A lawyer for Joshua Boyle suggested Wednesday his wife made up a story that he struck her in the face at their Ottawa apartment in the months after the couple were freed from captivity in Afghanistan.
During cross-examination in Ontario court, lawyer Lawrence Greenspon painstakingly dissected Caitlan Coleman's allegations that Boyle repeatedly assaulted her before she fled their home in late 2017.
Boyle, 35, has pleaded not guilty to offences against Coleman that include assault, sexual assault and unlawful confinement.
Greenspon quizzed Coleman about a December 2017 incident in which she says Boyle hit her in the face following an argument in their dining room.
After pressing her for details of the argument, the number of times Boyle struck her and how she reacted, Greenspon floated the notion that Coleman had invented the altercation.
"I'm going to suggest to you that this incident you describe in the dining room did not occur," he said.
Coleman flatly rejected Greenspon's assertion.
Boyle and Coleman were seized by extremists in Afghanistan during a 2012 backpacking trip and rescued five years later by Pakistani forces. Coleman gave birth to three children while being held by the Taliban-linked group.
She has told the court that she and her husband were abused by their captors. But Coleman said she also suffered violence at the hands of her husband, including frequent spankings on the buttocks, punches and slaps to the face, choking and biting.
Following their release, the couple flew back to Canada, staying for a time with Boyle's parents in Smiths Falls, Ont. They then left for an Ottawa hotel, eventually settling into the apartment.
Coleman has testified her husband's violent ways continued, dashing hopes of a more harmonious marriage.
Boyle made a late-night 911 call on Dec. 30, 2017, to say Coleman had run screaming from the apartment, threatening to kill herself.
Police responded and found Coleman just over an hour later at a downtown hotel with her mother Lyn, who was visiting from Pennsylvania.
Ottawa police Sgt. Shane Henderson has told the court that Coleman provided a detailed statement saying she was trying to get away from her husband because he had threatened to kill her and had assaulted her "numerous times," including just hours earlier.
Boyle was arrested in the early hours of Dec. 31, 2017.
He sat in the public gallery of the courtroom Wednesday taking notes about the proceedings, betraying little emotion during his estranged wife's testimony.
Coleman said she decided to escape her husband the night of Dec. 30 when he punched her in the face with his fist and possibly slapped her — she cannot recall — after telling her to remain in the bedroom.
"In essence I think that was the turning point," she told the court Wednesday.
During questioning, Greenspon noted that there was no indication of bruising or other marks on Coleman's face in police photographs taken the next day.
Coleman recounted how, before slipping out of the apartment, she retrieved her passport and those of her children from a red zippered bag.
"It was a great concern for me to leave the children with Josh," she testified. But she wanted their passports because she was also afraid "that he might just take the children and disappear."
Greenspon suggested Coleman made sure she had the passports because she wanted to bring the children with her to the United States at some point. "That was your thinking."
Coleman firmly disagreed, saying she had no intention of taking the children across the border. "That was not my reason for taking the passports that night."
The trial continues Thursday with testimony from a Global Affairs Canada employee, and cross-examination of Coleman is expected to resume later.