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Former Bridgewater police chief blames booze for messages, denies sex assault

Former Bridgewater police chief John Collyer, left, and his lawyer David Bright walk toward a courtroom in Bridgewater last week. - Josh Healey
Former Bridgewater police chief John Collyer, left, and his lawyer David Bright walk toward a courtroom in Bridgewater last week. - Josh Healey

Although he admitted to investigators he sent “inappropriate” messages, former Bridgewater police chief John Collyer vehemently denies sexually assaulting a teenage girl in 2016.

The court spent hours reviewing a videotaped interview in which Collyer acknowledged he sent sexually charged messages to a 17-year-old while drinking, calling it a “piss-poor excuse.”

Over the course of the five-hour interrogation, Collyer repeatedly denied allegations that he sexually assaulted the girl while driving her in his sports car three years ago.

The video was presented at Nova Scotia Supreme Court in Bridgewater on Monday and showed police asking Collyer if he had a romantic or sexual interest in the teen.

Last week, the young woman testified that Collyer and his wife treated her well and were like second parents to her.

Her testimony culminated with an allegation that Collyer stuck his fingers into the young woman’s vagina while driving.

In addition to sexual assault, the 26-year police veteran is also charged with sexual exploitaiton.

The interview was conducted by Sgt. Brian Richardson, a member of the RCMP’s truth verification unit, on Dec. 20, 2016.

During the interview, Richardson informed Collyer about the scope of the allegations against him and asked him dozens of questions about his relationship to the complainant.

Collyer said he had been advised by his lawyer, David Bright, not to give a statement.

However, after some time, Richardson and Collyer spoke about their shared profession and began to discuss how he met — and ultimately bonded — with the complainant.

Due to a publication ban to protect the young woman’s identity, many details of the interview cannot be revealed but Collyer said he came to think of the complainant and her family as part of his own.

“It’s been terrible,” he said, later adding that he felt betrayed by the accusations.

When Richardson tried to return to the complainant’s allegations, Collyer demanded to either be charged or let go.

But Collyer did eventually start to talk again, especially once he was shown screenshots of Facebook messages he had sent to the complainant.

The messages asked about playing truth or dare, foot rubs and getting in “trouble” in the minor’s room.

When pushed, Collyer said he didn’t remember sending the messages because he was drinking at the time.

“I can’t believe I sent that,” he said. “I can be a bit of a tool when I’m drinking and say stuff that I regret and I certainly regret that.”

Richardson then asked if he was ever drinking while around the complainant, which Collyer denied; he noted he has since sought help from a psychologist for his drinking and other problems.

Although the publication ban limits what can be shared, much of Collyer’s account of the day of the alleged assault is similar to the complainant’s testimony.

Both Collyer and the young woman went into great detail about the events leading up to and following the car ride, the only real deviation being in the car ride itself where the alleged sexual assault was said to have happened.

Collyer said the two chatted on the drive but he didn’t remember much. The woman has testified that he placed his hand between her legs and penetrated her with his fingers.

He also said his car was a standard, saying that would make the woman's version of events impossible.

At one point, Collyer told Richardson things would come down to his word against hers.

Crown attorney Roland Levesque said Collyer’s recollection only bolstered the young woman’s credibility.

“I think a lot of what was said in the statement corroborates to a pretty significant degree what the complainant had to say,” he said.

Still, Collyer said multiple times throughout the video that admitting to the messages didn’t mean the sexual assault allegations were true.

Collyer also added anyone who knows him knows he would never take advantage of a child.

The trial is adjourned until Sept. 9; Levesque said he expects Collyer will testify.

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