Politics

Caitlan Coleman 'like a robot' after Afghan captivity, mother tells sex assault trial

Caitlan Coleman's mother told an Ottawa courtroom today she hardly recognized her daughter when she and her then-husband Joshua Boyle returned from captivity in Afghanistan in 2017.

Joshua Boyle faces 19 charges, including assault with a weapon, sexual assault and forcible confinement

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

Caitlan Coleman's mother told an Ottawa courtroom today she hardly recognized her daughter when she and her then-husband Joshua Boyle returned from captivity in Afghanistan in 2017.

"She was totally changed, to my mind," Lynda Coleman testified at Boyle's sexual assault trial. "She was very non-expressive. Her voice was changed."

Boyle, Coleman's estranged husband, faces 19 charges, including assault with a weapon, sexual assault and forcible confinement against her. The 35-year-old has pleaded not guilty to charges for actions allegedly committed after he and Coleman were freed following nearly six years in captivity, during which time their three children were born.

After the couple's release in October 2017, they settled in Ottawa.

Caitlan Coleman was subsequently hospitalized; her mother said she travelled from the U.S. to Ottawa to be at her bedside. Even after she recovered, Lynda testified, Caitlan — or Katie, as she called her — was not herself.

"She seemed like a robot or an automaton," Lynda said under Crown questioning.

She testified that Boyle was controlling and expected her daughter to take care of the house and the children. Boyle was also cold and arrogant, she said.

Caitlan Coleman's parents Jim and Lynda. (Doug Husby/CBC)

"Josh never showed any affection," Lynda said. "He never showed any respect. He didn't help with the children or with household chores."

Boyle made notes, shook his head and snickered quietly in the courtroom as he listened to his ex-mother-in-law. He has pleaded not guilty to all 19 charges.

'She ran out of the house. She had no coat, no shoes'

Lynda told court she travelled to Ottawa after Christmas in 2017 on a different trip. She said she remembers taking her daughter and grandkids to Walmart on Dec. 30 to buy food and other household items.

With a full grocery cart, she said, they waited for Boyle to pick them up; suddenly, with a look of panic on her face, Caitlan blurted out that she'd forgotten to buy an item her husband wanted.

"She dashed in and got back with a 20 lb bag of rice," Lynda said. "She was afraid."

Joshua Boyle arrives to court in Ottawa on Monday, March 25, 2019. (Sean Kilpatrick/Canadian Press)

That evening, Caitlan and her mom unpacked the groceries and Boyle prepared dinner, Lynda said — but he refused to eat. Lynda didn't tell the court why; in previous testimony, however, Caitlan told court Boyle erupted in anger that evening when one of their children came into the kitchen.

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

Lynda said that, before midnight that same evening, she got a call back at her hotel room.

"And it was Katie on the phone saying, 'Mom, I need your help,'" Lynda said. "She was so frightened. She told me that she ran out of the house. She had no coat, no shoes."

Minutes later, Lynda said, Caitlan arrived at the hotel in a cab, "dishevelled" and in her socks. During her previous testimony in March, Caitlan told the court that night her husband threatened to confine her to their bedroom.

A visit from the Ottawa police followed, Lynda told court. The police officers said Boyle had called 911, saying Caitlan was suicidal.

After speaking with Coleman, police arrested Boyle on New Year's Eve.

The defence spent less than 20 minutes cross-examining Boyle's ex-mother-in-law. Many of their questions focused on Coleman's mental health.

Lynda told the defence she knew Caitlan suffered from PTSD, even though during earlier testimony she said her daughter didn't have mental health issues.

See the moments that have defined Caitlan Coleman's life in the public eye. 2:38

About the Author

David Thurton is a national reporter in CBC's Parliamentary Bureau. He's worked for CBC in Fort McMurray, the Maritimes and in Canada's Arctic.