Edmonton

West Edmonton Mall water park assault suspect under close surveillance after complaints, trial hears

A supervisor at the West Edmonton Mall water park testified Friday that a sexual assault suspect was closely watched by staff from the moment a group of girls raised the alarm about him.

'We always made sure we had eyes on him,' supervisor testifies

Video Surveillance from the West Edmonton Mall Water Park shows a suspect pointed out by a group of teenage girls walking to the change rooms. (Edmonton Provincial Court)

A supervisor at the West Edmonton Mall water park testified Friday that a sexual assault suspect was closely watched by staff from the moment a group of girls raised the alarm about him.

Erika Bevan told court that a suspect wearing blue trunks in the wave pool was under close surveillance following the girls' complaints.

"We always made sure we had eyes on him," Bevan said in Edmonton provincial court.

The Crown closed its case on Friday against Soleiman Hajj Soleiman, 40, who is charged with six counts of sexual assault and six counts of sexual contact with a child.

The defence chose not to call any evidence.

Bevan was working as acting supervisor of the water park on Feb. 4, 2017, when she noticed a group of girls talking to a lifeguard.

When she went to see what was going on, she said a group of girls were complaining they had been inappropriately touched and were pointing to a man in the pool.

Video Surveillance of the wave pool at the West Edmonton Mall Water Park on the evening of Feb. 4, 2017. (Edmonton Provincial Court)

After calling security, Bevan said she followed the man the girls were pointing to as he left the pool toward the change rooms.

"In matters like these we make sure we're going for the right person," she said.

Bevan testified she followed the man all the way to the men's change room when she stopped at the door and her male colleague followed him in.

Video surveillance was played in court of a man walking to the change rooms with security staff following seconds later.

Soleiman's defence lawyer, Adam Karbani, has said all the way through the case the key issue is not whether the offences happened, but whether the right man was arrested.

He asked the lead detective on the case, Christa Laforce, why police did not conduct a photo lineup as part of their investigation, especially since none of the girls had ever seen the suspect before.

"Based on the evidence, I felt no reason. We had complainants and witnesses pointing him out to a lifeguard," Laforce testified. "Identity was not an issue."

Karbani maintains the Crown has not proved beyond a reasonable doubt Soleiman is the man responsible, pointing out he was one of many in a busy wave pool.

He has also raised questions about whether the girls could see the suspect's face from the lifeguard's position at the top of a ladder.

Crown prosecutor Laurie Trahan said there is sufficient evidence to show Soleiman was the man the girls accused of grabbing and touching them in the wave pool.

She said the girls all pointed to the same man in the pool when they reported what happened to the lifeguards.

The Crown and defence will return to court to make their final arguments in the case April 17.

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