CONTENT WARNING: This story contains disturbing and graphic content.
A trial began on Monday for the 68-year-old man charged in relation to an alleged child abduction in northeast London, Ont., in 2018.
Lawrence Allen Thompson, who was 65 at the time of the incident, faces four charges related to kidnapping, sexual assault on a person under the age of 16, sexual interference with a person under the age of 16 and abduction of a person under the age of 14.
Monday’s proceeding in the Superior Court of Justice opened with Thompson pleading not guilty to the four charges.
The trial is being held in a hybrid model with some participants appearing virtually over Zoom, while others appear in person.
Assistant Crown attorney Kristina Mildred began her submissions by providing the court with a retelling of events, based on information provided by police at the time.
Police said a young girl, who was four at the time, had been playing outside on the morning of May 13, 2018 near Barker Street and Melsandra Avenue.
A man driving a Chevrolet Impala stopped by the girl before picking her up, placing her inside the vehicle and driving away, according to police.
While Mildred did not mention it during Monday’s proceeding, police previously said that witnesses reported seeing the man allegedly inappropriately touching the girl while she was inside the car.
Police said the car later stopped in the same area where the girl was taken from. She then exited the car and ran back home.
Thompson was arrested the following day.
On Monday, the court heard from the girl who was allegedly abducted. She cannot be identified due to a publication ban.
The girl, now seven, provided her testimony virtually from a room where she was seated next to Yzer, a therapy dog with the London Family Court Clinic.
The assistant Crown attorney began by playing footage of the police statement provided by the girl on May 13, 2018.
In the video, the girl tells the officer questioning her that she was kidnapped. She later offers a retelling of events in the video, telling the officer that a man had picked her up while she was outside looking for ladybugs.
The girl tells the officer the man had physically picked her up and placed her in the passenger seat of his car. The man later pulled down the girl’s pants and underwear while she was inside his vehicle, according to the statement provided by the girl in the video.
The girl tells the officer the man then had her lay belly-down on his lap. She mentions in the video that she later pulled up her underwear and pants herself.
The girl mentions the man eventually stopped the car near her house where she was able to exit and run home.
The girl had requested a number of breaks from the courtroom as she watched the footage. The presiding judge accommodated each request and paused proceedings during the girl’s breaks.
After the video finished, the assistant Crown attorney questioned the girl on the statement she provided to police on May 13, 2018.
The girl recalled how she felt when the man came to pick her up. She felt angry and then scared, but noted that she did not tell the man she wanted to go home.
She clarified that the man had picked her up over his shoulder before placing her inside his car. She noted that she doesn’t remember parts of what happened once she was inside.
The girl said she omitted some details in the video statement. These details include that the man had grabbed her by the waist to pull her onto his lap and laid the girl face down, before pulling down her pants and underwear to her ankles.
“(He) slapped me… on my bum… just once,” the girl told the court, recalling what happened to her after she was placed on the man’s lap.
She recalled that the man said nothing, but that she had said “ow” in response. The girl told the court that she did not know why she didn’t tell the officer in the video about this.
Afterward, the man put her back into the passenger seat, asked her where she lived, and drove her to her neighbour’s home, the girl said.
While the girl said in the video statement that she punched, kicked and slapped the man, she later clarified that this did not happen.
The girl told the court she felt sad after she got home due to what happened.
The trial was adjourned for the day before defence lawyer Lakin Afolabi could begin cross-examination of the witness.
Both Afolabi and the judge noted that the girl had spent the entire day waiting to provide her testimony and felt she deserved a break overnight before being cross-examined.
Monday’s hearing was scheduled to begin at 10:30 a.m., but was pushed back to 1 p.m. due to delays in transporting the accused from the Niagara Detention Centre to London. The Elgin-Middlesex Detention Centre refused to house Thompson, as the London jail is dealing with an ongoing COVID-19 outbreak.
Following cross-examination from Afolabi on Tuesday, the Crown plans on having the girl’s father called to testify. Three more civilians and three police officers are expected to testify for the Crown in the following days.
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.
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