Joshua Boyle not 'overall a violent person' before captivity, trial hears

The cross-examination of former hostage Caitlan Coleman continued Tuesday in the trial of her estranged husband Joshua Boyle.

Warning: This story contains graphic details some readers may find disturbing

Caitlan Coleman leaves court in Ottawa on Wednesday, March 27, 2019. (Sean Kilpatrick/Canadian Press)

Former hostage Caitlan Coleman said that for the most part her estranged husband Joshua Boyle was not violent before spending years in captivity. 

Defence lawyer Lawrence Greenspon continued Coleman's cross-examination Tuesday in Ottawa where she appeared via closed circuit television in the courtroom. 

Boyle, 35, has pleaded not guilty to 19 charges, including assault with a weapon, sexual assault and forcible confinement.

Coleman, 33, is the alleged victim in 17 of the charges Boyle is facing.

He was charged a few months after the couple returned to Canada in October 2017 with the three children they had while being held captive for five years in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Greenspon questioned Coleman about an email she had sent to Boyle's sister in February 2018 in which Coleman expressed how sorry she was that Boyle had "deteriorated like this," adding that he was never violent before captivity. The email also said that during captivity he was the victim of constant death threats and violence.

Defence lawyer Lawrence Greenspon will continue his cross-examination of former hostage Caitlan Coleman on Wednesday. (Laurie Foster-MacLeod)

Coleman told the court she was exaggerating about the frequency of the threats to Boyle out of compassion, to make him sound a bit more sympathetic to his sister. 

She said she was also downplaying Boyle's violent behaviour prior to captivity. 

When asked directly if he was overall a violent person before captivity Coleman answered "for the most part he wasn't."

Last Monday, the Crown's first witness, registered social worker Deborah Sinclair, testified in general terms about abusive relationships and how victims of abuse and trauma behave. 

She told the court that in captivity, the torture and mistreatment of an abuser may make him more likely to redirect that trauma to the victim, thereby giving him a sense of control. 

During that cross examination by Greenspon, Sinclair conceded she hasn't done formal, peer-reviewed research on how prolonged captivity affects relationships, and that she therefore can't say what effects five years of captivity might have on a relationship.

Contents of BDSM bag

Just before midday Tuesday, Greenspon began to question Coleman about the contents of Boyle's BDSM bag that was brought up during her examination-in-chief. 

Coleman testified the equipment in the bag was "at times" used during sex between the couple and that the ropes were used to tie up her hands and legs during an alleged assault on Nov. 27, 2017.

Greenspon suggested that the last time Coleman and Boyle used items from the bag was Dec. 29, 2017, and Coleman said she couldn't say with certainty, because she tries to block out the trauma of the nights near the end of her time with Boyle. 

"After the children went to bed was one of the more frightening times to me," she told the court. 

Boyle was arrested and taken into custody on the night of Dec. 30, 2017, and Coleman told the court she then returned to their apartment and collected all the BDSM items around the house and put them back in the black bag to give to police.

These are the items Caitlan Coleman collected from her apartment after Joshua Boyle was arrested and taken into custody. She put the items into what she referred to as Boyle's BDSM bag and gave it to police. (Supplied)

A police photograph showed several items, including:

  • an electric fly swatter
  • mouse traps
  • clamps
  • collars
  • unopened bungee cords and zip ties
  • unopened shoelaces
  • ropes

Coleman told the court she didn't recall where in the house she found most of the equipment.

Cross-examination continued

After lunch, Greenspon began to question Coleman about the alleged assaults beginning with Nov. 5, 2017.

Coleman testified that following an argument Boyle had forced her to get in the shower and brought her three Trazodone pills — his antidepressant drug — insisting she take them. 

Greenspon asked whether Coleman was aware that in the weeks prior to Boyle's arrest he had been contacted by Coleman's mother who was questioning whether her daughter needed an emergency delivery of a drug used to treat anxiety as a result of her "fits."

Coleman said she was not aware. 

On Friday, Coleman testified in graphic detail about two sexual assaults and another assault allegedly involving Boyle, one in which she was left tied up afterward.

She told court she got into an argument with Boyle on Nov. 12, 2017.

Greenspon suggested that in that case it was not Boyle attacking Coleman, but Coleman attacking him. 

"What do you say to that," Greenspon asked.

"That that's incorrect," Coleman responded.

Coleman said she didn't remember everything about those incidents including why they were arguing or where or how many times he hit her. 

On the night of Nov. 27, 2017, Coleman told the court that certain things are very clear in her mind, but others are "fuzzy."

"And other parts I can't really remember at all," Coleman said.

Coleman felt attacked

When Greenspon began questioning Coleman about a statement she gave police in December 2017 Coleman said she was feeling attacked. 

"I'm sorry, you've never done anything to me but it's a little reflective of sometimes in my past," she said. 

Greenspon said for the record that he was sitting at a table with Coleman in a separate room with the Crown and another lawyer who he had deliberately placed in between himself and Coleman. 

Coleman's cross-examination will continue Wednesday.