Edmonton

Decision in Silva Koshwal murder trial to be delivered Thursday

Silva Koshwal, 42, will find out Thursday afternoon if he’ll be sent to prison or a psychiatric hospital.

Warning: This story contains graphic details that may be disturbing to some readers

Silva Koshwal at the time of his arrest in August 2015. (Edmonton Police Service/Court exhibit)

Convicted murderer Silva Koshwal will find out Thursday afternoon if he'll be sent to prison or a psychiatric hospital. 

Court of Queen's Bench Justice Sterling Sanderman will hand down his decision on a defence application asking that Koshwal be found not criminally responsible for the 2015 stabbing death of his ex-girlfriend in her Edmonton apartment.

In August 2015, Koshwal stabbed Nadine Skow 101 times, then mutilated her body. He removed her uterus, ovaries and heart, then wrote the letter A in her blood on the bedroom wall. 

After listening to the agreed statement of facts at the start of the trial on Monday, Sanderman convicted the 42-year old of second-degree murder and offering an indignity to a dead body. 

The onus is on the defence to convince the judge on a balance of probabilities that Koshwal should be found not criminally responsible. 

"This is such an outrageous slaughter of this poor woman that it must be the result of a significant mental disturbance," defence lawyer Peter Royal told the judge in his closing argument. 

"No one behaves like this normally. Mr. Koshwal needs treatment as opposed to life imprisonment." 

Edmonton forensic psychologist Leslie Block, testifying for the defence, told the judge he believes Koshwal should be found not criminally responsible.

Forensic psychiatrist Dr. Roger Brown was a Crown witness who reached the opposite conclusion.

Royal called both witnesses honest, intelligent and well-trained. 

"There is a fundamental disagreement between the two of them," Royal said. "It's not unusual in these sorts of cases to see competing theories."

He urged Sanderman to accept Block's evidence. Royal described Block as "professional and neutral."

Royal also pointed to a section of the report prepared by Brown that referred to a diagnosis made by Dr. Madhavan Das, a psychiatrist at the Edmonton Remand Centre in July 2017.

Das diagnosed Koshwal with "psychosis complex of schizophrenic type" and prescribed him with anti-psychotic medication, Brown wrote in his report.

"Seeing blood everywhere, it gets dried up. He can see his wife's body all in blood, said she was murdered," the remand centre psychiatrist said in his patient notes. "He can see 'a lot of bodies' on 107th Avenue and he has accepted it as [the] norm. Seeing aliens walking around and shouting."

Royal said the remand centre psychiatrist's findings are consistent with the conclusions reached by Block. 

"We have the burden and we've met it," Royal told the judge. 

'He was angry and jealous'

"This is not an exact science," Crown prosecutor Laurie Trahan said. But she said that in her opinion, the expert witness for the defence made "sweeping assumptions based on what appears to be very little information or evidence."

Both mental health experts diagnosed Koshwal with post-traumatic stress disorder and depression. But Block went further, concluding Koshwal also suffered from dissociative states, psychosis and flashbacks. 

"There is simply no evidence of these additional disorders," Trahan said. "There is no concrete evidence the accused had a traumatic, dissociative episode."

She said Brown's 27-page report was "clearly more thorough" than Block's 14 pages. 

Commenting on Block's testimony, Trahan said: "He seems to lack objectivity, sir." 

Trahan argued the evidence before the court shows Koshwal knew what he was doing when he stabbed and mutilated Skow, and that his actions at the scene proved he knew right from wrong. 

Nadine Skow was stabbed to death by her ex-boyfriend Silva Koshwal in August 2015. (Facebook)

"Ms. Skow was ready to move on with her life and he was angry and jealous," Trahan said.

She noted Koshwal considered suicide over what he had done. 

"He obtained cleaning supplies," Trahan said. "He cleaned himself up a bit before going to the police."

Finally, she noted there have been numerous examples of horrific murders where the accused failed to be found not criminally responsible.

"Gore is not an indicator of mental disorder," she said.

Koshwal remains in custody at the Edmonton Remand Centre. If he is declared not criminally responsible on Thursday afternoon, he will be transferred to a psychiatric hospital. 

If that defence fails, Koshwal will face an automatic life sentence with no chance of parole for 10 to 25 years.

About the Author

Janice Johnston is an award-winning journalist in Edmonton who has covered the courts and crime for more than two decades. You can reach her at janice.johnston@cbc.ca or on Twitter at @cbcjanjohnston

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