Witness at outgoing Surrey mayor's trial testifies she told him she would be the one 'that brought him down'

Debi Johnstone is the woman who outgoing Surrey mayor Doug McCallum accused of running over his foot. She was the first witness at his public mischief trial. (Ben Nelms/CBC - image credit)
Debi Johnstone is the woman who outgoing Surrey mayor Doug McCallum accused of running over his foot. She was the first witness at his public mischief trial. (Ben Nelms/CBC - image credit)

The woman who Doug McCallum allegedly falsely accused of vehicular assault claims she told the outgoing Surrey mayor he was "evil" and that she "was going to be the bitch that brought him down."

Debi Johnstone recalled the words as she took the stand on the opening day of McCallum's public mischief trial Monday.

Johnstone is the woman McCallum accused of running over his foot with her car after an argument in a Save-On-Foods parking lot on Sept. 4, 2021 — a claim the 66-year-old denied.

In peppery testimony, the retiree admitted she and McCallum traded "unpleasantries" in a "heated debate" as she sat in her open-topped Mustang and he stood nearby.

But she said she didn't feel anything unusual or unexpected as she drove away.

"His face is kind of peely and scaly, so I made a reference to him having a scaly face ... I called him a scaly-faced motherf--ker," Johnstone said.

"He told me that I was a big mouth, a loud mouth — something to the effect that I was no good for Surrey."

Casting suspicion of 'offence not committed'

Johnstone was the first witness to take the stand Monday at a trial eagerly awaited by observers of Surrey politics.

Crown prosecutor Richard Fowler called her after briefly laying out the Crown's case against McCallum, who was voted out of office earlier this month.

He said McCallum was charged under a section of the Criminal Code that defines public mischief as doing something "intended to cause some other person to be suspected of an offence they have not committed."

WATCH | CCTV footage of encounter between Doug McCallum and Debi Johnstone:

In the case at bar, Fowler told Judge Reg Harris the Crown would present video evidence of CCTV footage of the encounter as well as statements given to police.

"The question ultimately will be whether Mr. McCallum intended to mislead the police by making false statements to the police with the intention to cause Ms. Johnstone to be suspected of having committed an offence that she had not committed," Fowler said.

'I really on this one wanna go after her'

As the proceedings got underway, McCallum stood and said the words "not guilty" when the judge asked him how he wanted to plead.

Fowler then gave a minute-by-minute recounting of the events which led to the charge, beginning with the confrontation in the parking lot where Johnstone was going to join other members of a group opposed to McCallum's plans for a municipal police force.

The prosecutor said that McCallum ultimately did his grocery shopping in the time after he claimed that Johnstone had run over his foot and that he later contacted RCMP and made his way to Peace Arch hospital.

Ben Nelms/CBC
Ben Nelms/CBC

Hours after calling a police dispatcher, McCallum gave a 60-minute statement in which Fowler said he told police, "Ms. Johnstone pulled up in her car and just about pinned him to the back of his car."

The prosecutor claimed McCallum also told police, "I, really, on this one wanna go after her."

McCallum sat at a table alongside members of his legal team behind ace defender Richard Peck.

After being called to the stand, Johnstone walked up to the raised booth where she would give her testimony and fixed her eyes on the outgoing mayor — staring directly at him until Fowler stepped between them.

'The worst mayor that Surrey ever had'

Johnstone said she is a retired sales manager with three adult children who has lived in Surrey for the past 13 years. She attended the mall as a volunteer to collect signatures for a petition to keep the RCMP in Surrey.

She claimed she drove through the parking lot in her convertible Mustang. She had the top down. She said she saw a man she thought was McCallum and knew it was him as he went to put on a mask.

"I yelled at him to resign," Johnstone told Fowler. "I said, 'Resign, McCallum.'"

She claimed that McCallum then came toward her and stood on a small embankment by a shrub as they went after each other.

"I told him he was the worst mayor that Surrey ever had. I told him he was mean-spirited. I told him he was a liar," Johnstone said.

Fowler asked if she might have called him a "shithead."

"Oh, probably," Johnstone replied.

A video later played in court showed the outgoing mayor standing near Johnstone's car and talking after she pulled through a parking spot. The video appeared to show McCallum walking away towards the store after Johnstone drove off. He did not appear to be limping.

'You do this type of thing to intimidate'

Under cross-examination, Johnstone was queried about her use of profanity and her previous attendance at McCallum's home. Peck played clips of her calling members of the mayor's new municipal police force "scabs" and "whores" at a previous demonstration.

"You do this type of thing to intimidate," Peck said.

"I don't know how I can intimidate a police force. I do it to be heard," Johnstone replied.

"You do it to intimidate and to instill fear in people," Peck said.

The defence lawyer also questioned Johnstone about calling McCallum "scaly faced" and asked if it was her "habit to demean people because their face has some kind of disability."

"Just McCallum," she said.

Peck asked Johnstone if she blamed McCallum for a number of events, including someone leaving dog feces on her doorstep and an incident in which she claimed someone pulled a gun on her.

She indicated that she ultimately believed he was responsible. Peck said she had no basis for that claim.

Johnstone also admitted to thinking it was her "lucky day" when she caught sight of McCallum in the parking lot.

She said he was standing less than two feet away from her car as they argued and that she could not see his feet as she pulled away.

"Were you concerned as you completed the arc of your turn that your car might come in contact with him?" Peck ask.

"No," Johnstone said.

The trial is scheduled for seven days. Fowler said a police officer is also expected to testify. It is unclear whether McCallum will take the stand.