Officer testifies finding body in brush at second-degree murder trial
Published Monday, November 27, 2017 7:46AM AST Last Updated Monday, November 27, 2017 7:10PM AST
HALIFAX -- Family members of Catherine Campbell wept Monday as a jury was shown video of a body found in brush in an area near Halifax's Macdonald Bridge, days after Christopher Garnier allegedly punched and strangled the off-duty police officer.
Halifax Regional Police Const. Adam Cole said he was searching Barrington Street as part of the investigation and spotted a box in a steep embankment off Valour Way early on Sept. 16, 2015.
"The hairs on the back of my neck started to stand," Cole told the Nova Scotia Supreme Court jury at Garnier's second-degree murder trial.
Cole said he then crawled down the embankment through thick brush.
"When I lifted (the box), I could see hair. I could see a person," said Cole, adding that the body -- which was never identified by Cole as Campbell -- was face down.
Cole said earlier that evening, police had located a compost bin nearby off a ramp that leads from North Street to Barrington Street.
The Crown has alleged Garnier used a green compost bin to dump Campbell's body in brush in the area of the Macdonald Bridge.
Garnier has pleaded not guilty to second-degree murder and interfering with a dead body.
Halifax Regional Police Det. Const. Randy Wood said after the body was discovered, video was shot of the scene.
Video of the back of the body was shown to the jury, as members of Campbell's family watched on from the gallery and wept.
"I had cleared brush away from Ms. Campbell," said Wood, adding that he did not touch the body.
The body was not officially confirmed to be that of Campbell's before the jury.
Wood also testified that earlier that day, he had searched a dumpster near the McCully Street apartment and found a garbage bag that contained a gym membership tag and keys.
Earlier Monday, two witnesses told the jury they saw a man rolling a compost bin in Halifax's north end on the same morning the Crown alleges Garnier killed Campbell, a Truro police officer.
Andrew Golding said he was walking to work at an automotive dealer shortly before 5 a.m. on Sept. 11, 2015, when he passed by a man pulling a compost bin on North Street.
Golding said the man appeared agitated as he passed by, and that the compost bin appeared to be "carrying weight."
"He passed by me in very close range with the bin -- close enough that I had to step out of the way," said Golding. "(He had) a frown, a grimace on his face as if he was under physical or mental duress."
A garbage truck driver also testified that he saw a man rolling a compost bin -- this time on Agricola Street.
Ronald MacDonald said he started his shift around 3 a.m. on Sept. 11, 2015, and roughly two hours into his shift, he saw a man rolling a compost bin down Agricola Street toward North Street.
The jury was again shown surveillance video of a man rolling a compost bin down the driveway of a business and onto Agricola Street, and MacDonald identified his garbage truck driving by in the background.
He said the man was barefoot and wearing shorts and a T-shirt and had a scruffy beard, and that he had told colleagues about what he saw on a two-way radio.
"I told the other people I was working with that I saw something funny going by," said MacDonald.
Garnier, wearing a black suit jacket and a closely-cropped beard, sat quietly during the testimony Monday, his family members sitting in the gallery behind him.
Halifax Regional Police officer Joshua McNeil told the jury that he was assigned to look inside compost bins in Halifax's north end on the evening of Tuesday Sept. 15, 2015.
McNeil said eventually, he and another officer noticed a compost bin that was "flipped open" off a ramp that leads from North Street onto Barrington Street.
"It was empty. It was laying on its side," said McNeil.
Halifax Regional Police Const. Brad McLellan, who was with McNeil at the time, said they felt it was unusual because of the general area where it was found.
"There was no residences in that area," he said.
Also Monday, the jury was shown Halifax Harbour Bridges surveillance videos from the Macdonald Bridge.
Halifax Regional Police Det. Const. Jonathan Beer testified that a "shadowy figure" could be seen walking down the ramp from North Street onto Barrington Street. Moments later, the individual was seen dragging a large bin across Barrington Street shortly after 5 a.m. on Sept. 11, 2015, he said.
The blurry figure in the video was never identified as Garnier.
Beer also said there was a purple bracelet -- the type distributed to bar patrons -- found in trees on the left side of Valour Way, a road off Barrington Street that passes underneath the Macdonald Bridge.
The Crown alleges Garnier and Campbell met at the Halifax Alehouse bar in the early hours of Sept. 11, 2015, and took a cab back to his friend's place on McCully Street. The Crown alleges that once there, Garnier punched and strangled Campbell.
Last week, the trial was shown surveillance video of a man pulling a compost bin towards and away from the McCully Street apartment, where the jury has heard Garnier was staying with a friend after breaking up with his girlfriend.
Crown attorney Carla Ball said in her opening statement that the case is "about a man who loses control."