September 24, 2013 - 2:19 PM
KELOWNA – When Joelon Verma was arrested for the murder of Brittney Lee Irving in June 2010, he soon found himself sharing a cell with a talkative cellmate.
Verma was first placed in alone in a cell and watched as another man put up a fight and was even tasered before being placed in the same cell. They started a conversation and spoke several times over the next three days in custody. We learned today the cellmate was an undercover RCMP officer and everything they spoke about was recorded and played for the 14 jurors at his trial today.
Verma is accused in the April 2010 shooting of Irving, who was found dead from four gunshots in the woods east of Kelowna.
In his testimony today, the officer—whose name is subject to a publication ban—described the RCMP “cellmate operation” in which he was seen tasered by a guard before being placed in the 10 by 10 foot cell with Verma. With only limited knowledge that Verma was a suspect in the homicide of Brittney Lee Irving, the officer's job was to befriend the accused.
Under the guise that he was arrested following an altercation with a woman who stole his wallet, the officer struck up conversation with Verma, who he pointed out in court today.
“I had mentioned when I was a young offender I went through a murder trial,” the officer said.
“The conversation was really good, we bonded a lot, talking about our personal lives,” he said, including their hobbies, work and families. In the conversation, Verma is heard talking about his cousin.
A number of conversations took place under the blankets of their cell beds.
“Most of these guys are very guarded,” the officer said. By covering their heads to hide from surveillance cameras, cell mates speak more freely, he said.
A video of one of those conversations was played for the court. The two are seen hidden under a dark blanket in the corner of the cell for a number of minutes before quickly breaking apart when a guard bangs on their door.
An audio recording from a device hidden in the officer's clothing was also played for the court. The officer is heard talking about "DNA... that might fuck you," and sharing his personal experience under police investigation.
When Crown lawyer Iain Currie asked the officer to clarify the context of the conversation, the defence objected. The witness and jury were excused so defence counsel could make a submission.
The officer is expected to continue his testimony this afternoon.
To contact the reporter for this story, email Julie Whittet at email@example.com or call (250)718-0428.
News from © InfoTel News Ltd, 2013