Yellowknife RCMP took 2 months to interview neighbours about woman's alleged assault

It took nearly two months for Yellowknife RCMP to interview neighbours after a woman told them she was repeatedly raped and held against her will in a home in Ndilo in June 2017.

Lead investigator said she was 'new' to the detachment at the time

Peter Tsetta, 50, is accused of sexually assaulting and forcibly confining two women on separate occasions in 2017. (Walter Strong/CBC)

It took nearly two months for Yellowknife RCMP to interview potential witnesses after a woman told them she was repeatedly raped and held against her will in a home in Ndilo, N.W.T., in June 2017. 

The lead investigator on the case took the stand in N.W.T. Supreme Court Tuesday in Yellowknife during the second day of the trial for Peter Tsetta.

Tsetta, 50, is accused of repeatedly sexually assaulting a woman and refusing to let her leave his home on June 17, 2017. He's being tried on the same charges in connection with an alleged attack on a different woman the month before. That woman died in December.

Justice Louise Charbonneau has banned the publication of any information that could identify the complainants.

Lead investigator was 'new to the detachment'

Const. Cheryl Gossman was the lead investigator on the June 2017 case. Gossman testified she was called to escort the woman to hospital for a sexual assault kit following the alleged attack.

Gossman testified she took pictures of the woman's injuries at the hospital, describing a red mark on the woman's neck and bruises on her arms and legs.

The woman was then taken to the Yellowknife RCMP detachment where she gave a statement, Gossman said. Tsetta's neighbours — who would have been potential witnesses — weren't interviewed about the alleged assault until August, after she realized no one had done so.

Gossman, who had only been working with Yellowknife RCMP since May that year, admitted she was still "new to the detachment" and "trying to figure out how things work there."

She testified she thought Yellowknife's General Investigation Section (GIS) would take over the investigation.

GIS investigates major criminal offences, including sexual assault, according to the RCMP's website

Gossman testified she spoke with Tsetta's neighbours on Aug. 8, 2017 about whether they'd seen or heard anything the day of the alleged attack, but no one gave a statement to police.

Though a search warrant for Tsetta's house was being considered, Gossman said her superiors and GIS made the decision not to obtain one.

No semen found on evidence

The judge also heard from Megan Newfeld, a scientist with National Forensic Laboratory Services in Edmonton who was involved in the case.

Labia, vaginal and anal swabs from the woman, along with a pair of underwear, were analyzed by Newfeld's lab for traces of semen and male DNA.

Newfeld said no semen was detected on any of the evidence, and while a small amount of male DNA was found on the underwear, it was not enough to generate a DNA profile.

Newfeld said there are several factors that could influence why semen might not be detected, including if the man wore a condom or did not ejaculate.

The trial continues Wednesday.