The estranged wife of Joshua Boyle told a harrowing tale of alleged confinement, abuse and non-consensual sex Friday as she described how he struck her, tied her ankles and wrists with rope and forced himself on her during an incident after the couple returned to Canada from a five-year ordeal as hostages in Afghanistan.
Caitlan Coleman’s video-link accusations, beamed into Boyle’s criminal trial from a separate room, comprised just one of numerous examples of physical, and emotional abuse and threats that she testified about experiencing, both during and after the couple’s time together in forced captivity.
Boyle, 35, has pleaded not guilty to a number of criminal charges for alleged offences against Coleman, including assault, sexual assault and unlawful confinement.
The couple, seized in 2012 by extremists while on a backpacking trip through central Asia, were freed by Pakistani commandos and returned to Canada in 2017. The stories of their time as hostages and of their release made international headlines.
Coleman, 33, who gave birth to three children while being held for ransom in Afghanistan, held the Ottawa courtroom rapt in describing her post-captivity life as one that left her fearful, humiliated and forced to abide to Boyle’s strict rules — or face the consequences.
At one point, she drew similarities between his alleged behaviour and what she said she endured at the hands of their Taliban-linked hostage takers.
She recalled incidents where Boyle bit her, struck her repeatedly with a broom on her bare buttocks and choked her on Christmas Day in front of one of their children.
Coleman also accused Boyle of drafting a list of strict rules that included a commandment requiring her to make him ejaculate twice a day, seven days a week, or face “chastising” — his word for spanking.
She testified that one of the most difficult incidents for her talk about was from the night of Nov. 27, 2017 — about a month after their return to Canada. He told her he wanted to try anal sex, something she refused but which he insisted was his right.
When she threatened to take their three children and leave, he grew “extremely angry” and hit her, she said. Then Boyle allegedly knocked her to the floor and ordered her to go to the bedroom and remove her clothes.
Alarmed by the look in his eyes, Coleman said she obeyed him.
While face down on the bed, he tied her wrists behind her back and bound her ankles together with ropes that he kept in a bag under a bedside table. She described how she hoped his anger would subside once it was over, and her relief when she realized he had changed his mind about anal sex.
Coleman said she started crying and pleaded with him to untie her. He replied he would let her go as long as she lied in place quietly for 30 minutes.
She said his words made her feel “very similar” to how she felt while she was a hostage.
“The guards would often say similar things to me, ‘If you are good for one day, we will bring your child back. Or if you are good for X amount of time, then we’ll do this or that.’ And then they never did,” said Coleman, who is an American.
“So, I felt hopeful that he would, but (I was) also very frightened.”
After 30 minutes, she asked him again to untie her. “I lied,” she recalled him saying, adding that he wanted to sleep.
Lying naked on the bed, Coleman recalled trying to silently wiggle her wrists enough to loosen the rope. She managed to free her hands and untie her ankles before eventually falling asleep beside Boyle.
“I was so scared and shaken,” she said.
Coleman also described a separate incident in which she alleged he pinned her down and tried to force her to have anal sex, hitting her in the face when she resisted. “It hurt, but it wasn’t the hardest he had ever hit me.”
At times — both during and after captivity — she said she feared he would kill her.
Boyle, who sat in the first row of the public gallery inside the courtroom, watched Coleman on the TV screen and appeared to pay close attention to her testimony. Through most of it, he jotted down notes on a large pad.
Coleman also went into detail about Boyle’s list of household rules, which she said required her to adhere to a strict weight-loss regime of cutting calories and exercising. She had to log her progress, or lack thereof, on a daily basis.
In late December 2017, she said he was satisfied she had actually lost the weight he had asked her to lose for that week.
“However, despite trying, I had been unsuccessful as far as the number of times in that past week he wished to be sexually satisfied,” said Coleman, who recalled she had only succeeded six or seven times. He gave her the option of choosing the item he would use to spank her.
“I chose a broom because I knew that if I chose something that would not be painful enough to satisfy him, then he would be even angrier and probably the punishment would be worse,” she said.
Coleman will resume her testimony Monday.
Andy Blatchford, The Canadian Press