'I feel like they used me': 79-year-old woman testifies in N.W.T. drug trafficking trial

Vitaline Lafferty says that when she went on a road trip with her daughter she didn't know it would involve picking up drugs.

Vitaline Lafferty says she didn't know a trip with her daughter would involve picking up drugs

Police seized 1.7 kilograms of cocaine, 5.4 kilograms of marijuana, five litres of liquid codeine, and three ounces of MDMA during a checkstop near Fort Providence, N.W.T. (RCMP)

On Sept. 21, Mary Anne Lafferty was convicted of eight counts of possession for the purpose of trafficking. Vitaline Lafferty was acquitted of the same charges.

An elderly woman from Ndilo, N.W.T., testified Wednesday that when she went on a road trip with her daughter, she didn't know it would involve picking up drugs.

Vitaline Lafferty, 79, was aided by an interpreter as she testified before Justice Shannon Smallwood and a 12-person jury in N.W.T. Supreme Court.

She and her daughter, Mary Anne Lafferty, are on trial on eight charges each related to drug possession and trafficking.

Vitaline testified that Mary Anne had asked her to make a trip to Fort Resolution, N.W.T.

Two days later, the pair headed south to Hay River, N.W.T. According to court testimony, in the early morning hours of March 18, 2016, the women stopped at the Ptarmigan Inn in Hay River before continuing south to Indian Cabins in northern Alberta.

While Vitaline Lafferty said she believed they were headed to Fort Resolution for a funeral, they turned back to Yellowknife after picking up a package.

Lafferty told the court she was playing games and listening to music on her iPad as her daughter drove to the pick-up location. She said she didn't know where they were headed.

'Just stay quiet'

Once they reached the location, after waiting several hours, Vitaline Lafferty said she recalls telling her daughter to turn back to Yellowknife.

Vitaline Lafferty says her daughter Mary Anne Lafferty told her they were headed to Fort Resolution for a funeral. (Michael Hugall/CBC)

"She told me 'to just stay quiet … you don't need to know anything…. It's none of your business,'" Lafferty said.

Court was told that Vitaline Lafferty didn't see a package being put in her car and she had no idea it was there until she and her daughter were arrested at an RCMP checkstop near Fort Providence, N.W.T.

Police seized about 5.4 kilograms of marijuana, 1.7 kilograms of cocaine, five litres of liquid codeine and three ounces of MDMA from the vehicle.

During cross-examination, Crown prosecutor Duane Praught suggested that Lafferty didn't ask her daughter why they were not going to the funeral because she knew they were going to pick up drugs.

I feel bad. I feel like they used me, like elder abuse.- Vitaline Lafferty

Praught also referenced text messages between Vitaline Lafferty and her granddaughter Katrina Stiopu that were intercepted by RCMP, in which Stiopu instructed Lafferty to bring food from McDonalds to a certain address.

At the time, Stiopu was working for Jerrie's Delivery Services, which was later revealed to be connected to a sophisticated Yellowknife drug ring. In January, she was sentenced to 4½ years behind bars after admitting she had provided stash houses for convicted drug kingpin Todd Dube.

RCMP intercept text messages 

Praught suggested the text messages between the women indicated Vitaline Lafferty was also delivering drugs for her granddaughter.

Lafferty denied the accusations and said she has never been involved in illegal drug activities.

The elderly woman has no criminal record, court was told.

Lafferty also said she has been in counselling for over two years after being charged.

"I feel bad. I feel like they used me, like elder abuse," she told the court.

"[Counselling] helped me to be strong. I didn't want to live anymore because I was so ashamed."

Closing statements in the trial against Vitaline and Mary Anne Lafferty are expected to be delivered on Thursday morning, with the jury to begin deliberations on Friday.