The accused was charged with the manslaughter of the deceased as well as the theft of her cell phone and laptop computer. Only the manslaughter charge was in dispute. The accused was at the deceased’s house on the night she died and they had engaged in mutual sexual behaviour at the time. The accused told the police during a series of interviews over a number of months after that the victim had wrapped a shirt around her neck before she died and the accused was present when she died. He had panicked and attempted to clean the scene including dressing her. He took her cell phone and laptop and discarded them. He had stated that he did to cover up that he had been there and that he was in a long time relationship with a woman who was concerned about how the relationship would be affected. An autopsy carried out by a general pathologist suggested nothing suspicious, concluding that the cause of death was asphyxia. A forensic pathologist agreed that the deceased died of asphyxia which he concluded was caused by strangulation by a ligature. She indicated that the accused explanation of how the deceased died was not true and did not happen the way he described it.
Through cross-examination and submissions, the defence submitted that the evidence did not prove without a reasonable doubt that the accused had strangled to death the deceased.
The judge was concerned about the expert evidence of the forensic pathologist for reasons which included the fact that she had not seen the body or performed the autopsy. He made note of the absence of any marks on the neck of the victim of any ligature or any attempt to remove a ligature. Ultimately the judge found that the evidence failed to satisfy beyond a reasonable doubt as to how the deceased died. He was unable to conclude that she was strangled or assaulted by another person. Accused was found not guilty of manslaughter but was found guilty of stealing the computer and cell phone.
British Columbia Supreme Court, 2017 BCSC 2009 Docket 49448