Gwen Armstrong haunted by thoughts of potential confinement in Ontario farmhouse ‘dungeon’

Jordana Divon
Daily BrewSeptember 11, 2012

The devil is in the details.

A sealed room in the basement of an abandoned Pickering, Ontario farmhouse. A reinforced door locked with a tire iron. Chains hanging from the ceiling. A row of water jugs lined up along the floor.

This was the dungeon built for Gwen Armstrong.

As the Toronto Sun reports, Armstrong had helped her close friend Patricia Gallagher escape from an "abusive relationship" with Robert Edwin White.

In retaliation, White admitted to constructing this sinister subterranean chamber in order to punish her. The farmhouse was deliberately set ablaze in January.

The revelation was news to everyone, especially the intended victim. The Toronto Star notes that she told an Oshawa courtroom on Monday the discovery has left her traumatized.

"I am still in shock," she said in her victim impact statement. "Since (last Wednesday), those same photos have been running through my mind constantly."

"Throughout the day they distract me and when I close my eyes at night, they keep me awake," she continued. "They fill me with such horror that I feel physically ill."

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The trouble started in 2010, when Armstrong encouraged Gallagher to leave White and move into her home. Gallagher brought along the couple's two children, ages 11 and 13.

According to the Crown, White, who worked as a contractor, spent "well over a year" working on the dungeon where he hoped to imprison the woman he blamed for his marital problems.

From the prisoner's box, White apologized for his disturbing activities.

"I am so disgusted with myself for the wake of emotional carnage that has been realized as a result of my actions," he said.

"I thought I was doing this for my children," White added.

Though no direct apology was offered to Gallagher or Armstrong, White had this to say about his current state of mind.

"Six months ago I came to the conclusion that I needed to forgive them for the wrongs that they have done to me," he said.

Though his lawyer requested a sentence of seven to nine months, citing White's first time offender status, the Crown attorney isn't having it.

Paul Slessor wants "two years less a day" in light of the "sinister" nature of White's intentions and the fact that Armstrong's torment will last far longer.

"Ms Armstrong will no doubt live forever knowing that room was built for her… It will always be: 'What if?'" he said.

Stories from prior confinement cases make Armstrong's terror more than justified.

In Jan. 2011, businessman Johnny Fei and his real estate agent, Jianguo Han were abducted from Fei's multimillion dollar home in Markham, Ontario by kidnappers hoping for a $2.5 million ransom payday.

During their week in confinement, their feet and hands locked in chains, Han died of a heart attack.

And recently, the Supreme Court of Canada used a Vancouver kidnapping case as the precedent to clarify the country's kidnapping laws.

After Graham McMynn was nabbed at gunpoint and confined for eight days, the court decided that a kidnapping does not end until the victim has been freed.

Provided, of course, the victim manages to survive in the first place.

Many aren't so lucky.

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