OTTAWA—Caitlan Coleman pulled on three or four layers of socks the night she fled from her estranged husband, Joshua Boyle, she told his criminal trial Monday, April 1.
It was late at night on Dec. 30, 2017, and the temperature was dropping to about minus 20 degrees C (minus 4 degrees F) in Ottawa, where the two former captives in Afghanistan lived. Coleman frantically knocked on doors for help in frigid temperatures. She eventually made her way to a hotel where her mother was staying.
Before dawn, police had arrested her husband. Boyle, 35, is now on trial on charges that include sexual assault and unlawful confinement, against Coleman and another person.
Coleman painted a picture of their roller-coaster relationship, including how she tried to divorce Boyle in 2012, an incident in which she allegedly pushed him on a subway platform in Toronto, and the night of Boyle’s arrest.
— CTV News (@CTVNews) April 2, 2019
Under cross-examination, Coleman paused to wipe away tears once when asked about an interview she did days after Boyle’s arrest. In the interview with the CBC show The Fifth Estate, Coleman said no one forced her to go to Afghanistan or have children she didn’t want—lines she said Boyle told her to say. Coleman testified Monday felt Boyle forced her to visit Afghanistan while pregnant.
Pressed by defence lawyer Lawrence Greenspon about the quote, specifically about the three children born during captivity in Afghanistan, Coleman said she had children she wanted very much.
“When children are the result of relationships like this, it’s a hard thing,” she said.
Coleman and Boyle were kidnapped in Afghanistan in October 2012 and kept imprisoned for years until their high-profile rescue by Pakistani forces and return to Canada in October 2017. They met with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau shortly after getting back. By then, though, whatever love they had was gone, Coleman said.
Testifying in an adjacent room while Boyle sat taking notes in the front row of the courtroom, Coleman gave her account of the breaking point.
Coleman is from Pennsylvania, and at the end of 2017 her mother was visiting. After Boyle dropped off Coleman’s mother at a hotel on Dec. 30, he returned to their downtown Ottawa apartment, ranted at her and forced her into their bedroom.
Boyle returned a short while later and the argument renewed. Coleman said she told Boyle he might be suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder or brain damage. Boyle punched her on the side of her face and held her mouth closed until she promised to remain quiet.
When he let go, Coleman decided to run, knowing it was the last night her mother would be in town.
Coleman said she had a $20 bill hidden in her bra that she had taken from Boyle’s wallet. She grabbed the children’s passports from the top corner of the bedroom closet over fears their father would take them out of the country. There were no shoes in the bedroom, so she put on layers of socks, ran to the back door and up the stairs, pounding on the neighbours’ door for help. Nobody answered.
Boyle followed her and in a “very caring” tone said he was concerned for her and that she was drunk—even though there was no alcohol in the apartment—and put his hand on her arm. Coleman said she started screaming. Boyle went back to the apartment and quietly told her to come back inside.
She instead went quietly down to the driveway, ran to the corner, and knocked on the door of a closed pizza shop. Employees cleaning up for the night let her in and she phoned her mother.
Meanwhile, Boyle called 911 to say Coleman had run away screaming and threatening to kill herself, though Coleman testified she never thought of or discussed harming herself.
Police officers found Coleman at her mother’s hotel room, where she told them her story.
“I was concerned that they would believe Josh’s story over me because Josh had always told me that, you know, nobody would believe me, I was just crazy, but I wanted to express to them what was going on in the hopes that they would believe me,” Coleman said.
The police told her they would arrest Boyle that night.
Later, Greenspon reviewed Coleman’s emotionally charged posts, dating back to 2002, on a Star Wars fan forum where the two met online. In some, Coleman appeared to describe herself as lashing out when angry, a description Coleman rejected.
At one point, Coleman paused and told Greenspon she found the questions “very triggering.”
“I’m feeling a little bit attacked by your approach. I’m not saying that I was ever a violent person and I would not like the court to believe that I was because that would not be correct.”
She testified that the shove on the Toronto subway platform in 2007 was amid an argument and wasn’t an effort to harm Boyle, and that although she’d considered a divorce in 2012, she changed her mind.
The trial continues Tuesday.
By Jordan Press