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Ex-Bridgewater police chief denies sexual assault


Former Bridgewater police chief John Collyer testified at his trial on Tuesday. He is charged with sexual assault and sexual exploitation. - Josh Healey / File
Former Bridgewater police chief John Collyer testified at his trial on Tuesday. He is charged with sexual assault and sexual exploitation. - Josh Healey / File

BRIDGEWATER — Taking the stand as the final witness at his own Nova Scotia Supreme Court trial, former Bridgewater police chief John Collyer repeatedly denied sexually assaulting a teenage girl in 2016.

When asked by his defence lawyer if he had assaulted the now 20-year old woman, Collyer, a career policeman, maintained that he had never touched her.

“No, sir,” he told the court.

Collyer also stands accused of sexual exploitation. He pleaded not guilty to both charges.

The young woman, whose identity is protected by a publication ban, previously testified in July that Collyer penetrated her vagina with his fingers while the two were driving in his sports car.

And until Tuesday, the court had only heard Collyer’s version of events through a video-taped police interview in which he admitted to investigators that he exchanged nearly 600 messages with the complainant.

Many of defence lawyer David Bright’s questions revolved around Collyer’s Facebook messaging history and the alleged assault.

Collyer testified that multiple people had access to his social media account and were able to monitor his activity.

He also said he sent the inappropriate Facebook messages to the complainant while drinking but immediately regretted his actions when he sobered up.

“As soon as I saw them, I was horrified by them,” Collyer testified. “I knew they crossed a line.”

He later admitted that he deleted his messaging history because he didn’t want anyone to know about them.

Earlier in the trial, SIRT Sgt. Gord Vail testified that investigators had to file an MLAT — a type of international information agreement — to retrieve the deleted messages.

Vail said the request revealed a total of 596 messages sent between Collyer and the complainant between April 2015 and August 2016.

When asked by Bright what his intentions were when sending the messages, some of which were sexual in nature, Collyer said he thought they were funny when he was under the influence.

The messages discussed playing truth or dare, foot rubs and getting in “trouble” in the complainant’s room.

“When I’m drinking, my filter is gone,” he said, although he denied being an alcoholic.

Collyer also addressed his missing BlackBerry cellphone, which was reported lost before it could be seized by investigators in August 2016. He testified that he lost it sometime during a visit to Halifax Regional Municipality; the cellphone was never recovered.

Concerning the sexual assault, Collyer’s account of the day mirrors what was said by the complainaint — except for the assault itself.

While discussing the events of that day, Collyer repeatedly denied that any sexual assault took place.

But back in July, the court heard the complainant’s testimony which went into graphic detail about the assault, adding that, after he had penetrated her, Collyer licked his fingers and told her: “You taste sweet.”

The young woman also testified to the court that she felt betrayed and couldn’t understand why “a fatherly figure” would abuse her.

Much of Crown attorney Roland Levesque’s cross examination centred on the sexual nature of the Facebook messages and asked if Collyer was sexually attracted to the complainant.

For example, Levesque cited a video Collyer sent in which a dog pulled the bikini top off a woman, asking if the former police chief wanted to see the complainant’s breasts.

Collyer replied that although inappropriate, the messages didn’t necessarily mean he was attracted to the complainant.

But the cross examination came to a climax when Levesque started to question Collyer about his sports car — where the sexual assault is alleged to have taken place.

Collyer said it was possible to drive the car, which was a standard, with one hand when up to speed but again denied anything took place.

Levesque then jumped to the missing cellphone, adding it must be a coincidence that it disappeared after investigators informed Collyer that he was under investigation for sexual assault.

“No, sir. There was nothing to be gained by losing it on purpose,” testified Collyer.

When asked by reporters how he felt the witnesses presented themselves, Levesque said it would be up to Justice Mona Lynch to decide.

He also said it was important to showcase Collyer’s mindset when sending the messages.

“If you’re saying something, it indicates a state of mind,” he said. “And if you have a certain state of mind, that can inevitably lead to you putting into action your thoughts.”

Closing submissions will be presented on Wednesday.

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