Edmonton man wants to be found not criminally responsible for fatally stabbing ex-girlfriend

On the opening day of his trial Monday, Silva Koshwal was found guilty of second-degree murder and offering an indignity to a dead body.

Warning: This story contains graphic details some readers may find disturbing

Nadine Skow's body was discovered in August 2015 after co-workers became concerned she hadn't showed up at her job. (Facebook)

An Edmonton man found guilty of murdering his former girlfriend in a vicious knife attack wants to be found not criminally responsible for the crime.

On the opening day of his trial Monday, Silva Koshwal was found guilty of second-degree murder and offering an indignity to a dead body.

He was charged in August 2015 after the body of Nadine Skow, 38, was found riddled with stab wounds inside her apartment suite near 106th Avenue and 104th Street.

Koshwal, 42, pleaded not guilty to the two charges. But Court of Queen's Bench Justice Sterling Sanderman found him guilty on both counts after Crown prosecutor Laurie Trahan read an agreed statement of facts into the record.

Defence lawyer Peter Royal told Sanderman that Koshwal wants to be found not criminally responsible by reason of a mental disorder. Royal called a psychologist to testify later Monday.

Trahan said the Crown will oppose the application from the defence and plans to call a forensic psychiatrist in rebuttal.

Royal described that facts of the case as "highly disturbing and horrendous."

"I've been practising now for 44 years," Royal said. "I can tell you I have never experienced a case such as this." 

He offered his prayers to the victim's family who were visibly emotional and shaken as the grisly circumstances of the murder were read aloud in court. 

Koshwal showed no emotion during the 49 minutes it took for the Crown to read the agreed statement of facts. 

Court heard Koshwal and Skow had been in a romantic relationship for about three years, but broke up in October 2014.

Aug. 23, 2015, was the last day Skow was seen alive. Skow and Koshwal were spotted together in the late afternoon on a central Edmonton London Drugs surveillance camera.

Silva Koshwal is captured on a Edmonton Transit surveillance camera walking in the direction of his ex-girlfriend's apartment. (Edmonton Police Service/Court exhibit )

About seven hours later, shortly after midnight, Edmonton Transit surveillance cameras showed Koshwal walking toward Skow's apartment. 

Around 1 a.m., a neighbour who lived across the hall heard a scream coming from Skow's suite. The neighbour walked into the hall, put her ear up to Skow's door and heard moaning, but didn't call the police. 

Another building resident who lived right under Skow's apartment said that around 3 a.m., she heard a woman screaming, "He's going to kill me. Help me. He's going to kill me." 

The resident said she didn't know where the screams were coming from, although she heard them repeated three times, 10 minutes apart. The cries for help were followed by the sounds of banging that lasted half an hour in the apartment above her. 

Still, no one called the police.

According to the agreed statement of facts, Skow's co-workers and family became concerned when they were unable to reach her. 

On Aug. 25, two of her co-workers went to Skow's apartment. The door was unlocked.

"They saw her face down on the floor in the bedroom," Trahan said. "They noted blood all over her naked body and saw a knife and cell phone on the bed."

They left and called 911.

The scene police found was even more horrific. 

Victim stabbed 101 times

There was a bloodbath in Skow's bedroom. 

Court has heard she was stabbed 101 times with a number of knives. Virtually every part of her body was injured. An autopsy later showed 63 of the stab wounds occurred while Skow was still alive.

The medical examiner determined that injuries to her left and right jugular veins and trachea ultimately caused her death. 

She had tried to fight back. Thirty of the wounds were defensive injuries to her hands and arms. Skow's left pinky finger was nearly severed.

According to a blood-stain and spatter analysis conducted by police, it's believed Skow was first attacked while she was lying on her back on her bed, then was moved to the floor. 

After she was dead, Koshwal removed Skow's heart, uterus and ovary. 

Skow's mother held her face in her hands as she leaned over crying while the facts were detailed in court. 

Koshwal turned himself into police

Police located Skow's vehicle close to Koshwal's apartment and began conducting surveillance on his residence. 

Shortly after 6 p.m. on Aug. 25, 2015, he turned himself in at Edmonton police headquarters downtown.

Silva Koshwal, 42, in a picture taken by Edmonton Police following his arrest in August, 2015. (Edmonton Police Service/Court exhibit )

"I want to surrender myself," Koshwal told a constable at the front counter. "I killed my wife."

Koshwal was taken into custody. He had Skow's vehicle keys in his possession. DNA testing later showed her blood was underneath his fingernails. 

His DNA was also found on Skow's bedroom wall and on knives used in the stabbing. 

Psychologist testifies for defence

At the request of the defence, forensic psychologist Leslie Block spent 11 hours with Koshwal in order to assess his mental health. 

Block testified Monday  he believes Koshwal is suffering from extreme post-traumatic stress disorder and was in an altered state of reality when he murdered his ex-girlfriend. 

The psychologist said he thinks Koshwal is a product of horrors he witnessed when he was growing up in the Sudan, a country that has been torn apart by civil war and genocide. 

"This is a man who cannot sleep at night," Block testified. "He still sees the militia coming around his home and taking people and he can hear the screams ... and he sees the next morning the destruction brought on by these militia and how the carnage would be ever-present.

"And this is a young boy who had to witness this. Carnage someone should never have to see ... His only way of surviving this would be to disassociate and become as removed as possible."

Block believes Koshwal harbours a fear of abandonment and may have been triggered by the thought of Skow moving to a new home she had just purchased and leaving him behind, prompting what he described as an act of desperation. 

'The volcano eventually has to erupt'

"He has reverted to a child-like state and as a child you lash out and you thrash," Block said. "A young child who's been imprinted by the carnage of his life acting out in present-day circumstances." 

Later, during cross-examination, Block noted Koshwal had a lifetime of trying to repress his past trauma and depression. 

"The volcano eventually has to erupt," he said.

In the report prepared for the court, Block noted Koshwal has no recollection of stabbing Skow, and does not believe he's the one who committed the attack.

He is ... unable to accept responsibility for the death of Ms. Skow or to accept he would do such a thing.- Forensic psychologist Leslie Block

"He thinks they've come and killed her," Block said Koshwal told him.

"She would have defended herself against one person, but there's more than one person who attacked her and they're going to come for me next ... This is his reality from way back in the past." 

Block told court he thinks it's more likely than not Koshwal meets the test for being found not criminally responsible. 

"He was rendered incapable of appreciating the nature and quality of his actions and behaviours," Block testified. 

"He is similarly unable to accept responsibility for the death of Ms. Skow or to accept he would do such a thing."

A forensic psychiatrist will be called to testify Tuesday as a Crown witness. Court has been told Dr. Roger Brown reached a much different conclusion in the case.

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