South Okanagan kidnapping trial gets even weirder | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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South Okanagan kidnapping trial gets even weirder

The trial of Afshin Ighani adjourned yesterday as both Crown and defence counsel agreed to investigate witness statements after her memory failed her on the witness stand.
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PENTICTON - The trial of Afshin Maleki Ighani adjourned yesterday after three days of testimony and evidence that had more twists and turns to it than the Hope-Princeton Highway, where Ighani is alleged to have committed some of the crimes in question.

Ighani, who faces other charges not related to this incident, entered not guilty pleas to 10 counts stemming from an alleged double kidnapping that took place on April 22, 2017, when he appeared at one of the victims’ home in the early morning hours.

The three were in a car headed for the Lower Mainland, but diverted down a Manning Park logging road on the way and stopped.

After allegedly forcing the male victim out of the car on two separate occasions and eventually abandoning the man, he forced his female victim to drive back to Princeton where police were already searching for them.

Ighani was arrested a short time later.

In addition to two kidnapping charges, he also faces a number of firearms infractions involving a weapon reportedly used in the incident.

The first twist in the case occurred at the start of the trial, when Crown Prosecutor John Swanson asserted one of the victims and a key witness, Christopher William Gleige, had fled to United States to avoid a subpoena to the trial.

Gleige has American citizenship, court heard.

His absences resulted in Swanson applying to Judge Nitya Iyer to have Gleige’s preliminary inquiry testimony accepted as admissible evidence, which she agreed to after a brief voir dire hearing.

The next twist involved the other victim involved in the incident, Jodie Walker, who took the stand for the first time on Monday, but claimed to have little memory of the events of that day.

Her intransigence led Crown Prosecutor John Swanson to ask that a taped interview by police the day of the incident, be heard in court.

In that April 22 interview, Walker clearly implicated Ighani, after expressing concerns to police about their interest in prosecuting Gleige, who she was at one time in a relationship with.

Walker also expressed concerns about Ighani getting out of jail and killing her should she tell police what happened. Later in the interview, she expressed her concern that Ighani was going to kill Gleige after Ighani directed her to drive six kilometres down a Manning Park forestry road.

Indeed, according to Swanson’s initial recounting of events, the timely passing of another vehicle down the lonely dirt road right after Ighani ordered the vehicle to stop and Gleige to get out may have been fortuitous.

Walker eventually relayed details of the day’s events to police interviewer Const. Chad Jackson. She told him she barely knew Ighani prior to the incident and that he’d fired a gun he was carrying at least once during the events. She also revealed where Ighani had stashed the weapon, in the vehicle’s engine compartment.

She said Ighani had Gleige exit the vehicle on at least two occasions, and at one point said: “Let’s just get rid of this loser,” firing the revolver over his head.

“It’s like he had the devil inside him or something,” Walker can be heard saying in the police interview, calling Ighani’s behaviour, “just weird.”

Walker witnessed the interview on DVD as it played before the court this week.

Afterward, on further examination, she claimed not even to recognize herself in the recording.

The continued fogginess of Walker’s memory of the day in question resulted in an application by Swanson on the second day of the trial to have her police interview admitted as an exhibit of truth of content, a ruling still being pondered by the judge.

The trial took a further twist yesterday, Dec. 6, when new evidence of a further police interview surfaced.

What was particularly damning for Walker was the timing of the interview, which took place on Oct.18, 2018 - a mere 46 days ago.

In that interview, Walker talked about being kidnapped by Ighani and facing the trial alone because Gleige was gone, and probably most damning of all, that she had been talking regularly with Ighani on the phone since he had been incarcerated.

She also admitted Ighani’s reason for kidnapping Gleige and herself - referring to Ighani as “Ry” - was because he’d had some drugs stolen and believed they might know something about it.

Walker gave several contradictory answers in trying to explain her lack of memory as it related to the most recent police interview, eventually being forced to admit to saying at least some of the comments heard in the interview.

Her fuzzy memory has become a challenge for both sides in the trial. Defence lawyer Paul McMurray is seeking a dismissal of her evidence due to the contradictory nature of her answers on the witness stand compared to the police investigations.

The case now appears to hinge on finding some conclusive truth to the comments Walker made during the police interviews - that being an assessment of phone calls made by Ighani while in custody at Okanagan Correctional Centre.

Both sides agreed to an adjournment to allow time to verify Walker’s interview assertion, later denied, that she had been in continuous contact with Ighani since his imprisonment.

That could be a major factor in consideration of the reliability of her statements to police.

And short of Gleige suddenly turning up to give evidence, the Crown will also need a favourable decision regarding its application for Walker’s police interview to be allowed into evidence for them to be successful in getting a conviction.

Alternatively, there’s still time for Walker to recall more about the events of April 22, 2017 than she’s been able to so far this week.

The trial is expected to reconvene sometime in January, 2019.

To contact a reporter for this story, email Steve Arstad or call 250-488-3065 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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