Skip to content
Join our Newsletter

Court hears details of 2022 group attack on man killed last month

Victim was lured into room to talk about drug debt.
Victoria courthouse

Advisory: This story has details about a vicious assault.

A sentencing hearing started Monday for a man convicted of taking part in a vicious group attack in 2022 on Oliver Nicholson, who was stabbed to death in Victoria last month.

Douglas Hughes is one of five people convicted for his role in the attack on Nicholson on the night of April 2, 2022 and into the following morning.

On April 9 this year, Nicholson was the victim of a fatal stabbing in 2900-block of Douglas Street, near Cool Aid’s Crosstown housing facility, where he lived. Police called Nicholson’s death an isolated incident and said there was no ongoing risk to the public. No arrests have been made. Victoria police said they have no new information to share about the stabbing.

Two years before his death, Nicholson was lured into a room in Crosstown, formerly the Tally Ho Motel, to talk about a drug debt.

Nicholson was addicted to methamphetamine at the time and had purchased drugs for his then-girlfriend, Christine Berryman, from Alemayehu Townsend in mid-February. He owed $240 to Townsend, known to him as Dante. In late March, he paid $50 toward the debt, but still owed Townsend $190.

Shortly before 11 p.m. on April 2, 2022, Nicholson left his room in the building and went outside, where Townsend found him. They had a short conversation about the drug debt, because there was confusion over who owed money to whom. The conversation was “mellow and low-key,” Nicholson testified at trial, according to B.C. Supreme Court decision in October 2023 that convicted Hughes of extortion, unlawful confinement, assault causing bodily harm and assault with a weapon.

Nicholson agreed to follow Townsend to a room belonging to Alex Formosa. He testified at trial that Townsend had not been aggressive and he was not worried about following him. When he entered the room, he saw Berryman and Hughes. Berryman and Nicholson had broken up by the time of the attack and she had started dating Hughes.

Also in the room were Ty McLaughlin, who Nicholson knew as Townsend’s partner in the drug business, and a woman Nicholson didn’t know.

The group attacked him, punching and kicking him on the ground, before duct taping him to a chair. They covered his head with a blanket and blasted a stereo next to him.

Townsend heated a coin using a torch and branded Nicholson with the coin. Townsend then applied lighter fluid on Nicholson’s shoulder and set him on fire. Nicholson testified he was in extreme pain and he tried to jump out of the chair, toppling it. The flames were extinguished when he hit the ground.

Formosa, who entered the room after the branding, was directed to put more tape over Nicholson’s mouth.

Townsend, McLaughlin and Formosa were convicted of unlawful confinement and assault causing bodily harm. Berryman was convicted of unlawful confinement for her role in the attack.

Hughes stood to address the court Monday and express remorse for his role in the beating.

“I didn’t plan for any of this to happen. I can’t even imagine the spot he was in when this happened. It’s a horrible thing,” he said.

Hughes said he was homeless and intoxicated on drugs every day at the time of the attack. “I was worrying about when I was going to eat next, sleep next. I didn’t know if I would be alive the next morning. My mind wasn’t in the right spot. Every day that goes by, I wish I could take it back and change it.”

Hughes has been in a methadone program since being incarcerated.

Justice Anita Chan reserved her sentencing decision for a later date.

[email protected]