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'There will be no forgiveness:' Mother of murder victim tells hearing

Christopher Garnier
Christopher Garnier - -File photo

HALIFAX — A Halifax man who killed an off-duty police officer said Monday he hoped her family could give him forgiveness someday, but the victim's mother made it clear he would not get it.

"As we struggle to deal with our loss, we know one thing: There will be no forgiveness. None," Susan Campbell, mother of Const. Catherine Campbell, said in a victim impact statement read Monday at Christopher Garnier's parole eligibility hearing.

In the statement, Campbell said the day her daughter died, a part of her died as well.

With Catherine's father, Dwight Campbell, at her side, she told Nova Scotia Supreme Court Justice Joshua Arnold she has not seen genuine remorse from Garnier or his family.

"How do you put into words how our lives were forever changed by the death of our child? You cannot even imagine unless you've been there yourself. The disbelief, the heartache, the emptiness, sorrow, nightmares, tears, and the sense of loss consuming," said Susan Campbell, her voice unwavering as she read the statement.

Susan Campbell said rather than showing remorse for what happened, Garnier has attacked her daughter's name and reputation. He had told the jury that the Truro, N.S., police constable died accidentally during rough sex she initiated.

"Catherine was the victim, and every day that we walked into this courtroom, she was victimized over and over again," said Susan Campbell.

"We were constantly reminded of the accused's rights, but what have we seen of the victim's rights? It is our family that has been given the life sentence with no chance of parole."

Garnier, 30, was convicted in December of second-degree murder and interfering with a dead body in the September 2015 death of the 36-year-old Campbell.

The murder conviction carries an automatic life sentence. Monday's hearing was held to determine how long Garnier will have to serve before he can apply for parole.

At the end of the hearing, Garnier stood and unfolded a piece of paper from his pocket. He apologized to Campbell's family and friends, saying he knows there's nothing he can do to ease their pain.

"I never intended for this to happen, but my actions contributed to Catherine's death, and I accept responsibility for that," said Garnier in a soft voice, occasionally looking over towards where the Campbell family was seated in the gallery.

"I have a hard time understanding why I did what I did afterwards, and still can't remember most of those actions. I'm disgusted by them ... I'm sorry every day for the pain I've caused you to go through, and I hope that you can one day forgive me."

During his trial, Garnier repeatedly told the jury he did not remember using a large green compost bin to dispose of the body near the bridge, where it stayed undetected for nearly five days.

The Crown argued at the hearing that Garnier should serve 16 years before he's able to apply for parole, while the defence argued Garnier should become eligible for parole after serving 10 years.

Arnold reserved his decision until 2 p.m. Tuesday.

Crown lawyer Christine Driscoll argued Garnier's extensive actions to conceal the crime and his ability to return to his normal life afterwards makes his prospect for rehabilitation "difficult."

"He acted in a way... that was manipulative and calculating," said Driscoll. "Mr. Garnier knew what he was doing as he disposed of the evidence. He disposed of numerous pieces of evidence, some of which was never found, and separated it into different places and concealed his crime quite well."

Driscoll said the court should also consider the "sheer randomness" of the killing. She noted Garnier and Campbell met for the first time at a downtown Halifax bar, and hours later she was dead.

Meanwhile, defence lawyer Joel Pink urged Arnold to consider Garnier's adherence to bail conditions, his expression of remorse and more than 30 letters of support in deciding how long Garnier will have to serve before he can apply for parole.

Pink noted there is a common thread amongst the letters of support: that Garnier is a "kind, caring person with a genuine desire to help others."

He noted Garnier does not have a criminal record, and his character does not support the necessity of giving him more than the minimum period of parole ineligibility.

Parole eligibility for second-degree murder must be set between 10 and 25 years.

Pink also noted that Garnier suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder, and because of that, he should serve his sentence at a medium-security prison. He said he does not believe Garnier can get the treatment he needs in a maximum security prison.

In submissions filed with the court in April, Pink had argued that Garnier's PTSD — brought on by the murder itself — should be considered a mitigating factor in his sentencing on the charge of interfering with human remains, relying on a report by Dr. Stephen Hucker.

But that argument was apparently abandoned as the defence told Arnold at the outset of Monday's hearing that the defence was withdrawing Hucker's report from its submissions.

Two reports from other doctors were filed by the defence as part of the hearing, but were not discussed in court.

Arnold heard several emotional victim impact statements Monday.

Campbell's aunt Amanda Wong said she was very close with her niece and often sought her advice.

"I feel the loss every day... There is a hole in my heart," said Wong.

Campbell's sister, Amy Garneau, said her young daughter often lives in fear that the "bad man who hurt her aunt Catherine might get her."

"It breaks my heart that these thoughts are crossing the mind of my now five-year-old daughter," said Garneau, saying her children lost the "perfect role model."

"The silver lining to all of this is that we're able to see how many lives Catherine has touched... That love is what kept us going through it all."

Follow (at)Aly Thomson on Twitter.

Aly Thomson, The Canadian Press

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