Ottawa

Ottawa Mountie told police he 'screwed up,' child abuse trial hears

An RCMP officer told Ottawa police he "screwed up" after he and his wife were accused of severe long-term abuse of their 11-year-old son, including tying him to a wall in the family's basement, court heard Friday.

Officer, wife on trial for allegedly shackling, abusing 11-year-old son in basement

The trial of the accused parents is expected to last three weeks, with each facing several charges. (Courtroom sketches by Sarah Wallace)

An RCMP officer told Ottawa police he "screwed up" after he and his wife were accused of severe long-term abuse of their 11-year-old son, including tying him to a wall in the family's basement, court heard Friday.

The man, 44, and his 36-year-old wife, who can't be named to protect their son's identity, were charged in February 2013 in what Ottawa police called the "worst case of abuse police have seen."

The Mountie was suspended upon being charged and remains suspended without pay, RCMP said.

The mother and father each face a charge of aggravated assault, forcible confinement and failing to provide the necessaries of life. The woman is also charged with assaulting the boy with a weapon, while the man faces other charges of sexual assault causing bodily harm and assault with a weapon.

In court Friday, the Mountie watched his own police interview that occurred following the arrest, as the trial reached a fourth day.

The father asked the interviewing Ottawa police officer whether his son would be reunited with his family. The officer told him he didn't have to explain the charges, adding the Mountie knew the law and the criminality of what had happened.

"I screwed up," the father told the officer during the interview.

In the police interview the father admitted he tethered his son to the wall or a pole in the basement. The boy developed scabs on his wrists due to the chains or plastic zip ties used to confine him in the basement, the father said.

Signs of 'wasting and severe malnutrition'

The boy, who in 2013 appeared emaciated and starved when doctors examined him at the Children's Hospital of Eastern Ontario had been fed despite doctors' opinions to the contrary, his father assured police.

The court examined 160 photos of the then 11-year-old taken upon his admission to CHEO.

Dr. Leigh Fraser-Roberts testified the boy weighed just 50 lbs. when he was admitted, and gained about 15 lbs. after two and a half weeks of treatment.

The worst case of inflicted injury, abuse or neglect in a child who managed to survive.- Dr. Leigh Fraser-Roberts

​Fraser-Roberts said the boy's clavicle was exposed and he seemed to have no fat in his face or neck when she examined him. He also had sunken eyes, swollen knees, "far too few calories" and signs of "wasting and severe malnutrition."

She also said there were "irregular lesions and scars" on the boy's back, buttocks, groin and inner thigh that were deep purple and red.

"[This was] by far the worst case of inflicted injury, abuse or neglect in a child who managed to survive," Fraser-Roberts said, referring to her 22 years as a pediatrician in Ottawa.

Defence suggests self-inflicted malnutrition

The father's lawyer, Robert Carew, challenged the doctor's testimony during cross-examination.

"You'll agree, some people feel more comfortable being thin," he said, suggesting the emaciation could be self-inflicted or due to anorexia.

In 2013, the RCMP said the father was on leave beginning in May 2011, but the reason for that remains under a court-ordered publication ban.

Police sources previously told CBC News the man was a member of the force's counter-terrorism unit.

The court has ordered the husband and wife not to communicate with each other. Their trial is expected to last three weeks.

Corrections

  • A previous version of this story referred to the man on trial as a former Mountie. In fact, while the man has been suspended from duty without pay since being charged in 2013, he remains a regular member of the RCMP.
    Sep 21, 2015 1:59 PM ET