A London, Ont., doctor says he and his wife were on their way to church when they witnessed the alleged kidnapping of a young girl on Mother’s Day, nearly three years ago.
The couple shared their individual testimonies Wednesday in the virtual trial against 68-year-old Lawrence Thompson. He has pleaded not guilty to sexual assault, sexual interference, kidnapping and abduction of a four-year-old girl on May 13, 2018.
The doctor, who can’t be identified by a publication ban that protects the identity of all civilian witnesses in the trial, told Crown attorney Kristina Mildred he had stopped near a three-way intersection in the northeast London neighbourhood that morning, behind an older model bronze Chevrolet Impala.
“The car is stopped where I would stop at the intersection,” he explained. “But the driver’s side door is wide open. That struck me as unusual.”
The doctor’s wife testified she saw an older man carrying a child in his outstretched arms around the back of the vehicle. The doctor said he had been speaking to his wife, and when he looked back he saw the man in front of the driver’s side door of the Impala.
“He was standing sideways, bending over and trying to get a child in the car, horizontally,” the witness said. “All I saw were the child’s feet, shoes and lower portions of the leg.”
The child’s shoes suggested it was a girl, the doctor said.
“He was using both arms, it looked like he was actually pushing the child in because it required a brusque movement … There was sort of a to and froing to get the child into the car. It didn’t look like an easy transfer.”
Witness followed suspect vehicle into church parking lot
The witness said he then followed the vehicle, after they both made a right-hand turn at the intersection, to the church parking lot three blocks away.
The Impala wasn’t going fast, he said, but it was “erratic” and “spending more time in the left-hand lane than the right-hand lane.”
“It suggested to me two things, it suggested to me there was either activity in the vehicle that was hampering the vehicle, or the driver was intoxicated.”
The doctor’s wife said they followed the Impala into the church parking lot, where it made an arch around the perimeter before exiting and heading back in the same direction it had come. The doctor told the court he lives by the Hippocratic Oath in all parts of his life, they both decided what they’d seen was “a child safety issue,” and they needed to call 911 right away in case something “sinister” was happening.
“I got my cell phone out and phoned immediately from there,” said his wife.
Wheels removed from suspect vehicle: police
The court also heard testimony from a woman who captured footage through her dashboard camera from the three-way stop where the doctor and his wife said they saw the girl being taken, and from the officer who arrested Thompson.
London Police Sgt. Eric Potasse said he and a fellow officer attended Thompson’s home the day after Mother’s Day to determine if the Chevrolet Impala registered in his wife’s name matched the description of the suspect vehicle in the case.
“He was happy to show us his vehicle,” Potasse said of Thompson, noting the accused had just returned home and was holding two packages of frozen fish.
Potasse said the vehicle, parked a ways back from the street on a long driveway, had dents and markings that matched the description of the vehicle they were looking for. “I also noticed the front of the vehicle was up on blocks and the front wheels of the vehicle were removed.”
At 6:11 p.m., Potasse said he arrested Thompson for abduction and the accused said to him, “You’re mistaken. You’ve got the wrong guy.”
After handing Thompson over to his fellow officer, Potasse said he knocked on the door of the detached garage where he knew Thompson’s wife lived.
“I handed her the two pieces of packaged, frozen fish and I told her her husband was under arrest,” he said.
“At one point, Mr. Thompson said to his wife that he had been working on the Impala … that’s currently on the blocks … for the past three days,” said Potasse.
Potasse said later that evening, at police headquarters, he also charged Thompson with kidnapping, sexual assault and sexual interference.
The Crown is expected to call one more police witness in the judge-alone trial.
Before court adjourned Wednesday, Thompson’s defence lawyer, Lakin Afolabi, said he hadn’t decided whether he’d call evidence of his own.