An Osoyoos man accused of sexually assaulting a woman for almost a decade has been found not guilty.
The 65-year-old man, whose name is being withheld to protect the identity of the female who cannot be named under a court order, faced charges of sexual assault, sexual interference of a person under 14 and touching a young person for a sexual purpose. The woman, who is now in her 20s, testified the assaults started when she was 13.
“Not guilty says it all,” said the man, who declined further comment after the judge’s decision was given on Friday at the Penticton courthouse.
Justice Geoffery Barrow said his decision not only had to take into account if the woman was telling the truth, but whether the Crown had proven its case. He acknowledged in the decision there were “suspicious aspects in the relationship” and the man’s relationship with other pre-pubescent girls, but there was no evidence to suggest anything untoward happened.
Barrow said he found much of the evidence laid out by Crown counsel Deb Drissell to be “troubling.” The complainant said the sexual encounters happened so many times it was difficult for her to provide specific details on them. She did, however, recall one instance after a day at Rattlesnake Canyon amusement park when she was just 13.
“We drove up the mountain in Osoyoos to a secluded place … he would say that he wanted me to enjoy it too but I didn’t. Then he would have sex with me and drive me back into town,” she said during testimony last week.
The wife of the accused was called to the stand as a witness on behalf of the defence. Justice Barrow called her a “defensive witness,” but accepted her evidence that the family did not own a black Toyota as the complainant testified. The wife said they did not even own a car at that point in time, rather they were looking to purchase a van and that the black car they owned came many vehicles after. She recalled the day at Rattlesnake Canyon and her husband and complainant coming into her workplace afterwards and leaving on foot.
The complainant also testified the man had severe psoriasis on his penis, while the man’s wife testified it did consume much of his body but not his genitalia.
Defence counsel Michael Welsh poked holes in the complainant’s testimony during his closing, stating his client had debilitating arthritis that left him unable to do up zippers, buttons and shoelaces. Welsh said he found it improbable that the man could undress the complainant as she suggested, much less unfasten her bra.
The complainant left the courtroom in tears surrounded by family and friends. Her father and best friend told the Western News that they felt evidence was omitted from the trial that shouldn’t have been and may have proven the Osoyoos man’s guilt.
“He shredded my family apart. I hope he doesn’t get near anyone else,” said a supporter of the complainant.