Moss Park reservists assaulted woman who tried to help, Crown says in outlining case
Mar 18, 2008 04:30 AM
Three Canadian soldiers kicked Paul Croutch, a sleeping homeless man, “like a football,” then assaulted a woman who tried to intervene, warning her that “bums” aren’t welcome in Toronto’s Moss Park, a prosecutor says.
“`Tell all your friends the park is ours. We own it,'” Pte. Brian Deganis told Valerie Valen as he and two fellow reservists dragged and hit her, assistant Crown attorney Hank Goody alleged yesterday, outlining evidence he expects to present.
Deganis thrust his military dog tags into her face, “saying that they gave them the right to do whatever they wanted to her and all derelict homeless bums,” Goody told a jury as he opened the Crown’s case.
Deganis, 24, Jeffery Hall, 24, and Mountaz Ibrahim, 25, have pleaded not guilty to second-degree murder in Croutch’s death, and to assault causing bodily harm to Valen.
They were trained combat soldiers, reserve members of the Queen’s Own Rifles of Canada, an airborne infantry unit based in the Moss Park Armoury.
On Aug. 31, 2005, Croutch, 59, was asleep on a bench between a set of tennis courts and a baseball diamond. “Moss Park was Paul Croutch’s bedroom and the bench his bed,” Goody said.
Croutch was not in good health and suffered from diseases of the heart and lungs. He had hardening of the arteries, high blood pressure and emphysema, Goody said, as well as swelling of the legs, which made walking difficult.
That night, he had wrapped himself in garbage bags to protect himself from the elements.
“Unfortunately, they offered no protection from the fate that was to befall him,” Goody said.
Shortly after 4 a.m., the three accused allegedly punched and kicked him in the head, mid-section and back, Goody said.
“Mr. Croutch was kicked, as the Crown expects you will hear it described, like a football – so hard that his body was being lifted off the ground, until it finally came to rest several feet behind the bench.
“Paul Croutch never saw it coming,” Goody said, nor did he offer any resistance, or move of his own volition during the beating.
Immediately before the attack, Goody said, the three accused men had come from the armoury where Deganis was allegedly heard by a senior officer to say that he hated bums and homeless people and wanted to take them on. One or more of the accused were under the influence of alcohol, Goody said.
Valen was passing through the park, walking from Shuter St. to visit friends at Fred Victor Centre, a shelter on Queen St. E., when she heard someone “calling out about a homeless bum,” Goody said.
Valen said she saw the soldiers beating Croutch and yelled out to them, asking what they were doing.
Although it was not true, Valen told them she had a cellphone and would call police. The three approached her and she began to retreat toward Queen St. She was told to start running, only to have her legs kicked out from under her.
When she fell, she was allegedly beaten about the body and dragged through the park while being called a “bum” or “whore,” Goody said.
Croutch was taken to hospital unconscious and died later. The attack broke several of his ribs, tore his spleen and caused a fatal injury to his brain, Goody said.
The trial continues today.