A Canadian judge is set to determine the fate of Joshua Boyle, the former hostage who spent five years in Afghanistan with his family and stands accused of , Caitlan Coleman.
The Ontario superior court justice Peter Doody will rule on Thursday on the 19 charges against Boyle, including assault with a weapon and forcible confinement. In doing so, Doody will also weigh the credibility of competing testimony from Coleman and Boyle, who have provided starkly different accounts of their time in Ottawa, where the alleged crimes are said to have occurred.
In 2012, then newlyweds Boyle and Coleman travelled to , where they were kidnapped by a Taliban-linked group shortly after arriving in the restive country.
They spent five years in captivity, during which time Coleman gave birth to three children, and were eventually freed by Pakistani soldiers in 2017. Soon after, they returned to Canada, where crown prosecutors allege .
“Mr Boyle manipulated [Coleman], exercised control over her, imposed his will on her and instilled fear in her,” the prosecutor Jason Neubauer said during closing arguments in September. “He did this through emotional and physical abuse – demeaning her and striking her.”
Taliban hostage couple face each other in Canada courtroom
Coleman traveled from her home in Pennsylvania to Ottawa for the judge-only trial. She testified from a separate room in the court to avoid sharing a room with her estranged husband.
In addition to instances of sexual assault, Coleman described a list of demands created by Boyle, dictating her behaviour, diet, exercise and frequency of sex. She claims she was punished physically if she failed meet the expectations laid out in the list.
“In the past, he made it clear he didn’t feel any guilt hurting me,” she told the court.
Coleman also recounted , fearing for her life as she ran from the couple’s apartment into a “dangerously cold” Ottawa winter, wearing only socks on her feet.
“It took me a while to get up my courage to do it. But I did,” she told the court. Coleman told the court how she took shelter at a nearby pizza shop, and phoned her mother, who was in town visiting, for help. Boyle was arrested later that night.
Boyle’s defence team pushed back at the crown’s portrayal of their client.
“. He is not conventional … by society’s so-called ‘norms’,” said the defence lawyer, Lawrence Greenspon. “But he is a person who tells the truth, even if it’s not to his own advantage.”
Boyle has admitted to criticizing his wife, fighting often and striking her once while the two were in captivity, but rejected accusations this behaviour carried over to their life in Ottawa.
Boyle told the court that the couple had a turbulent relationship, that they participated in BDSM and that Coleman’s “tempestuous personality” affected her ability to accurately recall events, with his legal team suggesting Coleman’s testimony was “neither credible nor reliable”.
He also claimed that he had only restrained Coleman was for her own safety, fearing she might be suicidal.
“There is no eyewitness or physical evidence to corroborate any of the 19 charges [against Boyle],” said Greenspon, suggesting Coleman had provided testimony that had only “mild corroboration”.
The trial was initially expected to only last weeks, but was delayed by a handful of procedural questions – including debate over how much of Coleman’s sexual history would be admissible as evidence. Coleman also created confusion in the trial after speaking to media outlets, despite the judge’s request not to speak publicly about the case.
Doody is expected to release his decision in the criminal case against Boyle on Thursday morning in Ottawa.