WINNIPEG — A former political adviser accused of killing his wife outside their Manitoba home while their young children slept says he knew police would consider him a suspect.
Mark Stobbe is accused of attacking Beverly Rowbotham with a hatchet in October 2000, then driving 15 kilometres away to dump her body before bicycling back to their house in St. Andrews.
Stobbe has said he fell asleep while his wife went out for a late-night grocery run and woke up around 2:30 a.m. to find her still gone.
Her body was found several hours later in the family car in a parking lot in Selkirk.
Under intense cross-examination by the Crown regarding minute details about that night, Stobbe said he volunteered some information to police after Rowbotham’s body was found because he knew they would have to “eliminate him” as a suspect.
Stobbe told a police officer he had a life insurance policy for Rowbotham but it had been cancelled.
“I thought it was relevant they know I hadn’t been loading up on insurance for her in the months leading up to her death,” Stobbe told the Crown on his fifth day of testimony.
“Let’s cut to the chase. A number of questions they asked were consistent with me believing they would at least want to look at me as a suspect.”
He said that’s why he also told police the couple had gone to marriage counselling before they moved.
Stobbe rejected suggestions from the Crown that he has bolstered his version of events that night.
Crown attorney Wendy Dawson suggested Stobbe has added 20 new details regarding that night since he gave his statement to police. Stobbe is tailoring his testimony to match evidence given at the trial, she said.
“I’ve tailored nothing and added nothing,” Stobbe said.
“I was being very careful to give as full and as accurate information … as I possibly could.”
While Stobbe couldn’t remember what he was wearing that night, he did tell police how Rowbotham was dressed, right down to her shoes.
“You remember the details of what she was wearing that night because you murdered her and carried her body to the car,” Dawson suggested.
“You knew those shoes came off easily because during this attack on Bev, those shoes came off.”
“There was no attack on Bev by me. That’s all I can say,” Stobbe said calmly as he steadfastly looked at the jury as he has throughout his testimony.
He said he could remember her clothing because she asked him whether she was adequately dressed for the October weather before she left that night.
He said he never heard Rowbotham’s car leave or the garage door open. Stobbe said he also didn’t see her car’s headlights while he watched TV in the living room.
When he realized his wife was missing, Stobbe said he went out to the garage but didn’t see any blood on the floor.
Although Stobbe said he was initially worried his wife had been in a car accident, Dawson pointed out he never asked police or the hospital about whether any accidents had been reported when he called in the early morning.
Stobbe also didn’t call his sister-in-law or mother-in-law to see if his wife was there, but called police instead, Dawson said.
He said all he knew was his wife was missing and he feared the worst.
Stobbe had worked as a senior adviser to former Saskatchewan premier Roy Romanow before moving to Manitoba in the spring of 2000 for a new job with the recently elected government of Gary Doer.
Stobbe said the evening Rowbotham died wasn’t particularly tense despite a meltdown by one of his young sons in the bathtub and a job interview she had the following day.
He acknowledged that the two “had words” after the kids went to bed, but he said it didn’t get heated.
“We had some words but didn’t have any words of anger or recrimination.”
Stobbe’s cross-examination was expected to continue Thursday.