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Complainant takes the stand at sexual assault trial in St. John's

Thomas Patrick McGrath, 41, sits in a provincial courtroom Tuesday morning in St. John’s.
Thomas Patrick McGrath, 41, sits in a provincial courtroom Tuesday morning in St. John’s. - Tara Bradbury

'I was scared and trying to get someone to help me'

For the first time since Thomas Patrick McGrath's sexual assault trial began, defence lawyer Jason Edwards had questions for a witness Tuesday.

Edwards had declined to cross-examine the eight previous witnesses in the trial, saying he had no questions for any of them. It wasn't until the complainant testified that Edwards' questioning began.

The woman stood in the witness box behind a screen, which blocked her view of McGrath as she presented her timeline of the events of last Jan. 28.

The woman said she had been planning to stay at the home of two friends for the night, having a few drinks and playing cards. They had decided to go to a bonfire at the home of a neighbour she had never met, and it was there that she met McGrath, 41.

The woman told the court her friends had begun arguing and wanted to go home, and she decided to stay at the bonfire because she didn't want to listen to them fight. Her plan was to go back to the house later, she said. The woman said she and McGrath ended up being the last two at the gathering, and he pressured her into dancing with him.

"I told him that I was cold and that I wanted to stand by the fire. He put me onto his lap," she told the court, explaining he had put his hands on her waist and pulled her onto him, before putting one hand on her breast and the other inside her pants, then inserting his fingers in her vagina.

"I never said anything. I kept my legs closed because I didn't like what he was doing to me," the woman testified. "I didn't move. I was too drunk."

McGrath was also drunk, she said.

The woman said she remembered being on the ground at one point, with McGrath forcing her mouth onto his penis, telling her how much she liked it. She said she managed to activate an emergency feature on her iPhone by pressing the side button five times, resulting in a call to 911, but she was unable to speak when the operator answered. 911 dispatch records presented in court corroborated this evidence.

"That was when I was down on my knees and I didn't like what was happening to me and I was scared and I was trying to get someone to help me," she testified.

"I don't remember how it ended, but I do remember feeling very sick when it did end. I vomited instantly."

The woman said she told McGrath she needed to go home and then walked to her friends' house, but found the door locked. She returned to the bonfire and McGrath offered to let her stay at his house for the night, but she called a taxi instead, she said.

The woman went to the hospital that night, where she agreed to a sexual assault exam. The exam report noted a bruise on her arm, broken blood vessels on the roof of her mouth, and redness and tenderness in her genital area and cervix.

"She was tearful, shaking, had makeup running down her face and there was mud on her pants up to the knees," a nurse testified earlier in the trial.

Forensic identification officers took the woman's mud-stained pants as well as her underwear, which was stained with blood. According to investigators, the woman had not had a menstrual cycle in more than a year due to birth control medication.

Forensic testing of swabs taken from the woman's mouth and genitals found no other DNA apart from her own.

During his cross-examination, Edwards questioned the woman on why she had not banged on her friends' door to wake them up when she found herself locked out, why she never called 911 again, why there was mud on only one knee of her pants, and why she wasn't able to recall any conversation between herself and McGrath apart from him making a statement implying that he wanted to have intercourse with her.

"Is that what you remember, or is that what you remember from your statement (to police at the time)?" Edwards asked.

"That's what I remember from my statement," the woman replied.

"So you refreshed your memory prior to coming in, based on your statement (to police)?" Edwards asked.

"Yes, last week," the woman said.

Crown prosecutor Shawn Patten intends to call two more witnesses to testify before it will be Edwards' turn to call evidence in the case. It's not known whether or not McGrath plans to take the stand.

However, a video of his interview with RNC investigators was played for the court. In it, McGrath insisted he had not sexually assaulted the woman. He acknowledged they had been the last two people at the bonfire, and said the woman had left to go to her friend's house, where she was staying. She returned shortly thereafter, he said, crying because she was locked out and had nowhere to go.

"I told her she had one of two options," McGrath said. "She could get a taxi home or she could come and sleep on my couch. She called a cab and went on home or somewhere."

McGrath's trial will resume Dec. 20.

Twitter: @tara_bradbury

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Trial begins for man accused of sexually assaulting woman in C.B.S.

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