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'Don't play with my life,' Memorial University student reportedly told man he is accused of trying to murder on Signal Hill in St. John’s

The site on Signal Hill where a Memorial University student allegedly tried to throw himself and a friend off a cliff in April 2017.
The site on Signal Hill where a Memorial University student allegedly tried to throw himself and a friend off a cliff in April 2017. - Tara Bradbury

Alleged victim tells court he can't actually remember how he and the accused got from the top of a cliff to the slope below

ST. JOHN'S, N.L. —

The victim of an alleged attempted murder-suicide made it clear when he took the stand at Newfoundland and Labrador Supreme Court in St. John's Monday that he didn't want to be there.

He never wanted his friend, a fellow MUN engineering student, to be charged with trying to kill him, he said. He only wanted to get him help for the severe depression that was making him difficult and dangerous to be around.

"Right now it's wasting my time," the man told the court of his testimony. "This is not what I wanted to take place."

The man is the key witness in the case against the MUN student, who was charged with attempted murder after he allegedly tried to throw both of them over the edge of a cliff on Signal Hill in April 2017.

The names of both men are banned from publication.

"This is not what I wanted to take place." — Victim

The complainant testified he and the accused had gone to Signal Hill three days in a row that month looking for ski trails, but never found any, and that during a hike to an area known as Ladies' Lookout, the accused came quickly toward him, grabbed him and pushed him.

With help from a Farsi-English translator, the Iranian man told the court he and the accused had ended up perhaps 15 feet down the slope. He was using his right hand to grab the trunk of a bush, he said, while the accused was below him, grabbing onto his wrist.

"What do you think (the accused) was trying to do?" prosecutor Jude Hall asked the complainant.

"Right now I think he was trying to kill himself and he wanted me, a close friend, to be with him when he was doing suicide," the man replied. "I understood that it was just because of his mental depression and not because of any issue with me."

The man said he had tried to calm his friend by kissing him multiple times. The two students eventually climbed back up the slope and went back to the university, with the accused asking him to keep the incident secret, he explained.

The complainant then sent messages to a professor, telling him the accused had tried to kill him.

Crown prosecutor Jude Hall (left) and defence lawyer Mark Gruchy discuss an element of the case of a MUN student charged with attempting to murder his friend by pushing him off a cliff on Signal Hill. - SaltWire File Photo
Crown prosecutor Jude Hall (left) and defence lawyer Mark Gruchy discuss an element of the case of a MUN student charged with attempting to murder his friend by pushing him off a cliff on Signal Hill. - SaltWire File Photo

"Come and rescue me," the texts said. "He's not feeling good, come and take him away. Come with police so he cannot do anything."

The man said he received texts later that night from the accused, who was at RNC headquarters by that point.

"For God's sakes, take back what you said. Don't play with my life," the messages read.

Later, in a group text that also included the professor, the accused wrote, "Don't let me be destroyed."

The complainant testified he suffered pain in his chest and back that had lasted weeks, causing his doctor to send him for X-rays.

Defence lawyer Mark Gruchy's cross-examination of the complainant centred on his relationship with the accused. Gruchy asked him if the two had been romantically involved.

"I, personally, as a healthy man, do not have any, any, any attraction to the same sex. Any," the complainant replied, reiterating that point each time the suggestion was put to him.

Gruchy asked the complainant why the accused had moved in with him after his family had returned to Iran after a visit, and why he had given the accused a ring.

It was all about offering support, the man replied, and to make life easier. The accused's mental health issues were causing challenges when it came to a collaborative project at MUN, he said.

It's not clear what relevance the men's relationship has to the criminal charge, though Gruchy commented earlier in the trial that the central issue in the case was one that could get the men killed in their native country.

Gruchy spent much time questioning the complainant on his videoed statement to police, in which he repeatedly said the accused had "hugged" him and then pushed him off the cliff.

"That doesn't mean what I thought," the man replied. "I meant grabbed."

Gruchy suggested the man had taken steps backward and had accidentally fallen when the accused hugged him while standing on the cliff.

"He grabbed me and pushed me," the complainant responded.

The complainant didn't answer questions from either Gruchy nor Hall about exactly how he and the accused had gotten from the top of the cliff to the slope below, saying he couldn't remember anything between the time the accused pushed him and finding himself gripping the trunk of the bush.

"I concluded it based on (our) final condition," the man explained.

The trial will not resume until early October, when the Crown's final witness, a civilian RNC member specializing in computer and cellphone forensics, is expected to testify.

Twitter: @tara_bradbury


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