The victim who was poisoned by a fellow post-graduate researcher at Queen’s University told a Kingston court his heart-wrenching account of survival after being administered lethal substances in January.
His statement began by asking: “What kind of hatred makes a person put a toxic chemical into the water and food of another person?”
The victim, who is now living in Toronto with his wife and two children, did not want to be named out of fear for his career and his family. He said his life had been crippled since he caught 26-year-old Zijie Wang poisoning his food on Jan. 29.
“It’s unimaginable that this has happened to me. It was like a scene in a horror movie,” the victim told the court.
Wang pleaded guilty to charges of administering a noxious substance to endanger life or cause bodily harm and a charge of aggravated assault on Oct. 26.
He and the victim, who are both originally from China, had once lived together and worked together in a chemistry research lab at Queen’s University.
On Friday, the victim described what he called “prophetic” signs of Wang’s behaviour while they were roommates, signs that eventually led the victim to move out.
After the victim moved out of Wang’s residence, the two still had to work together, and the victim said he had tried to keep up a professional relationship.
Although no motive was discussed in this hearing, the victim mentioned that after he moved out of Wang’s apartment, the two worked on a paper together. The victim’s name came first on the paper while Wang’s came second as a co-author, suggesting that Wang may have been jealous of him.
The offender was described by his defence lawyer Brian Greenspan as an extremely intelligent and motivated student.
Wang moved to Canada to get his master’s degree at Queen’s University, but before he could graduate, he was propelled ahead to his PhD. As Greenspan described it, Wang’s academic career was stellar, and he was widely recognized as gifted.
WATCH: Queen’s post-graduate student in custody after poisoning fellow researcher
“He is certainly competitive, and certainly enjoyed accolades,” Greenspan said, his only allusion to Wang’s alleged jealousy.
Neither Wang nor the victim could speak English very well, and only one interpreter, who was paid for by Wang in order to expedite the process, was provided for the two Chinese men. This meant that the victim had to sit less than four feet behind the man who poisoned him for hours during the hearing.
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The victim described a very similar case that happened in China a few years back. The victim described the Fudan poisoning case as being as famous in China as the O.J. Simpson story is in North America.
The case involved two medical students at a university who were once roommates. In 2013, one of the men secretly poisoned his coworker over a period of time until the man eventually died.
The poison used in that case was N-Nitrosodimethylamine (NDMA), the exact substance Wang was caught on tape putting in the victim’s food.
Clips from that video were shown in court on Friday. The video, which was taken from a webcam hidden in the victim’s backpack, shows Wang wearing blue gloves entering the victim’s office five times, and dropping liquid from a pipette on the victim’s lunch.
The victim said that his food and water had been poisoned at least four times before he decided to set up a hidden camera in his office.
On two of those occasions, Jan. 8 and Jan. 15, the victim described tasting a bitter and chemical taste in his food, which caused him to become violently ill, causing dizziness, nausea, vomiting and continuous diarrhea.
When he found the same taste later on in his food and in his water bottle, the victim said he became wary, and saved the food and water because he suspected someone may have been poisoning him.
It was then that he decided to hide a camera in his backpack, catching Wang in the act on Jan. 29.
Wang was arrested that same day. He was released on bail five days later but arrested again in April, once police received the toxicology report, showing that the victim’s food, containers and water bottle had been tainted with NDMA, a toxic substance especially harmful to the liver and which is used to induce cancer in lab rats for research purposes.
The Crown attorney, Janet O’Brien, noted that the toxicology report showed the victim’s water was tainted with an amount of NDMA twice that of doses that have previously killed others.
O’Brien also noted that ethanol was found in the water. By itself, ethanol is benign for humans to consume, but adding ethanol to NDMA is known to make the effects of the toxic substance more lethal, according to the Crown.
Seeing that the victim himself was a chemist, the deadliness of the toxic substance and its carcinogenic attributes have weighed heavy on his mind.
“Will I die in 10, 20 or 30 years?” The man asked the court. “The long-term psychological fear is singularly cruel.”
The victim added that every part of his life has suffered since Jan. 29. His contract at Queen’s University was not renewed, something he attributed to the bad reputation his story has brought to the department.
He also said that he has kept the story from most of his loved ones, including his parents who live in China, and that he has had to isolate himself from friends and his community because he does not want to be asked about the incident.
The victim did not take Wang’s guilty plea as a sign of contrition.
“His confession is cowardly, and not based in heartfelt remorse,” the victim said.
Wang’s defence lawyer argued the opposite, saying that Wang has no status in Canada, and was only in the country on a student visa. Once his sentence is over, he will be extradited back to China.
Greenspan noted that China is a country that doesn’t honour international double jeopardy, which means Wang could be retried once he is sent back to his home country.
Greenspan brought up the famous Chinese poisoning case mentioned by the victim, and said that in 2013, the perpetrator in that case was sentenced to death in China.
Although it’s not a surety that Wang would get retried and given the death penalty, Greenspan said that Wang’s story is becoming well known in China, and that his client had reason to fear additional retribution.
“I think there is cause to be concerned for Mr. Wang.”
Greenspan said that Wang’s guilty plea has put the offender in potential danger of his own life, and showed a willingness to assume his guilt.
Wang will be sentenced on Dec. 11 in a Kingston court. The Crown is looking for a seven-year sentence, whereas the defence says previous case law would support a four-year sentence for Wang.