Pistol-whipped, robbed during home invasion, former friend of accused tells court

He was taken from his Paradise home by three masked men holding knives and a gun, but when the chance came to look at them, Michael Crant said he looked down.

Defence lawyer questions 'stash house' where Michael Crant took men who broke into his Paradise home

Abdifatah Mohamed (left), Mitchell Nippard, Gary Hennessey and Tyler Donahue are facing 53 charges in relation to four home invasion and a break-in during the month of February 2017. (Gary Locke/CBC)

He was taken in a car by three masked men holding knives and a gun, but when the chance came to get a look at who they were, Michael Crant says he looked down.

"I didn't want to see their face so I looked the other way," said Crant Tuesday, testifying at a St. John's trial via video from an undisclosed location outside the province.

"I just didn't want to know what they looked like for my own safety."

Crant was the latest witness for the Crown in what has become a bizarre and shocking trial involving allegations of four home invasions on Newfoundland's northeast Avalon Peninsula in February 2017. 

Abdifatah Mohamed, 28, Tyler Donahue, 24, Gary Hennessey, 33, and Mitchell Nippard, 26, are facing 53 charges. 

Mohamed is representing himself and gets to cross-examine witnesses.

'They wanted money'

Michael Crant's parents, Ivan and Daphne Crant, have already testified at provincial court about a frightening ordeal on Feb. 8, 2017, when three masked men barged into their property, tied them up and robbed them.

Their son told the court that earlier in the day, his former "good friend," Mitchell Nippard, and Gary Hennessey were in the family's shed along with other friends. 

He said the pair left about half an hour to an hour before the masked intrusion began — a point Crant had previously excluded from his two police statements last February.

The masked intruders entered the shed and ordered the men to lie face down on the floor. They bound their wrists with plastic ties and covered their mouths with tape, Crant said.

"They beat me a couple times with the pistol," Crant said, adding he was bleeding from the crown of his head.

Two of the men — one wearing a clown's mask and the other a balaclava — both had mainland accents, Crant said.

He testified they took him inside his home, where he found his girlfriend tied up in his bedroom. They'd later bring Daphne Crant in the room and tie her up, too.

They led Crant through the house, emptying drawers and cabinets, taking jewlery, cash, guns and ammunition.

"They kept saying it wasn't enough money. It wasn't enough. They were going to kill me if I didn't give them more," Crant said. 

To appease them, he said, he instructed them on how to get to his friend's house off Paradise Road, where Crant claimed he was keeping jewelry.

Crant said the men kicked in the door to the house, told him to get on his knees and they took items before leaving.

He untied himself and ran to nearby Hamilton's Convenience on St. Thomas Line and called a cab, he said. 

Stash house? 'Could have been baking a cake'

Asked by Nippard's lawyer, Shanna Wicks, when he was last at his friend's home, Crant said, "Like a year ago probably." 

"So you had your jewelry left there for a year?" she asked.

"I have lots of jewelry," he answered.

Michael Crant testified he and his attackers drove from the home on Milton Road to a friend's house on Cameo Drive, where he kept jewelry. (CBC News Graphics)

Derek Hogan, the lawyer for Gary Hennessey, suggested the property was a "stash house" — a place where drugs and cash are held. 

"No, it's not, sir," Crant said. "What's the definition of a stash house? Yeah, stash house, where I stash my jewelry."

Pressed further and shown a police photo of drugs in the house, Crant said, "Could have been baking a cake, I guess," going on to say, "I've never seen it before in my life."

In cross-examination by an energetic Mohamed, Crant said other than two of the men being black, he cannot identify his attackers.

The trial is expected to continue on Wednesday. 

About the Author

Ariana Kelland

Reporter

Ariana Kelland is a reporter with the CBC Newfoundland and Labrador bureau in St. John's.