Badrudin acquitted of arson because police didn't prove he owned Waterford Manor

Badrudin acquitted of arson because police didn't prove he owned Waterford Manor

It doesn't matter whether David Badrudin caused the explosion at the Waterford Manor on July 7, 2016, or not.

A judge acquitted him on Wednesday in a bombshell twist, because the Crown did not prove an essential element of the crime — that David Badrudin was a part owner of the Waterford Manor when it burned down.

He was charged with a specific type of arson — Sec. 434.1 of the Criminal Code — which requires the defendant to own the property.

"It is what it is," was the only comment offered by Crown prosecutor Chris McCarthy on his way out of the courtroom.

He didn't fight it when defence lawyer Randy Piercey raised the issue and asked for an acquittal. In fact, McCarthy agreed with him, saying he expected the lead investigator for the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary to have proven ownership while he was on the stand.

But Const. Steve Walsh didn't give that information, and neither did any of the other witnesses — other than one person who said he heard someone else say that Badrudin was part owner.

"That is the highest form of hearsay," said Justice Garrett Handrigan.

The red 20-litre gas cans found strategically placed throughout the house are irrelevant now.

So are the three eyewitnesses who saw Badrudin at Waterford Manor immediately before or after the top floors were rocked with an explosion, sending glass and furniture raining down on the historic grounds.

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More than 110 years of history were erased in the fire, but it seems nobody will be held accountable in criminal court.

Badrudin could have been charged with a different section of the Criminal Code — 433, arson with disregard for human life, regardless of ownership.

He wasn't.

It's not clear if Badrudin can be charged again with a different arson charge.

All that's clear right now is Badrudin's parents, Nas and Patricia, were definitely owners of the heritage home.

As for their son — the jury didn't hear any evidence he held a stake in it.

Defence had questioned amount of police work

The Royal Newfoundland Constabulary didn't give McCarthy much of a hand to play with.

Testifying on Tuesday morning, Walsh said he was the only investigator assigned to the case. He had to put it on the back burner while his unit dealt with other high profile cases in the summer of 2016.

The end result was a case built entirely on circumstantial evidence — three witnesses who could place Badrudin at the manor around the time of the fire.

But two witnesses staying in the basement apartment saw a mystery vehicle driving away from the parking lot around the same time they saw Badrudin coming toward them with his hair ruffled and eyebrows missing.

Whoever was in that vehicle, it couldn't have been Badrudin.

One of those basement tenants was a man who was just released from jail on a conviction of breaking and entering. He wasn't interviewed by police, but testified in court.

A disgruntled former employee of the Badrudin family also wasn't interviewed, despite the fact police had previously investigated him for breaking into Waterford Manor.

The investigator on that case? Steve Walsh.

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The defence raised concerns Badrudin was charged only after Aviva — the insurance company — did its own investigation and handed its evidence over to police.

None of that evidence was introduced at trial.

Family remains close

The court took a break in the morning for the judge to ponder whether or not to grant an acquittal.

During the intermission, the family went into a separate courtroom to have privacy. David Badrudin sat atop the bench in the judge's seat. Laughter could be heard spilling out into the hallway.

His parents, Nas and Patricia Badrudin, bought Waterford Manor in 1992, using it as a bed and breakfast and event venue.

The Badrudin family carried themselves with grace and kindness throughout the three-day trial.

There were no signs of family drama, despite the younger Badrudin not being allowed alone in the manor at the time of the fire, a decision made by his father and the general manager.

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The family seemed unperturbed by the chance their son could be convicted of arson.

Their demeanour makes sense if they knew what lawyers Piercey and Ken Mahoney had up their sleeves.

Badrudin hugged his father and kissed him on the cheek after news of the acquittal was given to the jury.

All parties declined comment on the way out of the courtroom, bringing a quiet end to a long process that started with a loud bang.

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