OTTAWA - A Mountie accused of severe, long-term abuse of his 11-year-old son told an Ottawa court that an RCMP psychiatrist suggested he play down a history of constant nightmares when he underwent a psychological evaluation before joining the police force.
The man, who can't be named to protect the identity of his son, made the claim Monday during the first day of defence testimony at his trial.
Wearing a dark suit form-fitted to his burly physique, the officer attempted to paint a picture of his mental state in the years surrounding his young son's tortured life before the boy escaped the family home and was discovered wandering a residential neighbourhood.
The Mountie, now 44, and the boy's stepmother were charged in February 2013 in what Ottawa police described as one of the worst cases of abuse they had seen.
In court, the man testified he suffered nightmares from his childhood in war-torn Lebanon. He also detailed how he was sexually abused as a child.
But the now-suspended officer says when he wrote in an RCMP entrance exam that he was having nightmares, a psychiatrist suggested that he take the test again, but alter his answer.
"That was the distinct impression that I got," the man said of his recollection of advice he was given.
The man and his wife each face a charge of aggravated assault, forcible confinement and failing to provide the necessaries of life.
The woman is also charged with assaulting the boy with a weapon, while the man faces other charges of sexual assault causing bodily harm and assault with a weapon.
In a police interview after his arrest in 2013, the officer admitted he tied his son to a wall or a pole in the basement of his home, where the boy developed cuts on his wrists from the chains or plastic zip ties used to bind him.
But the man told court Monday he was at his wit's end trying to control his son's escalating behavioural problems.
The boy appeared at a young age to be self-mutilating, the man said.
And, he grew concerned that his son was turning into a sexual predator, at one point taking him to a psychiatrist, whom the officer said didn't agree with the assessment.
But the boy's father said he recognized the signs, based on his own experiences as a child.
At just over seven years of age, the officer testified, his son was exhibiting inappropriate sexual behaviour, including indecent touching of other children and peeking under stalls in a girls' washroom.
"I watched him staring at women's behinds at church," he told the court.
"I saw him doing this repeatedly."
He was also worried about his son sexually abusing the other two children in his home, the court heard.
"Either he molested them or he would," the man said of his concerns.
The officer told the court he tried to correct his sons misbehaviour in numerous ways; taking things away, making him do push-ups, even submitting him to cold showers.
There was positive reinforcement, too, including buying toys in exchange for good deeds.
Nothing worked, he said.
Earlier, the father chronicled what he characterized as a chaotic, on-again, off-again relationship with his first wife, the boy's birth mother, and what he endured mentally and emotionally before and after his son was born.
He also testified that his life was in a state of turmoil after his son's birth, as he was constantly caring for the baby and his wife, who he said suffered from fibromyalgia, had a debilitating stroke during childbirth and was on powerful painkillers.
"I was a full-time nurse, a full-time police officer," he told the court.
After he left his first wife in 2002, the officer said he faced accusations from her of abuse and of being a terrorist planning to take their son to the Middle East, before he gave up full custody in 2006.
During that period, he met and married his second wife, now his co-accused, and said that she and his son got along well together. He was also assigned to the RCMP's national security unit, he said.
Last fall, a doctor who examined the boy at the Children's Hospital of Eastern Ontario testified the then-11-year-old weighed just 50 pounds, appeared emaciated and had sunken eyes and swollen knees when he was found.
In 2013, the RCMP said the father had been on leave since May 2011. The reason for that remains under a court-ordered publication ban.
Testimony was to resume Tuesday with the current portion of the trial scheduled to last up to two weeks.