in three sexual assaults, and a police profiler’s report concludes he committed 25 unsolved cases at the time.

But McRae’s lawyer claimed his client is not the same man as the rapist at the sentencing hearing in 2005. Kevin McCullough claimed McRae has a brain injury from a major car accident in 1989.

“What Mr. McRae had become at the time of his arrest, Your Honour, is someone who was living on the street and homeless, and who essentially dumpster dives,” McCullough said. “He has just about a childlike behaviour now.”

Judge William Kitchen noted that significant time had passed since the attacks, and also referenced the brain injury in sentencing McRae to five years in prison.

“It is clear that the man I am dealing with today is quite a different man from the man who committed those offenses. He is certainly not the same physically. He is much older. He is not the same mentally, and probably of quite a different mindset from the man who committed these terrible offenses,” Judge Kitchen said.

However, a review of McRae’s parole files shows that a prison psychologist had serious doubts about McRae’s various claims of cognitive problems.

“Your self-declared memory deficits are inconsistent with what is known about brain injury,” the National Parole Board report says. “The psychologist opined that, despite a confirmed organic brain disorder, you may be exaggerating your deficits in order to deflect responsibility for your behaviour. She also suggested there is no evidence of cognitive deficits or memory loss, and that your behaviour patterns are malingering and manipulative.”

McRae represented himself in a claim for damages from a slip and fall in North Fraser Pre-Trial Centre. In all caps he claims in writing that he fell down the stairs because someone had left an unknown substance on the stairway.

“To this day this injury (accident) has caused me two and or possibly three compression fractures to disks located in my back, and persistent lower back pain and sciatica,” he says, listing other ailments including headaches, periodic dizziness, and breathing problems.

The provincial government initially denied all of McRae’s claims in court, but upon his release in 2010 authorized the $5000 payment to settle his lawsuit, documents show.

McRae now lives in a subsidized housing facility for people with mental health problems. He refused to answer questions from CTV News and W5. McRae faces no current criminal charges.

Justice Minister Suzanne Anton also refused to answer questions about the McRae payout, saying: “Let me leave that to the process in hand. I don’t want to comment on processes that are actively under way.”