A man convicted of sexual assault with a weapon, unlawful confinement, robbery and extorting a Surrey prostitute in a local hotel in 2014 has lost an appeal of his conviction.
Olufumilayo Ochuko Edo’s lawyer argued in B.C.’s Court of Appeal in Vancouver that text messages the victim — whose identity is shielded by a publication ban — sent to his client cast doubt on her credibility and ought to have raised a reasonable doubt for the judge who convicted Edo.
But the appeal court disagreed.
“The trial judge’s determination that the text messages did not undermine the complainants’s credibility was open to her,” Justice Harvey Groberman found, as stated in his reasons for judgment. “The verdicts were well supported by the evidence.”
“I am unable to find any reversible error in the trial judge’s decision,” he concluded. “I would dismiss the appeal.”
Justices Anne MacKenzie and Richard Goepel concurred.
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The court heard that the victim is Toronto resident who came to Surrey to ply her trade for a while, taking out advertisements which included a cell phone number.
She and Edo met at a Surrey hotel where he paid her $180 US for her services, the court heard, and that after they were done, he got dressed and made like he was leaving but instead pushed onto the bed, drew a knife and held it about an inch from her neck.
“He slapped her at some point, and said something about her being on his territory,” Groberman noted. The court heard Edo held her down, asked what airline she travelled on and where her passport was. She lied and said she didn’t have it and had used a government-issued health card for ID. He demanded that. When she went to get it from a drawer, Edo spotted the passport in there too and put both documents in his pocket.
“He then told her that he was going to take her to a different hotel, and that she would have to make $10,000 for him before he would let her return to Toronto,” Groberman stated in his reasons.
The court heard Edo then forced himself on the victim, without her consent, then told her not to call police. She went to the bathroom, with her cellphone, and sent a text message to a taxi driver, telling him where she was and that she was being held against her will. She asked him to call police.
But the cabbie went to the Newton Community RCMP station instead, the judge noted. “The station was not yet open, though there were officers in the building. It took some time for the taxi driver to get their attention and have then open the door for him.”
Meanwhile, the victim peeked out from the bathroom, saw Edo was sleeping and snuck out, running down stairs to the front desk, and called 911 on her cell.
She told the desk clerk someone was trying to kill her and asked to hide in the back office. The clerk showed her to a laundry room.
A police officer took the victim to hospital without going to the room, the court heard. “Other officers attended at the hotel room some time later, but Mr. Edo had left by the time they got there,” the judge observed.
While en route to the hospital, the victim texted messages to Edo in an attempt to convince him to give her ID back by dropping it off at the hotel’s reception desk.
She was examined by a sexual assault nurse examiner at the hospital and returned with the police officer to the hotel several hours later, to check out.
Her money and keys were gone, the court heard. She testified she had about $400 in Canadian cash, plus the U.S. cash Edo had given her. Edo had left her passport with the desk clerk.
After giving the police her statement the woman texted Edo from a women’s shelter, demanding he return her health card, keys and money or she’d pursue charges. They met near a SkyTrain station. She remained in the cab, with the doors locked, and opened the window just far enough for Edo to pass her an envelope containing her keys, health cards and$400, but not the $180 U.S. he’d paid her.
She then caught a flight back to Toronto later that night.
The defence’s theory was that Edo had an argument with her over her fees and that she was extorting money from him, threatening she would falsely claim he’d sexually assaulted her if he didn’t comply. “The defence theory enjoyed little, if any, evidentiary support,” Groberman found. “It depended entirely on a particular interpretations of text messages.”
The police didn’t seize her cell phone for evidence, not did she keep her text messages. She testified as to their contents entirely from memory.
The defence produced photographs of the screen of Edo’s cell phone depicting sections of various text messages the woman had sent him. One read “Locking u up fi lyf Got ur dna Spend these last days with ur kids tell dem daddy’s going away for rape fi lyf.”
The court had also heard testimony from the taxi driver, the hotel clerk, the sexual assault nurse examiner, three police officers, the victim and a friend of Edo’s.