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More charges for Memorial University student on trial for attempted murder in Signal Hill incident

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Sexual assault among the four new charges

ST. JOHN'S, N.L. —

A Memorial University student on trial for attempted murder is facing four new charges, including a sexual assault alleged to have taken place two years ago.

The man, whose identity is protected by a publication ban, was charged Friday with sexual assault and breaching a court order to be of good behaviour in relation to an incident on Dec. 2, 2017. At the time, the man had been awaiting trial for reportedly trying to push his friend over a cliff on Signal Hill.

The man was also charged with breaching two more court orders on Friday, after he was reportedly found to have been in possession of a cellphone or tablet.

The man appeared in provincial court and was released on a recognizance with 13 conditions, including that he reside with a relative at a specific address and remain inside the home except for court appearances and medical appointments — when he must be accompanied by one of his sureties — as well as for employment purposes.

He will make his next appearance on the new charges at the end of the month. 

On Tuesday, the man was in Supreme Court for the continuation of his attempted murder trial, which began in September and has seen a lengthy postponement due to witness availability.

An image captured from a video taken by RNC investigators of the area of Signal Hill where a MUN student is alleged to have attempted to kill his friend in April 2017. - Contributed
An image captured from a video taken by RNC investigators of the area of Signal Hill where a MUN student is alleged to have attempted to kill his friend in April 2017. - Contributed

Prosecutor Jude Hall called some of his final witnesses Tuesday afternoon, mainly police officers testifying about the chain of custody of the accused's cellphone.

The man is alleged to have sent text messages to the complainant in the case from RNC headquarters the night of his arrest.

"For God's sakes, take back what you said. Don't play with my life," one of the messages read.

The man, a MUN engineering student, has pleaded not guilty to trying to kill his friend by throwing them both over the edge of a cliff on Signal Hill in April 2017 in an alleged murder-suicide.

The complainant testified he and the accused had gone to Signal Hill three days in a row that month looking for ski trails, but didn't find any. During a hike to an area known as Ladies' Lookout, the accused came quickly toward him, grabbed him and pushed him, he said. 

The man told the court he and the accused had ended up perhaps 15 feet down the slope. He used his right hand to grab the trunk of a bush, he said, while the accused was below him, holding onto his wrist. He said he couldn't remember falling.

"What do you think (the accused) was trying to do?" Hall asked the complainant.

"Right now I think he was trying to kill himself and he wanted me, a close friend, to be with him when he was doing suicide," the man replied, with the help of an English-Farsi translator. "I understood that it was just because of his mental depression and not because of any issue with me."

At one point in the trial, the courtroom moved briefly to Signal Hill so Justice Vikas Khaladkar could see the site of the alleged attempted murder.

Defence lawyer Mark Gruchy's questioning has so far centred on the relationship between the complainant and the accused. Gruchy has implied the two men had been romantically involved. The complainant was adamant in his testimony this is not true.

It's not clear what relevance the men's relationship has to the criminal charge, though Gruchy commented earlier in the trial that the central issue in the case is one that could get the men killed in their native country.

The trial will resume Dec. 11, when Hall is expected to officially close his case and Gruchy will call witnesses for the defence, if he chooses.

Twitter: @tara_bradbury


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