Caitlan Coleman, the estranged spouse of former hostage Joshua Boyle, began her testimony Wednesday at Boyle’s criminal trial in Ottawa by telling court the pair met on an online Star Wars forum.
He has pleaded not guilty in provincial court to 19 charges, including assault with a weapon, sexual assault and forcible confinement.
Coleman is the alleged victim in 17 of the offences Boyle, 35, is charged with.
He was charged a few months after the couple returned to Canada in October 2017 with the three children they had while in captivity for five years in Afghanistan and Pakistan.
Crown lawyer Meaghan Cunningham questioned Coleman in a room outside the courtroom, where she was joined by her aunt to offer personal support. Her testimony was broadcast into the court via closed circuit television.
Coleman, 33, was only 16 when she and Boyle first met online. She was living with her parents in Pennsylvania. She first met Boyle in person when she was 20 years old.
She described a tumultuous relationship, full of highs and lows.
She said that at 20, she had never been kissed and fell in love with him when he came to visit her for three days and two nights.
Coleman said that when Boyle returned to Canada, the relationship went back to what she described as a “tug of war,” with Boyle still pining over an ex-girlfriend.
In September 2006, Coleman went to visit Boyle in Toronto, where he was putting pressure on her to do things she didn’t want to do, things she wasn’t comfortable with, she told the court.
Borderline personality disorder
Later that winter, Coleman told the court, their relationship was going downhill, and that they would often have big fights where Boyle would call her a slut, or an alcoholic.
However, in the summer of 2007 Coleman moved to Toronto where she lived briefly with Boyle in a bachelor basement apartment.
She testified that even during that time Boyle wasn’t committed to the relationship, and still wanted her help getting back with his ex.
In November 2007, Coleman returned home to Pennsylvania.
In her testimony Coleman described how she began having mental health problems after meeting Boyle.
She told the court her mood was up and down and that she had periods where she was self-harming, often triggered by a fight with Boyle.
Coleman said she diagnosed herself with borderline personality disorder because the research she had done matched her symptoms.
She was never professionally diagnosed, or medically treated for the disorder, but told the court how Boyle would tell her she had a serious mental illness.
Going separate ways
By summer 2008, Coleman said, she told Boyle that they should go their separate ways, but then he started calling her a lot.
She testified that sometimes he would call 20 times a night, often threatening to take his own life if she didn’t take him back, or come visit.
At one point, Coleman said she was so worried she contacted emergency officials in Toronto to go check on Boyle.
Their contact began to lessen and a few months later Coleman said Boyle called her to inform her he was marrying another woman.
She later found out the woman was Zainab Khadr, the older sister of former Guantanamo Bay detainee Omar Khadr and the daughter of a senior al-Qaeda financier and associate of Osama bin Laden.
Coleman described how she began moving on with her life, but stayed in touch with Boyle casually.
Getting back together
In 2009, Coleman returned to Toronto with her new boyfriend and agreed to meet with Boyle.
She told the court that he told her that his marriage to Khadr was just a show for the media, and that he wanted to be with Coleman.
Coleman said his change of heart made her feel happy, and that even though she was moving on, she still thought Boyle was her true love.
Coleman’s testimony was scheduled to continue Wednesday afternoon.
Her time in the witness box is expected to take three days.
The 19 charges Boyle faces are:
- One count of sexual assault while threatening to use a weapon (ropes).
- One count of sexual assault with a weapon (ropes).
- One count of uttering a threat to cause death.
- Nine counts of assault.
- One count of assault with a weapon (a broomstick).
- Three counts of unlawful confinement.
- One count of administering a noxious substance (the antidepressant Trazodone).
- One count of public mischief (misleading a police officer into believing that someone was suicidal and missing, causing the officer to start an investigation, and thereby diverting suspicion away from Boyle).
- One count of criminal harassment.
This story originally appeared on CBC