Man accused of sex assault told police he feared complainant would harass him

·4 min read
Edward Thomas Mundle, 58, has pleaded not guilty to sexually assaulting Stephanie Douglas a few months after they met on the dating site Plenty of Fish.  (Brian Higgins/CBC - image credit)
Edward Thomas Mundle, 58, has pleaded not guilty to sexually assaulting Stephanie Douglas a few months after they met on the dating site Plenty of Fish. (Brian Higgins/CBC - image credit)

A Charlottetown man on trial for sexual assault told police in a 2017 interview that he feared the complainant might start harassing him.

Videotape of a statement given to police by Edward Thomas Mundle was played in front of the jury on the first day of the trial, and was cited by both defence and prosecution lawyers on Monday as they made closing arguments in P.E.I. Supreme Court.

During the September 2017 video, Mundle sits in an interview room at Charlottetown city police headquarters answering questions posed by an officer investigating a complaint made by Stephanie Douglas. (Douglas took the unusual step of not requesting a publication ban on her identity, saying she wanted to tell her story in public.)

Mundle did not testify during the trial.

In the video, Mundle is discussing the relationship he had with Douglas. They met online and had a brief sexual relationship involving role-playing.

He claims Douglas grew antagonistic to him as their relationship started to break down.

"She went from being a brainy reporter to a troubled person. I got nervous. I backed away," Mundle tells police in the video.

"I was worried about her harassing me."

Complainant Stephanie Douglas has said the man she accuses of sexually assaulting her in January 2014 did not listen when she asked him to stop, using a safe word they had agreed upon.
Complainant Stephanie Douglas has said the man she accuses of sexually assaulting her in January 2014 did not listen when she asked him to stop, using a safe word they had agreed upon.(Brian Higgins/CBC)

Douglas has described herself to the jury as a community advocate for social justice, having done work involving mental health and homelessness, including award-winning work as a journalist.

About 10 days after the alleged incident on New Years Day 2014, Douglas went by ambulance to Queen Elizabeth Hospital due to a life-threatening case of sepsis, a severe bacterial infection. She spent three weeks in hospital, including time on a ventilator and in an induced coma.

Douglas believes the bacterial infection resulted from the alleged assault.

In closing arguments Monday, prosecutor Lisa Goulden told the jury the videotaped police interview shows a guilty man. She told the jury Mundle contradicted himself, at first telling police he did not remember the safe word he and Douglas had pre-arranged — "Rumpelstiltskin." Then he said it was not used, and later said it was.

She also argued Mundle repeatedly wavered on the question of consent when police asked him about it.

Goulden said the issue of consent is key to the case. She told the jury that Douglas did not consent to what Mundle did to her that night, describing it as causing "excruciating" pain, and that he continued to assault her after she used the safe word.

Defence lawyer Peter Ghiz said Mundle cooperated with police and gave the videotaped interview voluntarily. Ghiz pointed out to the jury Mundle states eight times during the police interview that he did nothing during their sexual encounters without Douglas's consent.

Medical records cited by both sides

Ghiz told the jury that medical records from Douglas's time at Queen Elizabeth Hospital are key to the defence case. He told the jury those records contain no evidence of pelvic trauma that might have been caused by sexual assault, and stressed that Douglas did not mention an alleged sexual assault to any of the doctors treating her.

The interior of the Supreme Court of P.E.I. room where a jury trial has been taking place since Monday, May 11. Seating is limited by physical distancing requirements, with two-metre separation plans in place.
The interior of the Supreme Court of P.E.I. room where a jury trial has been taking place since Monday, May 11. Seating is limited by physical distancing requirements, with two-metre separation plans in place. (Brian Higgins/CBC)

For her part, Goulden told the jury to give no weight to expert defence testimony by a psychiatrist who reviewed Douglas's medical records. Goulden told the jurors that the psychiatrist was paid by the defence to "cherry-pick" information to support the defence's case and discredit the complainant.

Justice Tracey Clements told the jury of eight men and four women to return on Tuesday ready to begin deliberations as soon as she gives them instructions about how to go about coming up with a verdict.

She advised them to bring an overnight bag, in case they did not reach a decision by the end of the day and had to remain sequestered overnight.

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