Preliminary inquiry starts for Catherine Campbell's accused killer

Christopher Calvin Garnier, 28, is charged with second-degree murder in the death of off-duty police officer Catherine Campbell and interfering with a dead body. He has not yet entered a plea.

Christopher Calvin Garnier, 28, charged with second-degree murder, interfering with a dead body

Christopher Calvin Garnier has been charged with second-degree murder and interfering with a dead body in the death of off-duty police officer Catherine Campbell. (Andrew Vaughan/The Canadian Press)

The preliminary inquiry for Catherine Campbell's accused killer got off to a slow start Monday, with just one witness taking the stand.

Christopher Calvin Garnier, 28, is charged with second-degree murder in the death of the Truro, N.S., police officer and interfering with a dead body. He has not yet entered a plea.

Campbell's remains were found dumped near the Macdonald Bridge in Halifax last September.

Court documents obtained by CBC News show Garnier allegedly admitted to police he punched and choked her.

A medical examiner determined strangulation was the most likely cause of Campbell's death, the documents say.

Publication ban

As the preliminary inquiry got underway, the public was cleared from the courtroom twice so that lawyers could make arguments in private. The result of one in-camera session was that Judge Anne Derrick extended the traditional publication ban imposed at the start of the hearing. She also ordered a document sealed so that no one can see or report on its contents.

Garnier's lawyer, Joel Pink, is agreeing to send the case to trial, which the Crown says will streamline the preliminary inquiry.

"When you go to preliminary inquiry, it is a hearing to determine if there's enough evidence to go to trial," Crown attorney Christine Driscoll said outside court.

"It is also used as a discovery process for both Crown and defence. So, we don't have to meet that test. Mr. Pink has agreed that in the interests of just streamlining things, he wants to hear from certain people."

Families attended

Garnier sat in the prisoner's bench at Halifax Provincial Court flanked by two sheriff's deputies wearing a black suit and an open collared shirt. He stared straight ahead throughout the trial, showing no emotion.

His family sat two metres away. Catherine Campbell's family was on the other side of the court room. 

Four days have been set aside for the hearing, and the lawyers insist they should be able to finish in that time. Garnier has been in custody since his arrest.

Missed work

Campbell lived in Dartmouth and was first reported missing when she failed to turn up to work. She was off-duty when she died.

She met Garnier, who worked as a safety officer, at a downtown bar in the early hours of Sept. 11, according to the information to obtain a search warrant.

In a court document, police said they have video surveillance believed to show the pair leaving the bar together, as well as Garnier leaving his home on McCully Street with a green bin.

Catherine Campbell served as a Truro Police Service constable for six years. (Submitted by Halifax Regional Police)

Alleged interference

The tapes show a man rolling the bin down Agricola and North streets in his bare feet. Campbell's body was later found in a wooded area under the Macdonald Bridge, covered with an ottoman, with the green bin nearby, the documents say.

The court documents also alleged Garnier admitted to trying to remove her remains from the Macdonald Bridge hiding spot.

He had bought rope, tarp, bungee cords and a gas can, documents say. Police allege they found those with his passport and a Canadian Tire receipt in his car. They also allege he planned to use those supplies to move her body.

Blood test

In the documents, police say they seized Garnier's watch and found a T-shirt in the dumpster behind his home. Police allege both items were stained with Campbell's blood.

The information to obtain a search warrant was to have permission to take a blood sample from Garnier to test against male DNA found under Campbell's fingernails.

With files from Blair Rhodes