Nfld. & Labrador

Noel Strapp denies any sexual encounter with former student during court testimony

While on the stand in provincial court in St. John's on Wednesday, Noel Strapp denied all allegations that he had a sexual relationship with a school student that he taught and coached.

'It's not even fathomable,' former teacher says

Noel Strapp testified in provincial court in St. John's on Wednesday. (Lukas Wall/CBC)

While on the stand in provincial court in St. John's on Wednesday, Noel Strapp denied all allegations that he had a sexual relationship with a teenaged student whom he taught and coached.

Strapp, 39, of Harbour Main is accused of sexual assault and sexual exploitation — touching a young person for a sexual purpose. The charges stem from allegations the woman made to the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary in 2019.

The now 22-year-old complainant, whose identity is covered under a publication ban, told the court Friday that she and the former teacher had about 100 sexual interactions — 10 to 20 of those times including penetration. It happened in the school, at Strapp's home, in his children's play house and his car, she testified.

In court Wednesday, Strapp said that none of the allegations are true.

"It's not even fathomable. [She's] like my little sister," he said.

"I don't think I even had that number of sexual encounters in my own married life."

What Strapp didn't deny, however, is that he was a significant part of her life, as a coach in multiple sports, a teacher and a close friend.

Strapp said he taught the complainant classes and saw her at practices and training sessions before and after school.

She would also regularly visit his home and had a close relationship with his wife and children, even taking part in family events, like his children's birthday parties.

The complainant struggled with her peers and felt that she wasn't accepted at home, Strapp said, so he felt she needed support and someone to talk to.

"She could come over to our house and kind of be herself a little more," he said.

Strapp, right, prepares to leave provincial court Wednesday with his lawyer Ian Patey. (Lukas Wall/CBC)

Defence lawyer Ian Patey repeatedly asked Strapp if he was ever alone with the complainant — during workouts, or practices, or in his car or at his home — with Strapp saying no each time.

Strapp said the only time he and the complainant spent time alone together was during a trip to Guelph, Ont., in April 2014 for a national tournament. 

The team was going out for dinner after the competition had finished, he said, and he and the complainant went ahead to the restaurant for about 20 minutes before the other students arrived. Strapp said nothing sexual happened between them.

When the complainant would visit his home, Strapp said, his wife and four children were always there. The school's gym and fitness room were always busy with students, even outside school hours, he claimed, so it would have been impossible for them to be alone.

Strapp said he did often send text messages to the complainant, both as part of a group chat and to her individually, but he said there was no sexual communication between them, just some inside jokes. 

Police have gathered about 8,000 text messages between the two, with Patey saying in court Friday that only eight of the messages made reference to anything sexual. 

The complainant testified they exchanged sexual pictures and conversations using Snapchat, an app that erases messages after they are sent, rather than sending texts.

She also testified that she and Strapp first began having intercourse in July 2016, something he said was "not even a hint of being within the realm of possibility."

Strapp said he and his wife went on a three and a half week vacation to the Ottawa Valley just after school ended for the year and the complainant traveled to Europe after that, with Strapp having a stint in hospital between the trips.

"Just the time thing, besides the fallacy of the statement altogether, the time is impossible," he said.

'Performance nutrition'

During her testimony, the complainant also said that Strapp enforced a strict diet and training regime as a way of controlling her, a regime that eventually led her to develop an eating disorder and lose her period for two years.

Strapp contends that she was a highly-motivated and determined athlete, with what he called an "obsessive personality."

He said high-level athletes have to eat well to compete at a high level, and he encouraged "performance nutrition" — essentially, not eating junk food or drinking alcohol — but never encouraged students to lose weight or follow dangerous diets.

Strapp will continue his testimony Thursday morning before being cross-examined by Crown prosecutor Jessica Gallant. 

He has been suspended from his work as a teacher since the investigation into the allegations against him began.

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