The 68-year-old man accused in a child abduction and sexual assault in northeast London, Ont., three years ago has been found guilty on all charges.
On Monday, Superior Court Justice Alissa Mitchell found the Crown had proved beyond a reasonable doubt that Lawrence Allen Thompson committed kidnapping, child abduction, sexual interference and sexual assault.
Thompson had previously pleaded not guilty to all charges related to the incident involving him and a girl who was four at the time.
The court heard that on May 13, 2018, a four-year-old girl was playing outside in the area of Melsandra Avenue and Barker Street.
Thompson, who drove a Chevrolet Impala, picked up the girl and placed her inside. A couple whose vehicle was stopped behind Thompson at the time testified seeing an adult man “struggle” to place a young girl in his car.
They later observed “erratic driving” from Thompson before deciding to call 911, with the wife noting that she feared they had witnessed a child abduction.
The girl was later dropped off by Thompson near her home.
Thompson was arrested the following day. The 68-year-old, who was 65 at the time, was charged with kidnapping, child abduction, sexual assault and sexual interference.
In delivering her decision, Mitchell assessed the credibility of the eight witnesses presented by Crown attorney Kristina Mildred.
These witnesses included the young victim, the victim’s father, three citizens who reported witnessing the incident, as well as three police officers involved in the case.
Thompson, who is represented by defence lawyer Lakin Afolabi, chose not to testify nor did Afolabi call any additional evidence during the trial.
Mitchell described the citizens and officers as reliable and credible witnesses, with their testimonies corroborated in part by physical evidence.
Some of the physical evidence included dashcam footage from a vehicle that recorded a part of the abduction, which Mitchell found consistent with testimony from the couple who called 911 following the incident.
Photos taken by investigating officers showed Thompson had attempted to modify his Impala the day after the incident, which Mitchell described as “circumstantial evidence suggesting a guilty conscience.”
“The only inference which can be drawn is that the accused was trying to cover up his involvement in the incident because he knew he had done something wrong,” Mitchell said.
The judge took more time assessing the young victim, whose testimony was essential in convicting Thompson of sexual assault and sexual interference.
The trial viewed footage of a police statement given by the girl on the day of the incident, when she was four years old.
When the girl testified in court three years later, Mitchell noted that the now seven-year-old did not hesitate to reveal inconsistencies between her police statement and her testimony.
“During cross-examination, when she was asked about punching, kicking and hitting the accused, she immediately responded, without prompting or suggestion from defence counsel, that her earlier evidence in this regard was incorrect,” Mitchell said.
“Such a response is the badge of a truthful witness.”
The girl said in her police statement that Thompson had pulled her onto his lap before pulling down her pants and underwear. The girl testified during the trial that on top of doing so, Thompson had also slapped her on the buttocks.
However, the seven-year-old later admitted that she was unsure of whether or not the slapping occurred.
Mitchell said while this also left her unsure of whether or not the slapping occurred, Thompson would still be found guilty of sexual interference and sexual assault if he had only pulled down the girl’s pants.
The girl testified during the trial that she was absolutely sure the latter had happened.
“At her young age and in these circumstances, I find (she) lacked the cognitive ability to manipulate or fabricate her evidence for some ulterior motive,” Mitchell added.
The judge also noted that the disclosure of the sexual assault during the girl’s police statement was spontaneous and unprompted by the officer interviewing her.
“It defies common sense that a four-year-old child, without prompting or suggestion, would spontaneously disclose to police that a stranger pulled down her pants unless he, in fact, did so.”
Mitchell said the girl’s testimony was also corroborated in part by the observations made by the couple who called 911, who said Thompson had driven erratically with nothing outside the car to explain his behaviour.
“Mr. Thompson’s erratic driving is consistent with physical interaction in the vehicle between the accused and the complainant as described by (the girl),” Mitchell said.
The judge also noted that the girl’s testimony went unchallenged and that no evidence from other eyewitnesses contradicts her statements.
“I find as a fact that the accused pulled (the girl) onto his lap and pulled down her pants,” Mitchell said.
A sentencing date for Thompson has been set for July 7.
Mitchell told the court on Monday that she expects the sentencing to take the full day and that victim impact statements will also be heard.
Thompson, a former custodian for the Thames Valley District School Board, was previously charged more than a decade ago with two counts of sexual interference and two counts of sexual assault stemming from incidents in 2007.
All four charges were dropped in September 2009 on the same day he was issued a peace bond.