Calgary witness testifies in sex assault, kidnapping trial: ‘Thought he was my friend’

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Woman testifies at Calgary sex assault, kidnapping trial
WATCH: The trial began Friday for accused serial rapist Richard Mantha. A judge denied a request by the defence for seven separate trials. Sarah Offin was there as the first alleged victim took the stand. – Jan 19, 2024

WARNING: This article contains disturbing content.

The first witness in a high-profile sexual assault and kidnapping trial now underway in Calgary took the stand in a courtroom on Friday morning.

Richard Mantha, 59, is on trial for 20 charges, including kidnapping, threats causing bodily harm, sexual assault with a weapon and administering a noxious substance.

The woman who testified on Friday suggested Mantha had offered her construction work before she was attacked.

The witness cannot be identified because of a publication ban.

Mantha wore a suit jacket to court Friday, a departure from the prison-issued jumpsuit worn in appearances earlier in the week.

Justice Judith Shrier denied an earlier application by the defence for separate trials for each of the seven victims in the case.

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The woman who testified Friday began her testimony immediately following the decision.

Click to play video: '‘It’s disappointing’: Calgary trial for accused rapist Richard Mantha delayed'
‘It’s disappointing’: Calgary trial for accused rapist Richard Mantha delayed

The Calgary Police Service victim assistance support team was present for Friday’s proceedings, with a therapy dog joining the victim on the witness stand.

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“I knew him a little bit,” the woman told the court. “For approximately a year or a little more.”

“I thought that he was my friend.”

She said she encountered the accused, a man she knew at the time as “Poncho,” while in the neighbourhood of Forest Lawn in April 2022.

She said she spoke with the accused about “getting clean” and leaving the sex trade.

She testified that Mantha gave her cocaine as he drove her to a Quonset hut, where he had been working as a mechanic and where she said he suggested he could use her help with some construction work.

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“As my friend, he was giving me an opportunity to do something else, besides soliciting sex,” the woman said.

At the request of the Crown, the victim drew a diagram of what she remembered the Quonset looking like inside.

“There was piles and piles and piles of clothes,” she said.

The woman described seeing a large motorhome.

“I said, ‘I want that. Can I do the work and get that?'”

The witness told the court that Mantha had agreed to trade her the motorhome for help with framing work in the Quonset.

“It was exciting. I was going to have a home,” she testified.

She said she went inside the motorhome, where Mantha had shown her where she could charge her phone before she called her boyfriend.

She described seeing blood splattered on one of the motorhome walls and said she saw Mantha place a knife down beside her.

“As the same time that I was on the phone, Richard came out and tried to take my pants down,” she said.

“It just went from one thing to another and then he started being forceful with me. I didn’t know what was happening.”

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She said she grabbed the knife and hid it beside her back when she was attacked.

“I fought back and got him off me,” she said.

“All I can remember is fighting for my breath, trying to get my face out from underneath him … and screaming and screaming and screaming.”

She said her pants were still down when she escaped the trailer. She said she swung a piece of lumber at Mantha and then fled through the open Quonset doors, running through a farmer’s field to try to find help.

“I had nothing left in me,” she said. “I got to the highway and I collapsed … I woke up at the hospital.”

The witness had not yet been cross-examined as of Friday afternoon.

The French-language trial is scheduled to run for four weeks.

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