A trial for a city police officer charged with using his position to obtain sexual favours from two women resumed Tuesday with testimony from a former hotel manager who says he heard the accused demand one of the victims expose her breasts to him.
Const. Remi Van Den Driessche, 42, was arrested in early 2014 and charged with multiple counts of sexual assault, extortion, criminal harassment, and breach of trust in connection with five women. One of the women has since passed away.
Robert Henry told court he was working behind the vendor counter of the Sutherland Hotel on Main Street when two police officers — one of whom prosecutors allege was Van Den Driessche — forced open a locked door and made their way upstairs to the hotel rooms.
"I yelled at them, said if they wanted go up, all they had to do was ask, I would have let them up or wait until somebody comes down," said Henry, who court heard is currently in prison on drug charges.
Henry said he watched as the officers proceeded up a second flight of stairs and decided to follow them. Henry said he was hidden behind a corner when he saw the taller of the two officers — allegedly Van Den Driessche — knock on a door. When the woman answered the door, the officer told the woman to lift up her shirt and show him her breasts.
"She asked if he was serious," Henry said. "He said if she didn't do it he would charge her. She asked what he was going to charge her with and he said whatever he could.
"After that, I guess she pulled her top up, because I could see his hands [up in front of him]," he said.
After some further conversation, the woman "got mad," slammed the door, and the officers left, Henry said.
Henry said he went to the woman's room and told her to file a complaint with the Law Enforcement Review Agency (LERA).
"She said she was scared she was going to get in trouble," Henry said. "I just told her if he comes back tell him you got AIDS so he will leave you alone."
First met in 2011, she says
Last fall, the alleged victim told court she was working in the sex trade in September 2011 when she first crossed paths with Van Den Driessche. The 36-year-old woman said she was walking along Jarvis Avenue towards Powers Street —violating a court recognizance she not attend areas of prostitution — when Van Den Driessche pulled up in his cruiser and started asking her questions.
"I told him I was going to the North End Women's Resource Centre at Selkirk and Salter and that I was using that street because it was quieter and I knew there were a lot of prostitutes in the area," the woman said. "I didn't want to admit at that time that was my intention in that walk."
But it became clear Van Den Driessche knew exactly why she was in the area and his questions became graphically sexual, the woman said.
The conversation "got really creepy," she said.
The woman said she told Van Den Driessche she was HIV-positive and only provided oral sex to customers.
"Basically, he asked me if I was any good," she said. "I wasn't expecting him to say anything like that."
The woman said Van Den Driessche checked his police computer and learned of her recognizance and her contact details, including her hotel address.
'This was broad daylight'
Van Den Driessche asked her to turn around for him and she complied, she alleged. Then he asked that she expose her breasts.
"I was kind of shocked," she said. "I said 'In front of all these people?' He said 'Yeah, who's going to say something? Who would they exactly phone? The police?'"
Again, the woman complied, she said.
"I was pretty embarrassed," she said. "This was broad daylight. Yes, I do what I do, but I don't just go around showing people my body parts."
The woman said the accused went on to visit her hotel between 20 and 40 times with the goal of collecting sexual favours.
"He let me walk that day without breaching me [for violating her court recognizance] and he wanted his [oral sex]," she said. The woman said she would rebuff Van Den Driessche or tell him she was just on her way out. On one occasion, she alleged, he stuck his finger down her throat.
"He would always try to get further than he did the last time," she said.
The woman said she inquired about filing a LERA complaint but decided against it when she learned Van Den Driessche would be given her name.
"I didn't want that," she said. "I didn't want any more problems with the officer."
The trial continues Thursday.