British Columbia

Defence says Crown's key witness in 2016 murders, kidnapping is unreliable

Defence lawyers say kidnapped drug dealer who was Crown's key witness is not honest, tailored his answers to his own advantage and was drawing conclusions that are wrong.

Lawyers for 3 of 6 defendants wrap up closing arguments

Lawyers for Harinam Cox (L) and Gopal Figueredo (R) say their clients were not in an East Vancouver house when two people were shot to death. (Facebook)

When police rescued a kidnapped drug dealer in a car in New Westminster in Sept 2016, he was distraught: shaking and sobbing, according to his rescuers. 

The man had allegedly been beaten, thrown down stairs at his East Vancouver home, driven to a house in north Surrey where he was allegedly kicked, punched and tortured with a blow torch and had a finger almost completely amputated over a 45-hour period.  

The man who cannot be named under a publication ban was the key witness in the Crown's case against Harinam Cox, Shamil Ali, Gopal Figueredo, Erlan Acosta, Ellwood Bradbury and Matthew Stewart.

The men are all facing several charges — including kidnapping, unlawful confinement, extortion, aggravated assault and manslaughter — in the deaths of Samantha Le and Xuan Van Vy Ba-cao in the East Vancouver home in September 2016, as well as the transfer and alleged ill treatment of the kidnapping victim in the Surrey house.

All six men have pleaded not guilty to the charges.

Lawyers defending the kidnappers say the Crown should not rely on the testimony of the kidnapped man, who was central to the Crown's case against his captors because he is an unreliable witness who tailored information to suit his own purposes. 

From left to right: Ellwood Thomas Bradbury, Matthew Scott Stewart and Erlan Lizardo Acosta are wanted by police in connection with a kidnapping in East Vancouver. (Vancouver Police Department)

Ali's lawyer, Troy Anderson, says his client should be acquitted of the manslaughter charges because the witness testified that a "brown man" was present at his kidnapping and only attached Ali's name to him later. 

Victims shot

In fact, Anderson argued that his client wasn't even present at the kidnapping as there was no proof that he was at the East Vancouver house where Le and Ba-Cao were shot to death.

He argued the manslaughter charges should be dropped.

Anderson conceded that his client was present at the Surrey house where the kidnapping victim was held. He said his client was also in the car when the victim was rescued by police in New Westminster on Sept.19. 

But he said the Crown could not prove that his client was part of the conspiracy and kidnapping plan.

Similarly, on Wednesday, Gloria Ng, who is Cox's lawyer, said the Crown had failed to prove her client was at the East Vancouver house at the time of the kidnapping even though Cox lived there and was a friend of the drug dealer and kidnap victim. 

Ng argued that the drug dealer was a poor, evasive witness who withheld evidence and tried to craft his answers to serve his own needs. 

Xuan Van Vy Ba-cao and Samantha Le arrived home to find a kidnapping in progress and were shot dead. (Families' Go Fund Me photos)

She told the court he was active in the drug trade at the time of the kidnapping and had $100,000 in ready cash, five kilos of cocaine and a gun in a safe.

Ng argued that Cox was an "onlooker' to events that happened after men in balaclavas allegedly burst into the home and kidnapped the drug dealer, not a co-perpetrator, his lawyer said.

Ng said the man and woman who were killed arrived at the house at the wrong time.

Victim said he heard 'go,go, go'

Cox's lawyer said her client's DNA was not on the balaclava police recovered, which shows he was not one of the kidnap planners.

He was acting under duress when he hit the dealer, which she described as a half-hearted blow, Ng said. In addition, she said Cox was also assaulted by the kidnappers.

Gopal Figueredo's lawyer, William Jessop, said his client conceded the Crown had met the burden of proof in the kidnapping charges and that he was at the house for a drug transaction earlier.

But Jessop denied that he was in the house when Le and Ba-Cao were shot.

Previously, the kidnapped man had testified he had heard Figueredo say "go, go, go" after four shots rang out. But Jessop said that it would have been impossible to identify individual voices in the chaotic circumstances. 

In fact he said, Figueredo was outside the house waiting to drive the getaway car after the kidnapping — not aiding or abetting in the shootings.

Lawyers for Acosta, Bradbury and Stewart will be submitting their closing arguments next week.