Vancouver Police have laid charges against two men in connection to two separate homicides dating back to 1999.

Russell Wayne Mathers is accused in a fatal arson that killed two men in East Vancouver on April 12, 1999.

Alexander James Conto, 48, and Nicholas Leonard Cortner, 50, died in the fire in a home at 5879 St. Georges Street.

The decade-old case had gone cold until a tip in 2007 revealed the fire was deliberately set, Insp. Mike Porteous said.

"Subsequent investigation of the incident by the VPD Major Crime Section has shown that 50-year-old Russell Wayne Mathers had conspired with a second individual to intentionally set fire to the residence, resulting in the deaths of Conto and Cortner."

Mathers is charged with arson and two counts of manslaughter. He was not previously known to police.


Meanwhile, the VPD's major crimes unit said a man was arrested and charged with a fatal shooting in East Vancouver last summer.

Police say Vancouver resident Dinh Cuong Pham shot and killed Van Em Huynh, 25, after a dispute outside a Vietnamese restaurant on July 5, 2008. The killing is believed to be drug-related.

Pham is charged with second-degree murder.

Cold case arrests

This is the third cold case murder arrest this week for the Vancouver Police.

On December 2, investigators announced an arrest in the 2004 murder of Reginald Haynes.

The 63-year-old was found dead in his room at the Columbia Hotel. George Holt, another resident, has been charged with second-degree murder.

A new approach

The force is also appealing for information in the death of a Vancouver sex trade worker this summer.

The body of Lisa Frances was found discarded in the Fraser River July 23.

The VPD erected a billboard with a picture of Francis Thursday, hoping it will generate tips and clues that could piece together the timeline of her murder.

Anyone with information is asked to call investigators at 604-717-2500 or Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222 8477.