Leaving their young children behind with relatives, Cathy Clayson and Paul Martin took a trip to an all-inclusive resort in Jamaica together in December, 2010, even though their fraught marriage was all but over. The ill-fated vacation would end with allegations that Mr. Martin, a schoolteacher from Ajax, Ont., slashed his wife’s throat and left her by the side of the road.
The strange story made headlines four years ago, as Ms. Clayson survived and Mr. Martin, who maintained his innocence, was acquitted of attacking her by a Jamaican jury in 2011 after spending most of that year in jail there.
However, the ordeal continues. On Friday, Mr. Martin was sitting across from his wife in an Oshawa, Ont., courtroom, as she seeks a divorce, an order ending his supervised access to their two young children, and a finding in civil court that he attacked her.
It’s an unusual proceeding. Unlike in a criminal case, Ms. Clayson’s lawyers must only prove their case on a “balance of probabilities,” a lower standard than proving guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.
And Mr. Martin, who regained his teaching job in the Durham Catholic District School Board, has no lawyer. So when it comes time to cross-examine Ms. Clayson, who started what is expected to be about two days of testimony on Friday, Mr. Martin himself will question her.
Martha McCarthy, Ms. Clayson’s lawyer, told court that Mr. Martin had “crossed the Rubicon” when “on Dec. 23, 2010, he slit her throat on a deserted road in Jamaica, struggled with her, strangled her and left her on the side of the road.”
During her testimony, Ms. Clayson, a 38-year-old bank employee with short dark hair, stared at the ceiling, her eyes welling up with tears, as she recounted the events of that day, at times sobbing in the witness box.
Mr. Martin, she said, had insisted on travelling to Jamaica and on renting a car despite her concerns about the country’s safety. He was “distant” for much of their stay. He threw up the night before they were to leave. And he insisted on driving to a remote spot east of their resort to take pictures just three hours before their flight was due to leave.
He went into the back seat, where his camera was, Ms. Clayson told court. “I recall hearing the unzipping of the knapsack,” she said, before suddenly she “felt a sting on my neck.”
She turned around. “I saw his face, with him holding a knife up,” she said, before he attacked her again, cutting her thumb as her hand was now at the gash in her throat, which she later told court was 10 centimetres long.
She left the car and ran, she told court, but he caught her and carried her back to the car, her flip-flops falling off as she kicked and resisted. He then started strangling her, she said. “He puts me in a choke hold and he starts strangling me. And I feel my airways just tightening and tightening,” she said, adding that she remembers urinating on him in the struggle.
He put her in the passenger seat and started to drive, she told court, and she somehow got her white hooded sweatshirt around her neck. She pleaded with him to take her to a hospital, even offering to lie and say she was attacked by a Jamaican robber. “I’m hysterical now. Oh my God, what have you done? … I’m screaming my babies names out.”
After they returned to a main highway, and she says she opened the door, honked the horn and grabbed the steering wheel, she eventually jumped from the car. Her husband drove off, and a passing cab driver took her to hospital.
At times, Mr. Martin, who came to court in a dark suit and brought a trolley full of his legal documents, stood to interrupt her account, telling the judge in a soft-spoken voice that he was having trouble hearing or taking notes quickly enough.
At one point, Ms. McCarthy held up a knife in court that Ms. Clayson said was similar to the one used in the attack. The hooked knife, she said she has learned since from looking at pictures online, was called a “gutting knife” and is used for “cutting the skin of an animal for hunting.”
Earlier in her testimony, Ms. Clayson told court that her 2004 marriage to Mr. Martin deteriorated after the births of their two children, who are now 8 and 6. Mr. Martin, she said, increasingly took to criticizing her housekeeping and parenting, controlling her contact with friends and repeatedly accusing her of having an affair with a friend. Just before their trip to Jamaica, she had told him she wanted to sell their house and separate. She told court that any discussion of this idea would make her husband very angry: “[He would say], ‘Over my dead body am I going to allow you to take my children away.’”
Earlier, Mr. Martin told court he intends to call as a witness his brother, former MP Keith Martin, who is a doctor, to counter expert medical testimony from his wife’s lawyers.
He also told the judge he was concerned his students would read about the trial: “I work in an elementary school as a teacher … and my students are 13, 14 and they read the paper,” he said. “… I would like it if at all possible to keep this away from them.”
Ontario Superior Court Justice Roger Timms started the proceedings by challenging Ms. Clayson’s lawyers arrangement to have two police officers sitting in the courtroom, declaring it unnecessary and sending the officers out. They remained in the hallway, and escorted Ms. Clayson to her car after her testimony.
In a 2011 interview with The Globe and Mail, Ms. Clayson called the Jamaican trial that saw her husband acquitted a “circus” in which jury members dozed off and she was portrayed by the defence as a liar.