On the eve of their testimony at the Robert Dziekanski public inquiry, the four RCMP officers involved in his death had a secret meeting in which they planned what they would say, the Crown has alleged in court.
Mr. Dziekanski's death at Vancouver International Airport seven years ago generated headlines around the world. The Polish immigrant had been at the airport for 10 hours, looking for his mother. He grew agitated and began throwing furniture. He was stunned five times by an RCMP taser and died on the airport floor.
The four officers have been charged with perjury for their testimony at a subsequent public inquiry. The trial for Benjamin (Monty) Robinson began Monday in B.C. Supreme Court. He pleaded not guilty.
Scott Fenton, one of the prosecutors in the perjury case, told the court a witness will testify her home was used for the private meeting in February, 2009. He said the woman's partner is the cousin of one of the officers.
Mr. Fenton said the witness will testify the officers were at her home for two hours and he accused Mr. Robinson of trying to deliberately mislead the inquiry.
"The only logical, the only rational, the only reasonable inference that flows from that private meeting is that the officers met to discuss their testimony, including how to reconcile their statements [to investigators] with … video [of the incident]," Mr. Fenton said.
He said the officers made statements to the Integrated Homicide Investigation Team (IHIT) within hours of Mr. Dziekanski's death. He said the Crown expects to show there were striking similarities in those statements, even on points that were later proven untrue.
For instance, Mr. Fenton said the officers had said they had to wrestle Mr. Dziekanski to the ground before deploying the conducted energy weapon, though the video proved otherwise.
"It is the Crown's theory and we allege that the evidence will show that those striking similarities, the uniform errors in those early statements, were the by-product of the officers having spoken together prior to giving their IHIT statements. That is the irresistible inference that should flow from those errors," he said.
The video of Mr. Dziekanski's death – filmed by another traveller – fuelled public outrage over the actions of the officers and sparked a national debate about the use of conducted energy weapons, prompting a public inquiry to examine both issues.
The inquiry commissioner, among other things, recommended civilian oversight of B.C. police. The province in 2011 announced the formation of the Independent Investigations Office for that purpose.
Mr. Robinson is the second of the officers to stand trial. Constable Bill Bentley was acquitted last year, with the judge saying the Crown had failed to prove he lied. The Crown has appealed.
Constable Kwesi Millington, who fired the taser, is scheduled to stand trial beginning next week.
Constable Gerry Rundel was also scheduled to stand trial this fall, but the case was delayed at the request of the Crown and isn't expected to be heard until next year.
Mr. Robinson resigned from the RCMP in 2012, after he was convicted of obstruction of justice in an unrelated case. He was behind the wheel in October, 2008, when his vehicle struck and killed a 21-year-old motorcyclist.
He told his trial that immediately after the crash he went home and drank two shots of vodka to "calm his nerves." A judge concluded he had used his RCMP training in an attempt to fend off accusations of impaired driving. He was sentenced to a conditional sentence of 12 months.
Mr. Dziekanski was 40 at the time of his death. He had arranged to immigrate to B.C., where his mother already lived. He arrived at Vancouver airport at 3:25 p.m. local time on Oct. 13, 2007. He remained in a secure area for more than seven hours and his mother left the airport, believing he had not arrived.
With a report from The Canadian Press