Nova Scotia

Consensual choking during sex played role in Catherine Campbell's death, defence suggests

Defence lawyer Joel Pink suggested Catherine Campbell's death was "accidental" on Tuesday at the second-degree murder trial of Christopher Garnier.

WARNING: This story contains graphic details

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

The lawyer representing accused murderer Christopher Garnier called Catherine Campbell's death "accidental" on Tuesday, suggesting consensual choking during sex played a role in the off-duty police officer's death.

Joel Pink made the comments about "erotic asphyxiation" while questioning medical examiner Matthew Bowes during Garnier's second-degree murder trial in Nova Scotia Supreme Court.

The remarks prompted a member of Campbell's family to storm from the Halifax courtroom.

Bowes testified earlier in the afternoon that Campbell was strangled, and had black eyes and a broken nose when her body was found in September 2015 under Halifax's Macdonald Bridge.

Nova Scotia's chief medical examiner Dr. Matthew Bowes told the trial that Catherine Campbell died of strangulation. (J. Vincent Walsh/For CBC)

During cross-examination, Pink asked Bowes to comment on a hypothetical scenario involving a man and a woman who met on Sept. 10, 2015, at the Alehouse bar in Halifax and returned to an apartment.

Pink said the woman told the man she had a fantasy about being choked and asked the man to do so. She then asked him to slap her, which he did. She began bleeding, the man went to get a towel, and when he returned she wasn't moving.

Bowes said the hypothetical can't be excluded, but he didn't consider it during his autopsy. He added that one problem with the scenario is he believes Campbell's nose was broken while she was alive.

Pink asked whether erotic asphyxiation during sex can induce a brief euphoria in the person, and Bowes said he had heard it can. He later testified he'd never seen a case before, only cases of autoerotic asphyxiation where a person chokes themself.

Christopher Garnier, 29, is charged with second-degree murder in the death of 36-year-old Campbell. (Andrew Vaughan/Canadian Press)

Garnier, 29, is on trial for second-degree murder in Campbell's death and interfering with a dead body. He has pleaded not guilty to both charges.

The jury has heard testimony that the two met at the Alehouse bar and later went to an apartment on McCully Street. The Crown alleges Garnier punched and strangled Campbell, then loaded her body into a green compost bin and dumped her under the Macdonald Bridge.

Earlier on Tuesday, Sgt. Tony Croft, a former member of the city's police forensic identification team, testified he took video and photos of the scene, focusing on a script tattoo on the body's ribcage and a firefighter tattoo that could help identify the victim.

He said the body — wearing a dress but no bra — was found on a sloped embankment thick with brush.

The photos were taken in the early-morning hours of Sept. 16, 2015. Croft said he later returned to the area that same day and then again the next day to take additional photos of the scene.

Halifax police Sgt. Tony Croft said he took videos and photos of the scene under Macdonald Bridge where Catherine Campbell's body was found. (J. Vincent Walsh/For CBC)

Croft also described pictures he took of a green bin and a red jacket found underneath. He said the container was treated with a chemical that showed the presence of blood.

Croft further testified he photographed Garnier days later, after his arrest, documenting his clothing and a scratch the suspect had. Under cross-examination, Croft said there were no marks on Garnier's left arm, the soles of his feet or his lower legs, with the exception of one mark on his ankle, which was neither red nor bruised.

The trial continues Wednesday.

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


Blair Rhodes


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. He can be reached at