Hair at triple homicide does belong to Ian Bush, defence admits

A body hair found at a 2007 triple homicide scene does belong to the accused in the case, his defence team admitted in court Thursday.

Charged in deaths of Alban Garon, Raymonde Garon and Maire-Claire Beniskos

Ian Bush, 61, is charged with three counts of first-degree murder. He has pleaded not guilty. (Sketch by Lauren Foster-MacLeod for CBC News)

A body hair found at a 2007 triple homicide scene belongs to the accused in the case, his defence team admitted in Ottawa court Thursday.

Ian Bush, 61, was charged in 2015 with three counts of first-degree murder in the deaths of a retired tax judge, the judge's wife and a friend and neighbour of theirs.

Bush has pleaded not guilty. His trial before a judge and jury is expected to last 12 weeks.

From left, Raymonde Garon, her husband Alban Garon, and their friend and neighbour Marie-Claire Beniskos were found dead in the Garons' luxury condo building in June 2007. (Photo collage by CBC)

Alban Garon, the 77-year-old retired judge, died of strangulation from a noose placed around his neck, suffocation from a plastic bag placed over his head, and blunt force trauma powerful enough to fracture his skull.

His wife, 73-year-old Raymonde Garon, and 78-year-old Maire-Claire Beniskos died of suffocation from plastic bags placed over their heads. Both were hog-tied, their wrists and ankles bound together behind their backs with twine.

All three victims were found in the Garons' luxury condominium on Riverside Drive.

Hair and fibre expert testifies

Crown prosecutor James Cavanagh presented the admission about Bush's body hair to the jury in court Thursday.

The admission came ahead of testimony from Christine McCarthy, a hair and fibre expert at the Centre of Forensic Sciences in Toronto who prepared evidence taken from the crime scene for DNA testing.

Last week, court heard that DNA from a body hair and a spatter of blood, collected from the floor of the condo, linked Bush to the crime.

On Feb. 4, 2015, Ottawa police major crimes unit officers executed a warrant for a sample of Bush's blood.

Court heard that Bush's blood was sent for DNA analysis and came back as being connected to two pieces of DNA evidence collected at the crime scene in 2007: a body hair with a root swept up from the floor, and a mixed sample of blood swabbed from the floor.

Bush can't be ruled out as the source of the DNA, Sgt. James Killeen testified last week.

Struggle, previous contact could account for hair

On Thursday McCarthy testified that, hypothetically, Bush's body hair may have fallen off Bush during a struggle in the apartment with the victims.

It may also have ended up there if Bush had been in the apartment prior to the incident, or if he'd previously come into direct contact with one or all of the victims — either inside or outside the apartment, she said.

The most likely scenario, however, was a direct transfer from Bush inside the apartment, McCarthy testified.

During cross examination, assistant defence lawyer Martin Reesink asked McCarthy whether, hypothetically, someone could pick up a stranger's hair from a bus seat, for example — or whether a bag that skidded across a bus floor during a sudden stop might collect a hair from the floor.

McCarthy testified that yes, both scenarios are possible. She added the contact would have to be forceful and the surface the hair stuck to would have to be tacky enough to hold it for the trip up to the condo.

Another suspect eliminated

Earlier Thursday, Ottawa police Staff Sgt. Timothy Hodgins, who led the triple homicide investigation for years, concluded his testimony.

Hodgins testified that the partial DNA sample obtained from the swab of mixed blood was checked against a police record system, which at the time showed that a man named Antony Thavaratnam couldn't be excluded as the DNA's owner,

Under cross examination, Hodgins said Thavaratnam was later eliminated as a suspect based on an interview with police, as well as "the low probability of that being his DNA."

He also testified that police received information about 2,232 purchases of New Balance 504 running shoes in various colours in eastern Ontario.

Police believe the killer was wearing that type of shoe because the tread matches shoeprints found at the Garons' condo. A photo of Bush doing pushups on his fingers, found by police at his home, also shows a pair of New Balance 504s in one corner.

Only the debit and credit card purchases had names attached, Hodgins said, and Bush's name wasn't among them. But about 10 per cent of the purchases were made with cash, with no names attached, he added.

The trial continues Friday.