The trial for a Canadian soldier charged with attempted murder in connection with a fire that broke out at the home where her children were sleeping got underway in Edmonton on Monday.
The trial is expected to last two weeks.
Because of a publication ban to protect the identity of the children, the name of the accused cannot be published. She has elected to be tried by a judge instead of a jury.
Just before 1 a.m., on July 20, 2015, a fire broke out at the woman’s home at CFB Edmonton.
The former corporal at CFB Edmonton was charged with three counts of attempted murder in 2019. The accused also faces charges of intentionally or recklessly causing damage by fire to a property knowing the property was inhabited and intentionally or recklessly causing damage by fire to a property belonging to the Canadian Forces.
During Monday’s session in court, Crown prosecutor Dallas Sopko said he plans to show the accused set the fire herself, arguing “she would rather kill herself and her three children than comply with a court order that would give custody to her ex-husband, who she despises.”
Sopko said at the time of the fire, the accused’s children were sick and fell asleep watching movies in their mother’s room. Before they fell ill, they were supposed to go to camp the day before the fire, after which their father was to gain custody of them.
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The Crown said that after the fire started, neighbours heard the children yelling for help and sprung into action to save them and their mother. Sopko added that the court will hear that there is evidence of a letter to a friend signed by the accused that states “by the time you get this, I will either be in jail or dead.” He said the note was written on stationary from a hotel at West Edmonton Mall where the accused had been with her children the two nights before the fire.
One of four neighbours who helped save the accused’s children from the 2019 fire testified on Monday that it was his wife who first smelled smoke, spurring him to go outside and see what was happening.
He said he saw a boy in an upstairs window so he ran to grab a ladder and used it to rescue the child. He said the boy was yelling that he thought he was going to die as he climbed up to save him.
After bringing the child to safety, he tried to go back in the home but said the smoke was too thick and he had to turn around. At that point, two other neighbours who knew the layout of the inside of the accused’s home went in to search the bedrooms, the witness said.
He added that another boy was able to get out through the front door of the home on his own.
Another witness testified that the accused’s daughter was found barely conscious and in a state of confusion on the floor of the home’s primary bedroom before being helped out of the house.
–With files from Sarah Ryan, Global News