A former employee of a B.C. city councillor testified at the start of his trial Monday that he sexually assaulted her at their workplace in 1992.
The woman, whose identity is covered by a publication ban, told the court she began working for Pitt Meadows city councillor David Murray that summer and that the two initially had a friendly relationship.
“I liked being around him,” she said. “He treated me really nicely, said nice things to me.”
His behaviour eventually turned “inappropriate” as he bought her expensive clothing and took her out for dinners, including one at a revolving restaurant.
“I remember he bought me really expensive jeans… that I really liked but couldn’t afford,” she said, adding that her mother and stepfather, with whom she lived at the time, were “concerned” about the relationship.
“I knew he liked me, he was flirtatious with me,” the complainant said. “But I liked it and I didn’t want it to stop.”
One day in late summer or early fall of 1992, Murray asked her to come into work early.
When she arrived, she said the workplace was still closed and Murray was the only person there.
The complainant broke down in the courtroom, her voice shaky and her eyes teary as she described the alleged assault.
She said she was lying down, and that Murray was kneeling beside her as moved his hands up her leg, under her shorts, and touched her genitals.
“It was awkward… he seemed nervous,” she said. “I turned my head and closed my eyes and waited for it to stop.”
The complainant said she recalled lying on the ground, frozen.
“I was feeling like it was my fault and that I got myself into shady situations,” she said. “I knew the attention he was giving me [leading up to the alleged assault] was inappropriate but I allowed it to continue.”
The complainant could not remember how long the alleged assault lasted, but said that when it was done, Murray walked away to a different part of the workplace.
“I waited to be sure he wasn’t there and then I stood up and went about my day,” she said. “We acted like it was a normal workday.”
She finished her shift and never came back to work. She did not see Murray again until she moved to Pitt Meadows as an adult.
‘It felt like a punch in the stomach’
She recalled visiting the city’s website one day and seeing that Murray was a city councillor.
“I then Googled his name, saw his face and it felt like a punch in the stomach,” she said. “I was upset that I had bought a home and a business in a city where a man who had molested me was in government.”
The complainant’s voice shook as she described seeing Murray’s name everywhere, especially as a campaign for the 2014 local elections began.
There were signs with his name and face all across Pitt Meadows, she recalled. She told the court she even switched gyms to get away from seeing him.
She decided to report Murray to the RCMP in 2015, following a public city meeting where she saw him in person.
“I was upset and angry that everywhere I went, I risked running into him and be reminded of what he did,” she said. “I felt like I couldn’t be a part of the community… I felt like I had a secret to be ashamed of.”
Defence centres on timeline
Murray, first elected to Pitt Meadows council in 2011, was originally charged with sexual assault and sexual interference of a person under the age of 14. But Crown counsel asked for the second charge to be stayed, citing an inability to confirm whether the complainant was 13 or 14 at the time of the alleged assault.
During cross-examination, defence lawyer J. R. McRoberts focused on the inexact date of the alleged assault, as well as on the complainant’s drug use as a teenager.
She and Crown had established a timeline where the complainant had quit school in 1991, returning in the fall 1992.
McRoberts asked the complainant if her drug use was why she had left school. The complainant denied that this was the only reason, but acknowledged that it was a contributing factor.
He further questioned her on what drugs she had taken, asking specifically about LSD.
The complainant denied using LSD, but did say that she was using marijuana, pills and alcohol daily.
The alcohol and what McRoberts termed “wakeup pills” were stolen from her stepfather, she said.
McGregor questioned the complainant’s recollection of the dinners between her and Murray and asked if she recalled a specific dinner with Murray, a coworker and several RCMP officers. She did not.
He quizzed her about what year she worked for Murray. The complainant had specified the “warmer weather months” of 1992 during her earlier testimony. McGregor suggested she had worked there a year later.
The complainant said she was pretty sure about her timeline, but that she could be wrong.
The trial is expected to last through Wednesday at provincial court in Port Coquitlam.