Man refused to get help before wife slain: witness
JOHN WOODS / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS FILES
Alche Fsehaye Kidane is removed from her home after police received a 911 call from her husband in which he confessed to killing her.
Less than a month before Alche Fsehaye Kidane was allegedly stabbed to death by her husband, she begged him to get mental-health treatment, but he refused, court was told Wednesday at the second-degree murder trial of Teklu Tesfamichael Mebrahtu.
Kidane and her brother had enlisted help from an English-speaking neighbour who called 911 several times over the course of two days in mid-December 2011 to report that Mebrahtu was "sick mentally" and needed to go to the hospital.
Although the dispatcher explained police couldn’t force someone to go to the doctor, police were eventually dispatched to the couple’s home. At the time, Kidane was too scared to tell them her husband had been carrying around a knife, claiming he was being followed. She wanted him to get treatment, not go to jail.
About a month later, she was dead.
The couple’s former neighbour, Idris Tesfaghiorghis, recounted the events in court Wednesday as the 911 calls he made were played for Court of Queen’s Bench Justice Shawn Greenberg. He testified he wanted to keep an eye on Mebrahtu and his wife because he was "scared for her," based on what he had heard about Mebrahtu’s behaviour — he stopped eating and drinking, talked about people following him and spoke "badly" about his wife, he reported to 911 dispatchers.
During apolice interview, Alche Fsehaye Kidane's husband admitted to kililng her.
Mebrahtu believed his wife was trying to poison him and was conspiring with other people who were following him, according to another friend who testified Wednesday. Police were called to Mebrahtu’s home in December 2011 because he believed two men were about to rob or hurt him, court heard. Officers searched the area but couldn’t find anyone matching the description Mebrahtu had provided.
Mebrahtu and his wife, who hailed from Eritrea, arrived in Canada via Sudan in the summer of 2011. Less than six months later, the 34-year-old Kidane was found dead in the bathtub in the couple’s Assiniboine Avenue apartment suite.
Mebrahtu’s defence team argues that while he did cause his wife’s death, he was suffering from a mental disorder and didn’t have the criminal intent necessary to be convicted of murder.
Defence lawyer Wendy Martin White opened her case Wednesday, trying to establish that Mebrahtu was mentally unfit at the time of his wife’s death.
Yohannes Tekie, a friend who grew up with Mebrahtu in Eritrea and now lives in Winnipeg, testified that in the weeks before Kidane’s death, Mebrahtu would call him repeatedly, claiming people were following him and that his wife was trying to poison him or conspire to have him killed. Tekie said the accused believed his wife had worked out an arrangement with unknown hitmen.
"He said she can pay them through sex," he testified.
Tekie said, at first, he advised Mebrahtu to call police, but when it became clear his claims were "nonsense," he said he tried to get help for him. Mebrahtu refused to see a doctor.
"I did my part and I offered," he said. "There is not anything I can do to help him."
Tekie said he ran into his friend about three days before Kidane’s death. Mebrahtu was working as a cleaner at Manitoba Public Insurance when Tekie arrived for a driving test and he "looked good" and appeared healthier than the last time they’d seen each other, when Mebrahtu wasn’t eating, Tekie said.
In response to questions from Crown attorney Kyle Parker, Tekie said after that chance meeting he was still concerned that Mebrahtu needed medical attention.
He testified Mebrahtu has called him from jail to talk about conspiracies, claiming the government is spying on him.
"Most of the calls I get from him are to tell me about spying or conspiracies," Tekie said.
On one occasion, he phoned jail officials to warn them about comments Mebrahtu had made about someone following him while he was in custody — it reminded Tekie of Mebrahtu’s behaviour before his wife’s death.
"I had the same kind of worry about what’s going to happen," he said.
The Crown closed its case against Mebrahtu Wednesday after playing his 5.5-hour videotaped interview with police. Before officers arrived to interview him, Mebrahtu talked to himself in his first language, Tigrinya. Speaking in a repetitive and agitated manner, he said "she inculpated/incriminated me," according to the translated video transcript, and spoke of "her cursed brother."
Kidane’s brother had sponsored the couple to come to Winnipeg.
"My soft heart became cruel... I did something no man does," Mebrahtu said.
During the police interview, he admitted he had killed Kidane with a knife.