Victoria man found not guilty of attempted murder of former girlfriend

A Victoria man has been found not guilty of the attempted murder of his former girlfriend after a judge expressed doubts about the reliability of some of her testimony.

Instead, Matthew Legare was convicted of the aggravated assault of his former girlfriend and threatening to have someone put her through a ­woodchipper during the weekend of Aug. 12-13, 2018.

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During Legare’s trial in ­February in B.C. Supreme Court, the woman, whose identity is protected by a court order, testified that Legare grabbed her by the hair and tried to cut it off with a knife, put a cigarette out on her, choked her, punched her and threatened her.

The court heard that the woman was treated in hospital for a shattered orbital bone, a cigarette burn on the side of her face, a split right eardrum, a broken nose and bruised ribs. She has a metal plate in her face to ­support her eye, which was sinking into the back of her head.

Thompson said he was satisfied beyond a reasonable doubt that Legare is guilty of aggravated assault. But he has doubts about the woman’s evidence that Legare tried to kill her by strangling her with a belt on the morning of Monday Aug. 13 because she did not disclose this information in her first statement to police.

In court, the woman testified that Legare looked at her injuries and said: “I can’t let you leave. Everyone’s going to know I did this. I have to kill you.” Legare then wrapped a belt around her neck and pulled it as hard as he could, she said.

She testified that she put two fingers between the belt and her neck so she could breathe, and pleaded with him to stop.

Legare, who was distraught and pacing around the room, grabbed a whole bottle of sleeping pills and took them, she testified.

“While I am satisfied for the most part her evidence was worthy of credit, I do have doubts about her evidence of the Monday morning threat to kill and the belt strangulation evidence,” said Thompson.

Her failure to tell police about the belt strangulation only came out during cross-examination, he noted.

The strangulation may have occurred, as she testified, and there may be an explanation for the omission, but none came out in evidence, said Thompson.

“Perhaps she had a memory lapse caused by trauma or by the amount of drugs she used. As it stands, I am discomfited by the omission in her account to police,” said Thompson, emphasizing he had to be satisfied beyond a reasonable doubt Legare was trying to kill her.

“While he may have said and done what she described, I am not satisfied of the reliability of this aspect of her evidence.”

Defence lawyer Michael Munro told the court Legare identifies as Métis. He asked Thompson to order a full Gladue report to assist at sentencing.

Gladue reports are produced to inform sentencing judges about Indigenous offenders’ personal and community histories, as well as of the circumstances that brought them before the court. They are meant to include the adverse effects of colonization, such as residential schools, and address their “serious overrepresentation” in prison.

Legare was taken into custody. A date for sentencing is expected to be set on Oct. 13.

ldickson@timescolonist.com

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