“He kept coming at me, kept punching me – fighting me like I was a man.” So testified a woman at the trial of Bruce Richardson, charged with aggravated assault and forcible confinement after a night of drinking at a Yellowknife hotel.
In her testimony at Territorial Court, the woman at one point faced down Richardson, 60, as he was seated in the prisoner’s box.
“Why are you making me do this? Why can’t you face it? Man up,” she said.
The pair had been drinking on the streets of Yellowknife on the afternoon of April 27 before deciding to get a room at the Discovery Inn on Franklin Avenue.
Closed-circuit cameras showed the pair apparently happy as they checked in at around 6:30pm. The woman’s face was shown to be free from any marks or bruising.
The same cameras showed a different scenario just after 11am the following day, when the woman walked quickly down the stairs and left the building as Richardson checked out. While she kept her head mostly down, it was clear when she raised it that her face was severely swollen and misshapen.
The trial examined what happened overnight in Room 107.
The woman testified the two had been drinking heavily, saying they did so daily, consuming six to 10 bottles of wine, vodka, or whisky.
After checking into the hotel, the woman said she passed out.
“I woke up, I was being hit in the face,” she testified, noting she jumped and ended up on the floor.
“I’ve never been … hit like that before. All of a sudden, I just went unconscious; I blacked out.
“Then I was being lifted, he threw me on the bed. Then I got smoked again, I must have got knocked out. I woke up … in the morning. I didn’t want to look in the mirror.
“All I was concerned about was keeping myself alive. I put myself in safety mode. This wasn’t my first rodeo with a man.”
The court heard that at some point during the night, a concerned hotel guest knocked on the door and was greeted by Richardson, who said nothing was wrong.
Security cameras in the hallways showed a woman from Room 110 went to listen outside Room 107 just before 1am on April 28. She is seen leaving and returning with a man, who leaves. The woman returns a few minutes later and knocks and kicks on the door. She is seen speaking to a man, then she returns to her room.
After checking out of the hotel, the court heard Richardson and the woman went and sat outside the Canada Post building a short walk away. They also purchased makeup for the woman to conceal her injuries.
The woman eventually persuaded Richardson she needed to go to the hospital, as her throat was extremely sore. He decided to accompany her.
At Stanton Territorial Hospital, a doctor examined the woman and found bruising all over her body. “Many, many bruises, cuts and abrasions,” said Judge Christine Gagnon, in delivering her verdict on Friday.
“They were drinking in the room, [she] passed out, he punched her in the face and strangled her.”
‘No right way to be a victim’
In finding Richardson guilty of aggravated assault by choking, the judge rejected his “contradictory” evidence in which he stated the woman had been previously injured by another person, perhaps even from fighting with her children.
He said he noticed injuries on her when she had been taking a bath on April 26, the day before he beat her, while they had been staying at another hotel.
The court heard Richardson had sworn to protect the woman some time ago, after her partner – a good friend of his – had died.
Gagnon noted the defence had raised the question of why the woman didn’t leave the room sometime during the assault or after she woke up, if she feared for her safety.
“I find fear of Mr Richardson, at the moment he was assaulting her, was the reason she didn’t leave,” said Gagnon. “There is no right way to be a victim.
“She wanted to do or say nothing to get Mr Richardson mad at her.”
Richardson was found not guilty of two counts of uttering threats, one count of forcible confinement, and two counts of breaching court orders. He will remain in custody until October 1, when Gagnon will sentence him.
On that day he is also to be sentenced on unrelated charges of assault and theft under $5,000, and is expected to enter a plea for a January 8 charge of mischief under $5,000.
He is also to stand trial that day on assault charges connected to another incident, in April, which left two people injured on Yellowknife’s 50 Street.