December 3, 2017 3:27 pm

Inmates at London jail sue province after witnessing gruesome killing

Adam Kargus

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Six inmates have filed a lawsuit against the province, claiming they’re suffering lasting psychological trauma after being forced to witness a murder while locked in their cells.

The half a dozen individuals filed claims in December 2015 because of what they witnessed at the Elgin Middlesex Detention Centre (EMDC) on Halloween night 2013, when Adam Kargus was murdered. Although the statements of claim were filed two years ago, the story is coming to light now, as the murder case has wrapped up in court.

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According to the inmates’ lawyer, Kevin Egan, Anthony George, 32, had choked Kargus, 29, into unconsciousness on several occasions before the night he murdered him.

“Nobody really intervened, and in fact, some guards saw that kind of behaviour and didn’t intervene,” said Egan.

“There’s a culture within EMDC where, if you’re getting beaten up or you see other people getting beaten up, you don’t say anything —or you’re going to get it worse.”

He said on the night of the murder, George was drunk and stoned on contraband that he or others in the jail had made undetected.

“[The guards] knew that Anthony George was drunk that night, but they locked him in a cell with Adam Kargus anyway,” said Egan.

The events that followed are the centerpiece of the inmates’ claims.

When the beating began, said Egan, the other inmates were locked in their cells.

“They were basically a captive audience, forced to watch and listen to the horrific noises and scene that unfolded in front of them as Adam was tortured and murdered,” he said.

Egan goes on to explain how the inmates tried to get the attention of the guards by yelling and screaming, but it seems their cries were not heard. The next morning, as George dragged Kargus’s dead body wrapped in blood-soaked sheets across the cell block floor and into the washroom, the inmates had no choice but to watch, said Egan.

“All of this going on without the guards apparently noticing anything amiss,” he said. “After the murder, many of them had to stay in their cells on lockdown for up to two weeks — in that same cell they were in the night they witnessed the murder.”

George pleaded guilty in September to second-degree murder and was sentenced to life in prison with no chance of parole for 10 years.

Sleepless nights and constant anxiety are just some of the issues the inmates have been dealing with since the traumatic event, said Egan.

“These individuals witnessed something that they will never be able to erase from their minds that is affecting them on a daily basis because it was so outside the realm of anything any of us is intended to witness,” he said.

The inmates are seeking a total amount of $15 million. Each claimant is seeking general damages in the amount of $500,000. Egan said they’re also seeking an additional $2 million in damages for the effect on their ability to be employed over the course of their lifetime because of the psychiatric toll the events have taken on their mental health. They’re also seeking an admission from the province that it infringed on the inmates Charter rights to life and safety as well as freedom from cruel and unusual punishment.

In its statements of defence, the Ministry of the Attorney General said none of the inmates were close enough to Kargus’s cell to hear or witness the fatal assault. The province denies liability for any problems the inmates are experiencing, denies violating their Charter rights and says the death of Kargus did not result in any psychological or psychiatric illness in the inmates.

Egan says this isn’t a new story for London’s provincial detention centre.

“It’s been the history of EMDC that violence is occurring and that the correctional officers either choose to ignore or just simply don’t notice the violence that’s going on around them,” said Egan

Involved with lawsuits against the detention centre for eight years, Egan has represented many people who have been subjected to adverse events in EMDC. Since Randy Drysdale was beaten to death while in custody at EMDC in 2009, Egan has been calling for the province to do something about the conditions in the jail.

“I was screaming as loud as I could, that unless they did something, someone else was going to be killed,” he said.

“Usually I like to be right, this time I didn’t.”

And still, nothing’s been done to address the culture that exists within those four walls, said Egan.

The lawsuit comes in the wake of two class-action lawsuits over EMDC conditions and violence, filed on behalf of thousands of inmates and former inmates who served time or awaited trial at the detention centre between January 2010 and May 2017.

Although he hasn’t seen change yet, Egan says he tries to stay optimistic.

“Morally there’s an obligation on the government to correct the system. I would like to think that somewhere there’s some goodness to the extent that people will see they can’t allow evil to fester and grow at Elgin Middlesex Detention Centre,” he said.

© 2017 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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