Nova Scotia

'He did not stop': Woman testifies former SMU groundskeeper raped her in 2014 attack

A woman testified Tuesday in Nova Scotia Supreme Court about a violent sexual attack six years ago in her university residence room that left her traumatized with external and internal injuries.

WARNING: Some of the content in the story and live blog may be disturbing

Matthew Percy is shown outside a Halifax provincial court courtroom on June 19, 2018. He's been in custody since November 2017. (Brian MacKay/CBC)

A woman testified Tuesday in Nova Scotia Supreme Court about a violent sexual attack six years ago in her university residence room that left her traumatized with external and internal injuries.

Matthew Percy, 36, is accused of sexual assault causing bodily harm in relation to an incident on Dalhousie University's campus in 2014.

He has pleaded not guilty and is being tried by judge alone.

This is the third sexual assault trial for Percy, a former Saint Mary's University groundskeeper who was convicted of sexually assaulting another woman in 2018.

The complainant in this case took deep breaths and was tearful at times as she told the court about the night she met Percy in December 2014. She was out in downtown Halifax with her roommate drinking and dancing to celebrate her recent 19th birthday.

How the complainant met Percy

The woman, whose name is protected by a publication ban, said she decided to head home after her friend left and she encountered Percy and one of his friends outside of the Dome.

Percy invited her for poutine and they also ended up getting a beer at the Toothy Moose, a nearby bar, before getting a cab to Dalhousie. Crown prosecutor Rick Woodburn played surveillance video that showed the pair entering her residence around 2:30 a.m.

The complainant testified she was intoxicated but wasn't sure about how much she drank. She also said she didn't remember some specifics, such as how they got a cab or when they arrived back at her place. But there are parts that stand out for her.  

Percy became 'threatening and scary'

The woman testified that Percy's behaviour changed once they entered her room. He went from seeming kind and thoughtful — letting her borrow his sweatshirt and helping her take off her heels — to acting aggressive, ordering her onto her knees to perform oral sex, she said.

"It was very threatening and scary. I was very threatened at that point," she testified.

She said at one point, he grabbed her hair and anally raped her while she was pressed up against the sink in the bathroom, crying out in pain.

"I said no so many times. He did not stop," she said.

In 2018, Percy was acquitted of sexual assault, choking to overcome resistance and voyeurism in a separate case. Last week, the Nova Scotia Court of Appeal rejected a bid by the Crown to have Percy face a second trial for that charge of sexual assault. (Robert Short/CBC)

She testified that during the course of the attack, he bit, struck and choked her — leaving marks and bruises on her skin.

The complainant testified the alleged assault continued in the bathroom and in her bedroom.

The woman told the court she tried to reach for a condom at one point, which Percy refused to use.

At one point, Woodburn asked the woman if she had consented. She responded she never did. 

"I didn't want any of it," she told the court.

"I remember it finally being over and he let me lay in my bed and I curled up in my bed against the concrete wall because the only comfort I could feel was being away from him, as far away as I could get."

Photos show bruising

She said Percy didn't leave until the next morning. The Crown showed security video of him walking out of the building shortly after 8 a.m. eating the poutine from the night before.

Woodburn also introduced about a dozen photos taken by the complainant and by sexual assault nurse examiners, who she saw in hospital on Dec. 8, 2014. The woman said she didn't remember exactly how she got each bruise, but said they were the result of her encounter with Percy.

The injuries made it uncomfortable for her to sit down the next day, she told the court.

On Wednesday, defence lawyer Peter Planetta will begin cross-examination, which he expects will take all day.

The CBC's Elizabeth McMillan live blogged from court. A warning, some of the information contained in the live blog is disturbing.

The complainant in this case initially went to police two days after the alleged assault. She testified a friend convinced her to report what happened, even though she was worried they wouldn't take her allegations seriously because she'd invited Percy to her place. 

Halifax Regional Police concluded their investigation without charges less than a month after she came forward. They reopened the case about four years later after Percy was accused of raping two other women.

He was charged Feb. 8, 2018. The trial was scheduled to begin in October 2018 in Halifax provincial court, but it was delayed after Percy re-elected to be tried in Nova Scotia Supreme Court.

4 cases between 2013 and 2017

Percy's first trial followed an alleged Sept. 3, 2017, incident at his apartment involving a student he'd met while working at Saint Mary's. Percy was acquitted of sexual assault, choking to overcome resistance and voyeurism in 2018.

Last week, the Nova Scotia Court of Appeal rejected a bid by the Crown to have Percy face a second trial for that charge of sexual assault.

He was convicted of both sexual assault and voyeurism in connection with a second incident from September 2017. It involved another woman studying at Saint Mary's. A judge found Percy took videos of the sexual activity on his phone while in a dorm room at the school.

He completed his 2½-year sentence for that conviction after receiving credit for time served and spending about five additional months in jail. But Percy has remained in custody because he was denied bail while awaiting trial in the two outstanding cases.

As for the fourth case, Percy is charged with sexual assault causing bodily harm, choking to overcome resistance and assault in related to an incident in 2013 involving a woman he knew. That trial is is scheduled for later this year.

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About the Author

Elizabeth McMillan is a journalist with CBC Nova Scotia. Over the past 10 years, she has reported from the edge of the Arctic Ocean to the Atlantic Coast and loves sharing people's stories. She can be reached at elizabeth.mcmillan@cbc.ca