Nova Scotia

Teenage girl in Halifax sex assault case looked to be in mid-20s, accused told police

An Ontario businessman accused of raping a 15-year-old girl in his Halifax hotel room told police he thought the girl was in her mid-20s.

'I asked for a massage and that's all I asked for,' Paul Coburn said in a videotaped interview

Paul Christopher Coburn at Halifax provincial court on Tuesday, April 23, 2019. (Craig Paisley/CBC)

An Ontario businessman accused of raping a 15-year-old girl in his Halifax hotel room told police he thought the girl was in her mid-20s.

Paul Christopher Coburn is on trial this week in Nova Scotia provincial court in Halifax, facing five sex-related charges in connection with the alleged assault in February, 2017. The charges include sexual assault, sexual interference and invitation to sexual touching.

Coburn's explanation of the events came during a video played in court Thursday of the interview police did with the man after he was arrested in Toronto and flown back to Halifax.

 Coburn has not testified at his trial and there's no word yet on whether he will.

Accused denied seeking sex

In the video, Coburn told officers he had a sore back the night of Feb. 21, 2017 and was looking for a massage. He said he thought it was too late to go to the spa in the hotel so he went online instead. Police showed Coburn copies of text messages he exchanged with the person behind an ad he found on Craigslist, the online classified site.

The text exchange included a message from person behind the ad: "I'll do whatever you want."

Coburn denied he was seeking sex.

"I asked for a massage and that's all I asked for," Coburn told police. But the officers challenged him on that point, saying it didn't sound reasonable to order "just a massage" from an online ad late at night.

When police asked Coburn if he had sex with the girl, he refused to answer. He also made repeated requests to speak with his lawyer. Police told him he already had numerous opportunities to consult with legal counsel.

Coburn told police he thought the girl looked to be in her mid-20s. Police showed him a video of the girl recorded as she looked at a photo lineup. One officer commented she barely looked 15.

Girl upset after seeing accused

Earlier in the day Thursday, a loud wail erupted in the hallway of the court house after the teenager saw Coburn.

The Crown described the girl as "fragile" and received permission from the judge to have her testify from behind a screen. That way she couldn't see Coburn sitting across from her in the courtroom.

Lawyers and sheriffs also took pains to orchestrate the movements of Coburn and the complainant so their paths did not cross.

But a momentary miscue caused her to leave the courtroom and catch a glimpse of the accused.

The girl had been hyperventilating and asking for frequent breaks as she answered questions from Coburn's lawyer. She admitted there were discrepancies between information she provided police in three statements taken shortly after the incident and her testimony earlier this week.

She answered several defence questions with "I don't remember." The girl admitted to having an account on, a classified website no longer in business, she described as "where you sell people."

The website was shut down by authorities last year.

Injuries could have been caused by another man

The girl also admitted some of her injuries noticed by police could have been caused by another man, Leeanthon Oliver, who's been convicted of human trafficking and is serving an eight-year prison sentence for his part in this case.

She previously testified that Oliver became angry with her after the alleged assault when she refused his sexual advances.

After a grueling day and a half occasionally punctuated by tears and pauses, the girl finally finished her testimony.

The Crown is expected to finish playing the video of Coburn's police interview on Friday, after which it will close its case.