'I'm not trying to blame Catherine,' Garnier says under cross-examination at murder trial

Christopher Garnier faced more cross-examination Tuesday at his murder trial, as the Crown tried to point out inconsistencies between his testimony and what he told police following his arrest in Catherine Campbell's death.

WARNING: This story and live blog contains graphic language and descriptions

Christopher Garnier, right, heading to court Monday with his girlfriend, Brittany Francis. (Peter Dawson/Radio-Canada)

Christopher Garnier faced more cross-examination Tuesday at his murder trial, as the Crown tried to point out inconsistencies between his testimony and what he told police following his arrest in Catherine Campbell's death.

Garnier, 30, began testifying Monday in his own defence, telling a Nova Scotia Supreme Court jury that Campbell had encouraged him to choke, slap and dominate her before she died in a Halifax apartment on Sept. 11, 2015.

The Crown alleges Garnier punched and strangled the 36-year-old off-duty officer after they had met at a bar, and then used a green compost bin to transport her body to a steep embankment near the Macdonald Bridge. 

Garnier has pleaded not guilty to second-degree murder and interfering with human remains.

He said after he realized she was dead, his memories of what happened next are fragmentary. His defence lawyer has called the death "accidental" and said a psychiatrist will testify about why Garnier can't remember certain details.

Garnier has told the court he put his arm on Campbell's neck and slapped her three times at her request. But Crown attorney Christine Driscoll said Tuesday it would have been difficult for Garnier, who is right-handed, to slap Campbell with his left hand, as he had demonstrated to the jury Monday.

This court sketch shows Christopher Garnier lying on a table in a Halifax courtroom. During his testimony Monday, Garnier left the witness box to imitate for the jury what happened on a pullout couch the night Catherine Campbell died. (J. Vincent Walsh/For CBC)

Garnier admitted it was awkward and said he believes Campbell was hit by his watch. Driscoll replied this was the first time Garnier has ever made the suggestion about his watch.

"You've come up with an explanation that explains from your point of view what happened and also entirely places the explanation and the blame on Ms. Campbell, correct?" said Driscoll.

"I'm not trying to blame Catherine ... She was nice to me that night," Garnier said. "Just because she wanted to do that doesn't make her a bad person."

The Crown also pointed out Garnier told police during his interrogation on Sept. 16, 2015 — which came just hours after Campbell's body had been found — that he'd struck her with a closed fist.

It also didn't make sense, Driscoll said, that Garnier testified he picked Campbell up and shook her when he thought she was injured or dead. The Crown attorney noted Garnier had previous firefighter and first responder training and said that meant he should have been more careful.

Catherine Campbell, an off-duty police officer, was strangled and her body dumped in a green bin on Sept. 11, 2015. (CBC)

She also noted Garnier told police he didn't recall anything either he or Campbell said in the apartment that night, but testified Monday that Campbell asked him to dominate her.

Garnier said he has been "tortured" by what happened the night Campbell died and that he can't remember why it happened.

"Honestly, I have a hard time living with myself anyway," he said.

The Crown wrapped up its cross-examination shortly after noon Tuesday. Lawyers and the judge met during the afternoon without the jury present, and what was discussed is currently banned from publication.

Proceedings are expected to resume Wednesday.

Garnier is shown on security video dragging a green compost bin away from the McCully Street apartment where Campbell died. Police and the Crown allege Garnier placed Campbell's body in the bin after she died, before dumping her body in thick brush. Garnier said he doesn't remember doing that.

The CBC's Blair Rhodes was live blogging from court. You can follow the live blog on mobile here.

About the Author

Blair Rhodes

Reporter

Blair Rhodes has been a journalist for more than 35 years, the last 27 with CBC. His primary focus is on stories of crime and public safety.

With files from The Canadian Press