Joshua Boyle made list of rules for spouse to live by, trial hears

Former hostage Joshua Boyle wrote up a list of rules his now-estranged spouse Caitlan Coleman had to live by, including that she please him sexually twice a day, and that she refer to their children as sir and madame to remind her of her lowest place in the family.

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

Caitlan Coleman leaves court in Ottawa on Wednesday. Coleman is the Crown's star witness at the trial of her estranged husband Joshua Boyle. (Sean Kilpatrick/Canadian Press)

Former hostage Joshua Boyle wrote up a list of rules his now-estranged spouse Caitlan Coleman had to live by, including that she please him sexually twice a day, every day, and that she refer to their children as sir and madame to remind her of her lowest place in the family.

Coleman is the Crown's star witness at Boyle's criminal trial in provincial court in Ottawa, where she appeared Friday via closed circuit television from another room in the courthouse, as she has since Wednesday when her testimony began.

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.

Coleman says she had to follow rules

WARNING: This section contains graphic details

Coleman testified about some of the other rules her husband required her to follow, including:

  • That she sleep nude.
  • That she must plan interesting sex minimum twice a week.
  • That she log her calorie intake.
  • That she take only cold showers to build stamina and self control, and to help her hair grow faster.
  • That she fill out a separate daily checklist for heavy exercise, to burn 750 calories a day.
  • That she ask for chastising (spanking) every time she thought she failed.

A rule Coleman testified she added herself: "Backyard daily," meaning playing with the children outside.

On Dec. 27, 2017, the first day she was supposed track her progress on the list a week after its creation, Boyle was satisfied with her weight loss but she didn't please him sexually enough times, she said.

He let her choose what she would be spanked with, and Coleman said she chose a broom. He exposed her buttocks and hit her multiple times with the handle.

"I remember that it was very painful," she testified.

'He wanted me to die'

Around the time Boyle hung the list in the study of their Ottawa apartment, he was becoming increasingly concerned about the public's perception of them, Coleman testified.

"Whatever we would say in an interview, he was either actually scripting or sometimes he would give verbal or physical instructions as to what could be answered and what couldn't," she told court.

Joshua Boyle arrives for the start of his trial in Ottawa on Monday. The former hostage is charged with 19 offences, including assault and uttering a threat to cause death. (Sean Kilpatrick/Canadian Press)

In public he spoke to her more like they were partners, but in private he was always angry with her, Coleman testified.

"It became increasingly clear to me that he hated me to the point that he wanted me to die," she said, adding that Boyle used to tell her this on a daily basis while they were in captivity.

"His anger was growing at such a rate ... I could see that being the eventual end," she testified.

Coleman told court she didn't tell anyone all of it because she was too afraid.

Mother's visit

The trial ended for the week as Coleman was describing her account of her mother's visit to Ottawa, which began Dec. 27, 2017. 

Boyle was arrested by police in the early hours of Dec. 31, after police found Coleman in her mother's hotel room after Boyle called 911.

Coleman told court the first couple of days went well. Boyle was travelling repeatedly to and from his parents' house an hour outside Ottawa to pick up some remaining belongings, and when he was with them, "he tried to be very hospitable to her, very complimentary towards her. And he was not aggressive towards me, either verbally or physically."

On Dec. 30, the day Coleman left the apartment and Boyle called 911, her mother took Coleman and the children shopping. Boyle drove them to and from a Walmart, and while they were shopping she missed a few of his calls. He sent a text saying, "Do not trust you much, please answer."

She called him to say everything was fine.

That night, while Boyle was preparing dinner, one of the children walked into the kitchen. 

"He was yelling at me, 'It's your job to watch the kids, you let him come in the kitchen,'" she said.

After he made dinner, he told them he wouldn't eat it, and went into the bedroom. Coleman went to the bedroom to ask why he wasn't eating, and said Boyle told her he was so angry he couldn't stand to be around her.

After dinner, he drove Coleman's mother back to her hotel.

Hours later, he was arrested.

Coleman is set to continue testifying Monday.

'I was never to disagree with him'

Earlier 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.

An infant was strapped to her chest at the time, she told the court during questioning by Crown attorney Meaghan Cunningham.

"He became very angry at me for disagreeing and started to hit me on the face," she said. "He had made it clear to me for years that I was never to disagree with him on anything, even small things."

Boyle slapped her with an open hand, Coleman said, and there "may have been a punch or two as well."

Coleman said she yelled at Boyle stop. He pushed her down onto a sofa in the living room and held her down, she said.

Eventually Boyle got up, and the child was "screaming," Coleman testified.

'I just couldn't do this anymore'

WARNING: This section contains graphic details

Another alleged assault occurred the night of Nov. 27, 2017.

"Some of the details are a little bit fuzzy, but ... he was angry over the fact that I told him that I didn't want to have anal sex, which was something that he … felt he had a right to have with me," she told court.

A still image from a video posted by the Taliban on social media on Dec. 19, 2016, shows Coleman and Boyle while they were being held in captivity. (Taliban/Twitter via Reuters)

"I was feeling I can't do this anymore. I suggested to Josh that I was going to take the children and leave … that I just couldn't do this anymore," she said.

"He got extremely angry. He hit me."

'I just sort of froze'

She told court Boyle told her she couldn't leave. He told her to go to the bedroom and get undressed.

"I was very scared of him, so I think I just sort of froze … was just doing what he was telling me to do," she said.

Once they were in the bedroom and she was undressed, "Josh told me to get on the bed, and he took ropes that he kept in a bag with other things and he started to tie my hands and legs."

The bag contained BDSM equipment that was "at times" used during sex between the couple, Coleman testified.

"My expectation after he finished based on past times that were similar was that he would untie me and we would be done for the night and go to bed … but he said that he couldn't trust me, so he wasn't going to untie me," Coleman testified.

After half an hour had passed, Coleman asked Boyle again to untie her, but he said no, she told court.

Once she thought he was sleeping, she was able to untie the ropes.

'Scared, shaken, terrified'

"After I was untied I just lay down and went to sleep," Coleman testified. She described herself as scared, shaken and terrified.

The next day, she said she was too frightened to talk to Boyle about what had happened.

Coleman also testified that sometime in mid-December, Boyle asked her to get on her hands and knees for sex. She said she consented and knew what that position meant, because on previous occasions he'd told her he couldn't stand to see her face.

Then, Boyle tried to have anal sex.

She struggled and eventually "he stopped and he hit me in the face and he said, 'F---k you,'" Coleman told court.

Cunningham asked Coleman how she felt.

"It was a mix of relief that this was over, and the same sick feeling in my stomach and fear that was just very common at that time," she replied.


Kristy Nease


CBC Ottawa reporter Kristy Nease (she/her) has covered news in the capital for nearly 15 years, and previously worked at the Ottawa Citizen. She is particularly interested in long reads on climate, intimate partner violence and the courts. Get in touch: