Cooke wasn’t in of­fice on the day of al­leged as­sault, court hears

The Hamilton Spectator - - LOCAL - CARMELA FRAGOMENI

Court has heard from de­fence wit­nesses that abo­rig­i­nal el­der Wal­ter Cooke was not in his of­fice the day he is al­leged to have sex­u­ally as­saulted a young woman last year.

Cooke’s trial on one count of sex­ual as­sault has re­sumed af­ter two days of tes­ti­mony in Jan­uary. Cooke, 68, has pleaded not guilty.

On Wed­nes­day, his lawyer Lau­ren Wil­helm called two of Cooke’s col­leagues, and his wife, to tes­tify.

All said Cooke was not at work at the De dwa da dehs nye> s Abo­rig­i­nal Health Cen­tre on Main Street East where the as­sault was sup­posed to have hap­pened and on the day it took place.

The three, how­ever, ex­pressed some mi­nor doubt later when cross-ex­am­ined by as­sis­tant Crown at­tor­ney An­drew Scott.

The al­leged vic­tim — who was 18 at the time — tes­ti­fied ear­lier to be­ing, early last year, at Cooke’s of­fice, where she of­ten sought ad­vice and coun­selling and that he did a smudg­ing — an abo­rig­i­nal cleans­ing and healing. He fol­lowed that by rub­bing her stom­ach. He then put a hand down her jeans, un­der her un­der­wear, and touched her, she said.

On Wed­nes­day, Cooke’s wife Deb Cooke tes­ti­fied her hus­band did not go to work that day be­cause he was sick and vom­it­ing all day.

By that time, he started to have re­nal fail­ure caused by his di­a­betes and, on that par­tic­u­lar day, “the tox­ins were load­ing up in his body from the kid­ney fail­ure,” she said.

She recorded Cooke’s ap­point­ments and, some­times, his ill­nesses in a med­i­cal jour­nal, but doesn’t be­lieve she noted the vom­it­ing, she said.

“With­out look­ing at my med­i­cal book, I can’t say if I wrote down that he missed work that day.”

She agreed with Scott that she didn’t tell po­lice Cooke was not at work that day un­til Cooke’s trial started two weeks ago.

Con­stance McKnight, the health cen­tre’s ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor, tes­ti­fied Cooke was not at the cen­tre that day be­cause she looked for him and couldn’t find him.

She also said, how­ever, that Cooke was the only one of her 60 em­ploy­ees who didn’t record his work hours be­cause he “had no use for the time sheets,” and that this had frus­trated her.

Mar­i­lyn Wright, the cen­tre’s FASD (fe­tal al­co­hol spec­trum dis­or­der) child nutri­tion pro­gram co-or­di­na­tor, tes­ti­fied she didn’t see Cooke on the day in ques­tion — and the al­leged vic­tim vis­ited Wright’s of­fice the day af­ter, on the day of the week she nor­mally sees both her and Cooke.

Wright ad­mit­ted to Scott later, how­ever, that she did not have any records of the date the woman vis­ited.

“I’m not go­ing to say it’s not pos­si­ble be­cause I guess it could have been,” she said when asked if the woman could have vis­ited her on a day be­fore her usual time.

The trial con­tin­ues on Thurs­day.

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