“You don’t go from be­ing choked to dead.”

Christopher Garnier’s de­fense team is play­ing a dan­ger­ous game sug­gest­ing BDSM caused the death of Catherine Camp­bell, says ad­vo­cate.


As soon as she be­came aware of the Christopher Garnier trial, Laura says a fa­mil­iar feel­ing be­gan to sink in.

“Here we go again,” she says. “Here’s an­other per­son us­ing BDSM to cover up abuse.”

A Dart­mouth mem­ber of the BDSM-em­brac­ing So­ci­ety of Bastet, Laura (not her real name) says the nar­ra­tive play­ing out over the last few weeks in a Hal­i­fax court­room will only serve to bol­ster the de­fences used to pro­tect abu­sive men.

Garnier is ac­cused of mur­der­ing Catherine Camp­bell, an off-duty Truro po­lice of­fi­cer. So far the jury has heard tes­ti­mony that the two met at the Ale­house bar down­town on Septem­ber 10, 2015, and later went to an apart­ment on McCully Street. Camp­bell’s re­mains were found the next day be­low the Hal­i­fax­end of the Mac­don­ald Bridge. The Crown al­leges Garnier put Camp­bell’s body into a green com­post bin, and rolled it down North Street be­fore dis­pos­ing of her re­mains.

The au­topsy re­port from Nova Sco­tia med­i­cal ex­am­iner Matthew Bowes shows Camp­bell was choked to death.

Dur­ing de­fense at­tor­ney Joel Pink’s cros­sex­am­i­na­tion of Bowes, the lawyer pre­sented an elab­o­rate hy­po­thet­i­cal sce­nario to the court in­volv­ing a man and woman who met at the Ale­house and en­gaged in rough sex later in the evening. Pink said the hy­po­thet­i­cal woman hy­po­thet­i­cally told the man she had a fan­tasy about be­ing choked and asked him to oblige. She also (hy­po­thet­i­cally) asked him to slap her, which caused her to start bleed­ing. The hy­po­thet­i­cal man left to get a towel, and when he re­turned the woman wasn’t mov­ing.

The im­pli­ca­tion from Pink is that Camp­bell be­came the in­ad­ver­tent vic­tim of fa­tal erotic as­phyx­i­a­tion. But Laura, who has trained in “breath play” for her role over­see­ing safety prac­tices at Bastet events, says Pink’s fan­tasy sce­nario about what hap­pened that night doesn’t add up.

“It doesn’t seem fea­si­ble, from a BDSM point of view,” she says. “You don’t go from be­ing choked to dead.”

Any­one with ba­sic first aid knows there are phys­i­cal signs that emerge when some­one is in dan­ger, says Laura. If some­thing does go wrong, the first ac­tion should be to of­fer med­i­cal as­sis­tance.

“You start CPR, chest com­pres­sions, you call 911,” says Laura. “That’s just be­ing a de­cent hu­man 101.”

This isn’t the first time Laura has been con­cerned about pub­lic mis­un­der­stand­ing of BDSM prac­tices in the courts. Jian Ghome­shi used the fetish to ini­tially de­fend him­self when news of sex­ual as­sault al­le­ga­tions against the for­mer radio host first broke.

Laura says there’s still great con­fu­sion about how BDSM works, and the pri­or­ity that prac­ti­tion­ers place on “safe, sane and con­sen­sual.”

Aside from the mis­con­cep­tions of her com­mu­nity that could arise from the trial, Laura is also con­cerned the de­fense’s tac­tics could act as an ex­cuse for men who abuse their part­ners.

“It could at­tract abusers,” she says. Peo­ple who think, “‘I can get away with this and call it BDSM.’”

The med­i­cal ex­am­iner tes­ti­fied at Garnier’s trial that he had never seen a case of erotic as­phyx­i­a­tion be­fore, and that aside from her chok­ing in­juries he be­lieves Camp­bell’s nose was bro­ken prior to her death.

The trial of Christopher Garnier con­tin­ues for the next two weeks, with a ver­dict ex­pected be­fore Christmas.


Christo­pher Garnier is es­corted into court on Mon­day, De­cem­ber 4.

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