Stobbe cross-examination ends in murder trial

Mark Stobbe, a former political adviser accused of killing his wife in 2000, is out of the witness box after six days of testimony that included five days of cross-examination.

Mark Stobbe, a former Manitoba and Saskatchewan political adviser accused of killing his wife in 2000, is out of the witness box after six days of testimony that included five days of cross-examination.

Stobbe ended his testimony by calmly and repeatedly rejecting accusations from the Crown that he beat Beverly Rowbotham to death, drove her body to a remote location and bicycled back home to report her missing.

Stobbe has pleaded not guilty to second-degree murder in connection with Rowbotham's death. His trial began Jan. 16 in Winnipeg, and Stobbe had been testifying since March 8.

With Stobbe's testimony finished, the trial will resume Monday morning. Defence lawyer Tim Killeen has not told the jury if he will call more witnesses.

A former senior adviser to former Saskatchewan premier Roy Romanow, Stobbe moved with Rowbotham and their children to the Winnipeg area in 2000 for a job with the government of then-premier Gary Doer.

Stobbe proclaims innocence

Rowbotham's body was found in the family car on Oct. 25, 2000.

On Thursday, Stobbe proclaimed his innocence during the fifth and final day of cross-examination.

"I did not murder my wife," Stobbe said calmly under questioning by Crown attorney Wendy Dawson.

"I did not put her in the Crown Victoria. I did not drive the Crown Victoria out of the garage with her in it."

The Crown has accused Stobbe of attacking Rowbotham with a hatchet, then driving 15 kilometres away to dump her body in the Selkirk, Man., area before bicycling back to their house in St. Andrews, Man.

Stobbe has said he fell asleep while his wife went out for a late-night grocery run and woke up around 2:30 a.m. to find her still gone.

Her body was found several hours later in the family car in a parking lot in Selkirk.

Blood stains in the garage

Dawson said Stobbe moved the family's other car to cover up blood stains in the garage while the family went to Saskatchewan for his wife's memorial service shortly after her murder.

"I had no idea there were blood stains in the garage," Stobbe said. "I knew neither that the garage nor the backyard were part of a crime scene."

Dawson presented Stobbe with a bath towel spotted with his blood recovered from the family home. Stobbe said he cut himself shaving in the shower.

"These stains in this towel are more than just a shaving cut," Dawson said. "This is from a cut you sustained while you were chopping at your wife's head with a hatchet."

"I never chopped at my wife's head with a hatchet," Stobbe said.

Stobbe said he was happy when police came to take a DNA sample from him since he assumed it would exonerate him.

"If male blood had been found, it was likely from who(ever) killed her," he said.

"I knew with absolute certainty that that was not me."

Although Stobbe said he went to great lengths to secure the house before they left the province, Dawson said he didn't bother to change the locks on the house or cancel his wife's credit cards.

That's because Stobbe knew his wife hadn't been robbed, she said.

Stobbe said he didn't think to change the locks and he didn't cancel the credit cards in case they were used by a suspect.

Stobbe had worked as a senior adviser to former Saskatchewan premier Roy Romanow before moving to Manitoba in the spring of 2000 for a new job with the recently elected government of Gary Doer.

The Crown's case against Stobbe is circumstantial since there were no witnesses and the murder weapon was never found.

The Crown has DNA evidence that shows blood, hair and small bone fragments from Rowbotham were found in the couple's backyard, and alleges that Stobbe hosed down the area to try to wash away evidence.

Stobbe has testified he didn't hear anything from the backyard or garage the night his wife was killed.

With files from The Canadian Press