Woman charged in mugging has court case set over until Friday

Cory Hurley cory.hurley@tc.tc
Published on April 24, 2014
Veronica Ann Park makes an appearance in provincial court in Corner Brook Thursday.
Cory Hurley

The family of the 82-year-old woman who was mugged in Corner Brook Tuesday want her possessions returned.

Three of Barbara Hurley’s nephews and a niece were in provincial court today when Veronica Ann Park was brought before the court for the first time since her arrest last night.

They say they are outraged that the 82-year-old woman was allegedly pushed to the ground and had her purse stolen on Broadway just before midnight Tuesday. She had apparently been playing the slots at The 86er pub, celebrating her birthday, and had just cashed out after winning some money.

She walked out onto Broadway, from which she lives just a very short distance away, and was immediately robbed of her handbag. Her personal possessions, identification and some money was stolen.

Her nephew Brian Sparkes, who is angered by the incident, said it is very important to his aunt that she get her possessions back. He said the purse or its contents haven’t been recovered — something the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary would not confirm or deny — and Hurley is upset she has lost family pictures and her identification, including her native status card.

Sparkes confronted duty counsel lawyer Sandi MacKinnon prior to court today, asking if she could ask Park where the handbag is. The lawyer said she could not, and that her client is innocent until proven guilty.

When Park, 37, entered court for the first time, Sparkes just said, “82-years-old?” Park, who was in tears for much of her short court appearance, responded that she was “innocent until proven guilty too.”

Park has a history of drug addiction and criminal activity. Her 17-page criminal record includes convictions for multiple breaches of court orders, thefts, mischief as well as assault and threats.

In April 2012, she was sentenced to nine months in jail by Judge Kymil Howe — the same judge she appeared in front of Thursday — despite her claims she would turn her life around. She was sentenced for threatening a person and 10 counts of theft, mischief and breaking court orders. She had been serving three, 30-day intermittent jail sentences at the time.

In 2009, Howe jailed Park for eight months. She had attempted to steal money from the Dragon Restaurant in Corner Brook, saying she had a gun and threatened to use it. She did not have a gun, and fled the restaurant without any money. At the time, the judge told her she fears the life she is living will kill her in one of two ways — the drugs she can’t stop using or the criminal activity she has been unable to avoid.

Brian Sparkes, who said Hurley is recovering from her fractured arm but has been emotionally shaken by the incident, remained adamant after today’s court appearance that the family wants her possessions returned. He even set aside his anger for a moment to say he wishes no ill will on Park — saying he hopes she gets the help he speculates she needs.

He said the missing native status card is something their family fought years to receive.

Crown attorney John Noseworthy opposed Park’s release, and was granted a no-contact order put in place between Park and Hurley.

The matter was set over until Friday at 2:30 p.m., when a bail hearing will likely be held.

The Royal Newfoundland Constabulary, who through its investigation and followed up on a number of public tips, arrested Park about 10:20 p.m. Wednesday. She was arrested without resistance at a Corner Brook residence, according to Sgt. Tim Buckle.

She was charged with robbery with violence and failing to keep the peace and be of good behaviour.

Given the seriousness of the crime against a vulnerable member of the community, and the fear that could be associated with it, police had allocated extra resources in hopes of leading to a quick resolve.

“It is important for the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary to reinforce with the public our dedication to duty when it comes to ensuring that a serious matter like this gets the full attention of our organization,” Buckle said. “We always strive to reduce the level of fear about crime in the community. By responding to this immediately, we now know the public can be confident they don’t have to worry about a similar incident occurring immediately, now that a person is in custody.”