Nova Scotia

Police officer at Catherine Campbell murder trial describes finding body

Members of Catherine Campbell's family wept in a Halifax courtroom Monday as a police officer described finding a body face down in thick brush under the Macdonald Bridge during the investigation into the off-duty officer's disappearance.

WARNING: some of the content in this live blog contains strong language

Truro police officer Catherine Campbell was killed in September 2015 and her body found near the Macdonald Bridge in Halifax. (CBC)

Members of Catherine Campbell's family cried in a Halifax courtroom Monday as a police officer described finding a body face down in thick brush under the Macdonald Bridge during the investigation into the off-duty officer's disappearance.

Halifax Regional Police Const. Adam Cole testified he'd been tasked with searching a wooded area under the bridge the night of Sept. 15, 2015. He said he was using a powerful flashlight when he spotted a red box.

"The hairs on the back of my neck stood on end," he said.

Halifax Regional Police Const. Adam Cole described finding a body face down in thick brush under the Macdonald Bridge. (J. Vincent Walsh/For CBC)

He crawled to the area, lifted the box and saw hair and the back of a head underneath. He couldn't identify the gender of the person, but noted a flower hair clip.

Christopher Garnier, 29, is on trial in Nova Scotia Supreme Court for second-degree murder in Campbell's death and for interfering with her dead body. He has pleaded not guilty.

The Crown has alleged that after Garnier killed Campbell, a Truro, N.S., police officer, at a Halifax apartment, he loaded her body into a green compost bin and then dumped her under the bridge.

Video surveillance from the Christopher Garnier second-degree murder trial was released to the media on Friday. (Screengrab/CBC)

The jury has seen video showing a barefoot man dragging a green bin down Agricola Street in the early hours of Sept. 11, 2015.

The court heard testimony Monday from a police officer who said he was told to search green bins as part of the investigation. He found what looked like bin wheel marks under the Macdonald Bridge. A compost bin, and then the body, were subsequently discovered.

Another witness, Det. Const. Randy Wood, told the court he was called in to photograph and video the scene at the bridge.

He described setting up lights because it was dark, and then being told to take them down because officers were trailing a suspect who appeared to be heading toward the bridge. He said he and other officers at the scene hid until an arrest was made and they could resume their work.

A video of the scene and the body was shown to the jury Monday. Campbell's family sobbed in the court as Wood testified.

Christopher Garnier is charged with second-degree murder. (Andrew Vaughan/Canadian Press)

The detective said the box that had covered the body was meant for feral cats and weighed about 90 pounds. He also said officers used a chemical test that suggested there was blood in the green bin.

Ronald MacDonald, a garbage truck driver, testified that on Sept. 11, 2015, he was about two hours into his shift, which had started around 3 a.m., when he spotted a barefoot man pulling a green bin down Agricola Street toward North Street.

He said the man was barefoot and wearing shorts and a T-shirt and had a scruffy beard, and that he had told colleagues about what he saw on a two-way radio.

"I told the other people I was working with that I saw something funny going by," said MacDonald.

Ronald MacDonald, a garbage truck driver, testified he was on the job when he spotted a barefoot man pulling a green bin. (J. Vincent Walsh/For CBC)

Another witness, Andrew Golding, testified he was walking to work that morning and passed a man pulling a green bin. He didn't notice if the man was barefoot.

Golding testified the man appeared agitated as he passed by, and that the bin appeared to be heavy.

"He passed by me in very close range with the bin — close enough that I had to step out of the way," said Golding. "[He had] a frown, a grimace on his face as if he was under physical or mental duress."

On Friday, the court released video evidence obtained by police during their investigation. 

Blair Rhodes was live blogging from court. Mobile users can click here to see the blog.

The trial resumes Tuesday.

With files from the Canadian Press