Manitoba

'I don't remember': Woman found tied up in boxcar as girl testifies at Candace Derksen trial

A woman who could have helped Mark Edward Grant's bid for freedom — with testimony suggesting someone else may have killed Candace Derksen — was grilled by a Crown lawyer about her inability to recall any details of being tied up in a train car.

Witness whose story was kept out of Mark Edward Grant's 1st trial for 2nd-degree murder grilled by Crown

Poster from 1984, offering a reward for finding Candace Derksen. (CBC)

A woman who could have helped Mark Edward Grant's bid for freedom — with testimony suggesting someone else may have killed Candace Derksen — was grilled by a Crown lawyer on Thursday about her inability to recall any details about being tied up in a train car.

"I had dreams of it happening and I had people telling me it happened," she told court through tears, adding she suffers from nightmares and can no longer distinguish what is fact. 

The woman, who cannot be named because of a publication ban, was called to testify by the defence to suggest the existence of another suspect in the death of Derksen.

Derksen was 13 when she disappeared on her way home from her Winnipeg school on Nov. 30, 1984. After weeks of searches for the girl, she was found tied up and frozen to death in a machine shed in an industrial yard not far from her home.

Grant was found guilty of second-degree murder in 2011 and sentenced to 25 years in prison. However, his conviction was overturned by the Manitoba Court of Appeal in 2013, which said the trial judge erred by not allowing the defence to bring up the case of the woman who testified on Thursday.

The woman was 12 year's old when she was found alive, tied up with cord, inside a train car in September 1985. The incident was nine months after Candace's body was found bound in a similar way.

Grant was in jail when the second teen was found, and the defence team has argued that could point to another person being responsible for both incidents. 

But it's not clear how helpful the woman will be to the defence's case. 

On Thursday, she maintained that the kidnapping happened but said she can't distinguish her nightmares from reality. 

Defence lawyer Kristofer Advent attempted to refresh the witness's memory with photographs from the scene.

'I don't remember anything'

"Do you have any recollection with regards to the boxcar back then?" Advent asked, after she looked at the photos.

"No," the woman replied.
Candace Dersken's body was found in this shed in Winnipeg on Jan. 17, 1985. (CBC)

"Do you remember anything about a vehicle?" he asked, referring to police reports that said the suspect ordered her into his car.

"I don't remember anything from there, from when I was 12," she said, appearing to become frustrated. 

Crown attorney Brent Davidson capitalized on her difficulty remembering. 

"Do you have memory of anything related to this incident?" he asked her.

"That's a loaded question," she snapped back. 

Davidson then challenged her credibility by raising conflicting statements she made to police in 2011 and testimony she gave to a judge days later.

Pressured by police?

In one instance, Davidson told court, she had given a statement to police that the suspect was armed with a gun. That conflicted with her original testimony, which did not mention a gun. 

He also told the court that she was able to provide details — including a description of the suspect and the boxcar scene — to police when they took new statements in 2011. Just five days later, in a voir dire at the 2011 trial, she said she didn't recall details of the abduction.

Davidson asked if she lied in court, saying she "seemed to have a pretty good memory five days before" the hearing. 

"I wouldn't have lied," she told Davidson. "I didn't lie — not on my [police] statements," she said.

The woman told the court Thursday she felt pressured by police on her way to the hearing in 2011 to not testify on something she didn't know for sure. 

She said she didn't feel police believed her and made her feel "scared" and "crazy" so she felt she had no other choice but to agree the incident never happened.

Davidson pointed to testimony she gave in 2011, where she acknowledged realizing in 2001 — around the time of her father's death — that the kidnapping may not have happened.

"There is nothing about pressure from police, is there?" he asked.

She declined to answer.

The judge-only trail continues Thursday and is scheduled to run until March 3. It is being presided over by Justice Karen Simonsen

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