CALGARY — The lawyer for a man who admits he strangled his wife and buried her body in their home says his client was acting in self-defence, but the Crown is arguing he made up stories of domestic abuse to avoid a murder conviction.
The two sides made their closing arguments Thursday in the second-degree murder trial of Allan Shyback.
Shyback, 40, is also charged with causing an indignity to the body of Lisa Mitchell, 31, who was last seen alive in Calgary in October 2012.
An undercover “Mr. Big” sting operation was launched in 2013 and ended with Shyback’s confession and arrest in Winnipeg a year later.
Defence lawyer Balfour Der said the onus of proof is on the prosecution and the accused must get the benefit of reasonable doubt.
“Hearkening back to that quotation from that old English case about a thousand suspicious circumstances does not equal proof,” Der said in his address to Justice Rosemary Nation.
“There has to be a solid anchorage from which this guilt would be found. In my respectful submission, it isn’t here.”
On the stand this week, Shyback said he had been the victim of domestic abuse for nearly a decade. He said she had attacked him with a knife the day she was killed.
He also admitted to placing her body in a Rubbermaid container and cementing it into the wall in the basement.
“It’s gruesome,” Der said. “It’s a terrible thing to have done — to have taken this woman and folded her into a tub and cemented her the basement.”
But Shyback also told court he didn’t try to kill his wife, loved her and was defending himself, Der pointed out.
“That type of evidence should resonate with you and there should, at the very least, be reasonable doubt here, if not a finding that it is positively established that there was self-defence.”
Prosecutor Jayme Williams said Shyback’s version of events appeared to be tailored to fit his story of abuse and noted he had told an undercover officer he was going to have to put a “good spin” on the facts to avoid a murder charge.
Shyback’s account that he was trying to protect himself when Mitchell came at him with a knife was inconsistent and contradictory, Williams said.
“It is lacking in details and … appeared in some ways that it may have been tailored to fit, at best, the description that he had given to the undercover officers and still make it look like it was an accident or was defending himself,” she said.
Williams said Shyback’s testimony appeared geared at putting him in the best possible light.
“He’s also extremely cautious to ensure that he looked like he was an abused spouse and an innocent victim rather than someone who was part of an aggressive, hostile relationship,” Williams said.
“He is trying to make the description of what happened look best for him under the circumstances. There were only two people in the house that day and one of those people ended up buried in the basement so there’s only one that can tell us what happened.”
In response, Der said the Crown did not prove its case.
“The prosecution resorting to these type of arguments is desperation on their part and an inability to prove the case on the evidence. They need you to resort to baseless speculation, which you cannot.”
Nation reserved her decision until May 18.
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Bill Graveland, The Canadian Press