A previously unknown witness is expected to tell an RCMP officer’s perjury trial that the four Mounties involved in Robert Dziekanski’s death gathered at her home for a private meeting before testifying at a public inquiry, the Crown told a B.C. Supreme Court judge on Tuesday.
Crown counsel Eric Gottardi signalled that prosecutors intend to allege Constable Kwesi Millington and the other officers got together to co-ordinate their stories as they prepared to appear at the inquiry, where they all testified in early 2009. Constable Millington was among four officers who confronted Mr. Dziekanski at Vancouver’s airport on Oct. 14, 2007. He repeatedly stunned Mr. Dziekanski with a taser and the Polish immigrant died on the airport floor.
All four officers were later charged with perjury for their testimony at the inquiry.
Mr. Gottardi said Constable Millington’s trial will hear from Janice Norgard. Her former common-law husband is the cousin of Constable Bill Bentley, who was acquitted of the same perjury charge last year.
“We expect that she will testify – based on the statement she has provided to police – that shortly before each of the four officers prepared to appear at the inquiry, her common-law husband asked her if Constable Bentley and his colleagues could use her home for a private meeting,” Mr. Gottardi told the court. “The four officers came to Norgard’s home and met there alone for approximately 1.5 to two hours.”
The Crown’s theory is that the officers concocted a story to justify their actions, and then told their fabricated version of events to homicide investigators and the inquiry.
“Despite being asked a number of questions, none of the four officers disclosed this meeting during the inquiry or at any other time,” Mr. Gottardi said. “If the accused are prepared to get together to co-ordinate their versions before the inquiry, surely they were prepared to do the same thing before they were interviewed by [homicide investigators].”
Mr. Gottardi said Ms. Norgard came forward after reading media coverage about Constable Bentley’s acquittal.
Constable Millington is accused of lying on 10 separate instances during the public inquiry as he recalled what happened when he stunned Mr. Dziekanski. He is also accused of lying when he testified that he never discussed the incident with his fellow officers, either before speaking to homicide investigators or before testifying at the inquiry.
Constable Millington has pleaded not guilty, and his defence lawyer hasn’t had a chance to respond to Ms. Norgard’s anticipated testimony.
The Crown is appealing Constable Bentley’s acquittal, while former corporal Benjamin (Monty) Robinson and Constable Gerry Rundel are still awaiting trial. Mr. Gottardi said Constable Rundel is also expected to testify at the request of the defence.
Constable Rundel is the officer who seized a video recording of the incident from a passenger who was at the airport, and his testimony is expected to focus on the video. However, Mr. Gottardi said the Crown also intends to press Constable Rundel about what, if anything, the four officers said to each other after Mr. Dziekanski’s death.
“If he testified, his examination about opportunities to collude, what went on at the airport, why certain entries in his statements or notes are identical [to the other officers’ notes and statements] – that would all be fair game,” Mr. Gottardi said.
Mr. Gottardi’s comments came as the defence asked the judge to block the Crown from alleging the four officers colluded before writing their police notes and speaking to investigators on the morning after Mr. Dziekanski died. Constable Millington’s lawyer argued the issue was already decided when a judge acquitted Constable Bentley.
However, Mr. Gottardi said each officer is on trial separately and is facing a different set of allegations and facts, and it wouldn’t make sense for one trial to affect the results in another. He said if prosecutors are prevented from arguing the issue of collusion at Constable Millington’s trial, the same rationale would affect cases involving gang members and co-conspirators in cases involving separate trials.
The judge in the case is expected to rule on the collusion issue on Thursday.
The four officers went to Vancouver’s airport after a 911 call about a man throwing furniture in the international terminal. Shortly after arriving, Constable Millington stunned Mr. Dziekanski several times with a taser.
The officers all testified at a public inquiry in 2009, and each told the hearing that Mr. Dziekanski was stunned because he posed a threat when he picked up a stapler.