Nova Scotia

Halifax court martial hears first witness

A court martial for a former Canadian soldier charged in the fatal shooting of a fellow reservist in Afghanistan is hearing from its first witness.

There was a yell before a shot was fired that killed a Canadian soldier on a military base in Afghanistan four years ago, a witness told the court martial Thursday of a former Canadian soldier charged in the death of his fellow reservist.

Matthew Wilcox of Glace Bay, N.S., has pleaded not guilty to criminal negligence causing death and negligent performance of a military duty in the death of Cpl. Kevin Megeney. 

The 25-year-old man from Stellarton, N.S., died in a military hospital after being shot in a tent he shared with Wilcox at Kandahar Airfield in March 2007.

Cpl. Brent Bowden told the court in Halifax he was watching a DVD on the other side of the partitioned tent when he heard a shot fired and Megeney yell.

Before the shot, Bowden said he heard Wilcox and Megeney talking. "I was able to hear a little bit of a yell, no ... words in particular, but I was able to hear a little yell from Cpl. Megeney," he said.

'Chaos situation' in tent

After determining that no one on his side of the tent was hurt, Bowden said he also heard Megeney and Wilcox's voices getting louder "almost like a chaos situation" and determined the shot came from that side. 

Bowden said he went to see what was happening and saw Megeney lying on the floor by his bed and others kneeling beside him performing first aid. Megeney was loaded onto a stretcher and carried to hospital 150 to 200 metres away.

Bowden said after the shooting and before Megeney was taken to hospital, he saw Wilcox outside the tent. "At that particular moment ... he was kind of by himself, not really talking with anybody, kicking dirt around, picking up rocks and throwing them like he was angry or upset about something."

This is the second court martial for Wilcox, who was found guilty in July 2009 of criminal negligence causing death and negligent performance of duty. 

The verdict was set aside and a new trial was ordered last year after Wilcox's lawyers argued the makeup of the military jury was unfair. 

'Quick draw' allegations

Judge Lt.-Col. Louis-Vincent d'Auteuil says he expects this trial will last about three weeks. At the first trial, the prosecution alleged that Wilcox and Megeney were playing a game of "quick draw" in their tent when Wilcox's loaded pistol accidentally fired, hitting Megeney in the chest.

Wilcox testified that he acted in self-defence and shot "instinctively" at an unknown threat that was pointing a gun at his back inside the tent. 

In court documents, Wilcox has admitted he shot Megeney and caused his death with a military-issued 9 mm Browning pistol. Wilcox also agreed that the bullet and spent shell that were seized at the time came from the pistol he used.