The BC Court of Appeal and BC Supreme Court in Downtown Vancouver. (Shutterstock)

Judge tosses Burnaby sexual assault claims from 1960s

An 82-year-old man was accused of sexual assault on two sisters in law when they were underage. The BC Supreme Court dismissed those claims.

By Dustin Godfrey | August 4, 2022 |5:00 am

Warning: This story contains graphic details that may be disturbing to some readers. 

An 82-year-old man has been acquitted of sexual assault against two sisters-in-law, reported to have occurred between 55 and 60 years ago.

Justice Catherine Murray said in a recent ruling that the two accusers, referred to in the ruling as JB and JM, were both sisters-in-law of the accused, referred to as GAR. JB was allegedly assaulted between Jan. 14 and Jan. 31 in 1963 in the Comox Valley area, while GAR allegedly assaulted JM between April 1, 1966 and April 1, 1970 in Burnaby.

According to the ruling, JB alleged that GAR had forced sex on her in January 1963, when she was 15 years old.

JM was between the ages of 11 and 14 at the time of her allegations, and she accused GAR of forcibly penetrating her with his fingers on four occasions.

JB’s sexual assault claims

When ER and GAR married in 1961, GAR was a member of the Canadian Armed Forces, and he was posted in Comox early on in their marriage, according to the ruling.

In 1965, the couple moved to Burnaby, just a couple of blocks from where ER, JM, JB, and a fourth sister, PM, grew up.

JB testified that she had arrived in Courtenay shortly after ER and GAR’s first child was born. A few days after her arrival, she was sitting on the couch in the Rs’ home. At around 8pm, after ER had gone to bed with her baby, JB said GAR sat beside her and put his arm around her, making her uncomfortable.

“After a couple of minutes the accused put his right hand under her shirt and started touching her breasts over her bra—cupping and massaging. She said it made her feel terrible. She told him ‘stop; I don’t like this,’” reads the ruling

JB said GAR did not stop, instead putting his hand down her pants and underwear and started massaging her vulva.

“She said ‘stop or I’ll scream.’ The accused responded that if she did she would wake ER. JB recalls thinking that she did not want to destroy ER’s marriage so she said nothing,” Murray wrote.

GAR then allegedly got on top of her and forced sex on her before going to bed.

What JM says happened

JM claimed she was assaulted four times, after the only four times she ever babysat for GAR and ER—PM was the regular babysitter, and JM helped when PM had a migraine.

“She is certain that it was on Saturdays because after each time she had to see the accused in church the next day. She recalls wondering how he could be standing at the front of the church at mass reading the Bible as a lay reader after molesting her the night before,” reads the ruling.

“She had to sit in the pew and watch the accused stand at the front reading the Bible as a lay reader; ‘so pious.’ As she sat in church JM recalls thinking that it was hopeless for her; that her mother would never believe her over the accused.”

JM testified that GAR would drive her two blocks to her home and stop about halfway and start kissing her, “forcing his tongue down her throat,” according to the ruling.

“She was in shock. She turned her head away and pushed him away with her hands on his chest. He continued kissing her. He then stuck his left hand down her pants and underwear and used his pointer and middle fingers to, in her words, ‘digitally rape’ her,” Murray wrote of JM’s testimony.

After he dropped her off, she testified that she ran into her home and went straight to the bathroom to cry.

She claimed this happened three more times, despite her protesting to her parents that she didn’t want to babysit for the Rs after the first time.

After the last time, she refused to babysit for them again.

“According to JM, she was done. She refused to go back. She became, in her words, ‘the horrible sister,’” reads the ruling.

Evidence to the contrary

Neither sister told anyone of the alleged assaults for about 50 years.

JM first testified that she told JB during JB’s first cancer treatment before correcting herself to say she told JB in 2016, during JB’s second cancer treatment. She then corrected herself again to say she told JB in January 2018 before confronting GAR about the incidents.

JB, meanwhile, testified that she spoke to her daughter and JM in 2015, while she was fighting cancer.

They ultimately agreed to go to the police in August 2020.

ER told the court in trial that, contrary to JB’s testimony, JB never stayed with them when their child was born. And while JB testified that ER and GAR’s child was born in Burnaby, ER testified, and a birth certificate confirmed, that the child was born in Comox.

ER also challenged JB’s testimony that she had slept in a bedroom during the alleged visit, as it was not furnished at the time.

GAR denied ever being sexually inappropriate with JB or with JM, and he said he only drove JM home from babysitting twice—the first two times he testified that he walked her home.

When he did drive her home, he claimed that when he stopped in front of JM’s house, JM leaned over and “kissed him passionately on the mouth,” according to the ruling.

“He said ‘whoa, what’s happening,’ then told her that she had better go into her house. She did. That was the only sexual interaction between them.”

He, ER, and PM all testified that JM never attended the same Sunday mass as them—while they attended the 11:30am mass, JM and her parents attended earlier masses.

Weighing the evidence

After JM and JB confronted him, GAR wrote the two emails and a letter to apologize, something that he testified was not an admission of guilt but writing “what JM wanted to hear,” thinking it would make her leave his family alone. At the time, his son-in-law was dying of cancer, his brother had been hospitalized with a serious illness, and ER was in the hospital for a knee surgery.

“The accused testified that he did not hear anything more from JM until the summer of 2020 when she emailed him saying that people had been speaking ill of her and something like ‘your toxic wife can visit you in jail,’” reads the ruling.

In weighing the evidence, Murray said she was “left in doubt as to the credibility and reliability” of JB’s evidence due to the inconsistencies between her testimony and evidence to the contrary, including the birth certificate and ER’s and GAR’s testimony.

Murray had stronger words for JM’s testimony, saying she was unable to find it “either credible or reliable,” as there were “many issues” with her evidence.

That included an apparently evolving memory—at times certain of something she was previously uncertain of or vice versa—as well as making baseless claims.

JM suggested GAR also assaulted PM, saying “you don’t just skip sisters,” despite PM testifying to the contrary. She also alleged that GAR had been inappropriate with another woman based on hearing third-hand that he had brought that woman candy and flowers while her husband wasn’t home.

“JM put many admittedly untrue allegations/assertions to the accused in her emails as if they were true. … JM seemed to feel justified in lying to the accused to try to get him to inculpate himself. As JM put it, she was saying whatever she felt she needed to in order to make him understand ‘the full weight of his actions,’” reads the ruling.

“JM unapologetically stands by her false statements. Further, while she concedes that she has no foundation for her allegations, she steadfastly believes them to be true.”

Murray found GAR not guilty on all counts.

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Dustin Godfrey

Reporter at Burnaby Beacon

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