Kidnapping trial halted for check of jail calls
Alleged victim says in police interview she was in regular contact with accused by phone
An alleged kidnapper’s trial came to a screeching halt Wednesday in Penticton after a recording of a recent police interview surfaced in which one of the victims told police she had been in regular contact with the accused.
Jodie Walker also detailed for police her alleged kidnapping by Afshin Maleki Ighani and the events surrounding it — despite testifying Monday she had no memory of the incident.
Ighani’s trial was promptly put on hold until Jan. 7 to allow police time to get a warrant for records of his jailhouse calls.
The 47-year-old Ighani, who also goes by the name Rai, is accused of taking Walker and her thenboyfriend Christopher Gliege captive on April 22, 2017, while driving between Okanagan Falls and the Lower Mainland.
Ighani, who’s being tried by judge alone in B.C. Supreme Court, has pleaded not guilty to 10 offences, including two counts of kidnapping using a firearm and assault with a weapon.
Court heard Walker, 22, was interviewed by police on Oct. 18, 2018, in regard to the August murder of Jesse McKnight in Oliver. She gave birth to McKnight’s child in September.
In a recording of the interview, Walker told officers: “I talk to Rai all the time. I mean, Rai calls from jail or whatever.”
After further prompting, she continued: “He’s the one who kidnapped me last year with, like, a firearm or whatever, and I have to go to court on coming up in December here.”
One of the officers asked why, and Walker replied: “Because he had a whole bunch of drugs got stolen from him and he thought I knew something about it, which I did not.”
Walker, who was called back to testify at the trial Wednesday morning, confirmed it was her voice on the tape, but denied having contact with Ighani.
She also stuck to her earlier claim she couldn’t remember anything about the alleged kidnapping, details of which she also provided to police in a separate statement the day of the incident.
Defence counsel Paul McMurray said Ighani told him Walker’s claim they’ve spoken since his arrest is “absolutely false.”
McMurray then asked that his cross-examination of Walker be delayed until police have a chance to obtain Ighani’s jailhouse call records, because they could have “significant bearing on Ms. Walker’s credibility.”
Gliege, the other alleged kidnapping victim, has apparently fled to the U.S., and the Crown will be relying instead on his testimony at a preliminary inquiry earlier this year.
Walker said in her initial police statement Ighani had offered her and Gliege $400 for a ride from Okanagan Falls to the Lower Mainland.
As they drove through Manning Park, she said, Ighani had her turn onto a logging road. Ighani then twice ordered Gliege out the car, and on one occasion pointed a gun at Gliege’s head and fired it in the air.
Gliege was left to walk back to safety, while Walker and Ighani drove to a mobile home park in Princeton, where police caught up to them by tracking Walker’s cellphone.
Ighani, who’s still awaiting trial for allegedly assaulting two prisoners and a guard at the Okanagan Correctional Centre, is no stranger to the courts, having been sentenced in 2007 to 42 months in prison for his connection to an Oliver drug ring.
The native of Iran was ordered deported after that conviction, but his departure was stayed because he faced the death penalty in his home country, according to a source with knowledge of the matter.