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Man apologized as he robbed me, woman testifies in St. John's courtroom

Police say the man in this surveillance video image is Jeffrey Earle.
Police say the man in this surveillance video image is Jeffrey Earle. - Contributed
ST. JOHN'S, N.L. —

Andrea Tilley didn't get a good look at the face of the man who robbed her at knifepoint in February 2018, but she did hear his voice.

The man entered the Marie's Mini Mart location on Dunn's Road in Mount Pearl while she was working, and walked behind the counter and demanded that she open the cash drawer. When she did, he took a $100 bill and a few twenties, she said.

He then asked for cigarettes. She said she opened the cupboard and the man, holding a black-handled knife in one hand, took a few cartons of LDs and a few cartons of Peter Jacksons.

As the robber left, he spoke to Tilley again.

"He was apologizing," she testified. "He was saying, 'Sorry, I have addictions.’ He said it two or three times as he walked out around (the counter)."

Taking the stand in provincial court in St. John's Thursday morning, Tilley was one of the last witnesses to testify for Crown prosecutor Alana Dwyer at the trial of Jeffrey Earle, 29.

Earle has pleaded not guilty to 22 charges related to three convenience store robberies in St. John's between July 7 and 11 last year, as well as the armed robbery of the Dunn's Road Marie's Mini Mart the previous February. The charges include possessing weapons dangerous to the public — a handgun and a knife — pointing a firearm, carrying a concealed weapon, armed robbery, possession of stolen property and breaches of prior court orders.

The Marie's Mini Mart on Dunn's Road in Mount Pearl. It's alleged that Jeffrey Earle committed an armed robbery here in February of 2018.
 The Marie's Mini Mart on Dunn's Road in Mount Pearl. It's alleged that Jeffrey Earle committed an armed robbery here in February of 2018.

After leaving the Marie's store, Earle is alleged to have pulled up in the parking lot of the nearby Mount Pearl Hotel in a copper-coloured Dodge Journey that had been stolen from the parking lot of the Village mall earlier in the day.

Surveillance footage captured in the hotel’s parking lot shows a man stopping the car in the lane between two rows of parking and leaving it running, wipers still going in the rain, and getting out to meet a woman in a red coat who walked over to join him.

Different surveillance cameras captured the pair as they went in a back door of the hotel, through the hotel pub and into a hallway. While the woman appears to go into a washroom, the man, wearing a grey hoodie and black jacket, is seen walking down the hallway before returning moments later in a striped shirt.

Natalie Wiseman, the clerk working at the hotel's front desk that afternoon, also testified in court Thursday, saying the couple had come up from the lower level of the hotel to the front lobby and asked her if a cab had arrived. When she said it hadn't, they went back downstairs to use the washroom. When the taxi arrived, Wiseman said, she called out to let the couple know. They then left.

Wiseman finished her shift shortly afterward, headed to her car in the parking lot and found it nearly blocked in by an abandoned Dodge Journey. She called her colleague inside at the front desk and asked her to see if it belonged to a hotel guest or patron of the pub.

By the time a member of the hotel's housekeeping staff found a damp, grey hoodie under a chair in the downstairs hallway moments later, police had already arrived. They believed the ditched car might be related to an armed robbery at the nearby Marie's Mini Mart.

"I went to bring (the hoodie) to the front desk," the staff member told the court Thursday. "One of the officers asked what I had, and said they were looking for that."

Earle was arrested the same day in the area of Barachois Street, where the cab had dropped off the man and woman from the hotel. RNC officers who testified at his trial said they had identified Earle as the suspected robber from surveillance video taken from the store as well as the hotel. He was charged and spent time in custody before being released on a recognizance on June 28.

He was arrested again on July 11 and charged with the three new robberies.

Earle's lawyer, Steve Orr, has focused on issues of identity throughout the trial, pointing out inconsistencies between his client and the descriptions given by a number of witnesses of the robbers' height, size, features, facial hair and clothing. None of the surveillance videos gives a clear image of the faces of the suspects, he said.

Orr told Judge Mike Madden he is not calling any evidence at trial.

The case will be back before the court May 3, when Orr and Dwyer will present their closing submissions.

Twitter: @tara_bradbury


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