Cop recalls gory details of Bracebridge murder
WARNING: This article contains graphic information. Reader discretion is advised.
BRACEBRIDGE — Even a seasoned, hardened police officer had difficulty holding back his emotions on the witness stand Tuesday as he recounted the horror when he uncovered the putrefied body parts of a missing woman. Now on trial for first-degree murder and indignity to a body is Ian Borbely, 36, of Orillia. The body parts of his former partner, Samantha Collins, 29, of Bracebridge, were found hidden on a cottage property outside of Bracebridge on Merrick Drive July 5, 2010 — almost three years after she was already dead.
In court on the witness stand, Bracebridge OPP Const. Pete Juneau told the jury he was called to the cottage, owned by a local doctor who had discovered a box with a terrible stench hidden under a crawl space beneath the deck of his cottage.
“The box smelled very foul — it smelled like decayed flesh,” said Juneau.
He said he and the caretaker lifted the heavy contents further away from the cottage and set it on the grass. Then, the caretaker, fearing the worst, left to a more distant vantage point.
Juneau noted the box, about four feet by four feet, was well built, heavily constructed out of plywood and strips of two-by-four lumber, then lined with builder’s plastic vapour barrier. Inside the box were four containers tightly wrapped in dark green garbage bags and packed tightly with foam.
“This box was designed to hold whatever was inside indefinitely,” Juneau said.
As he slowly lifted out one of the containers and cut away the wrapping, he saw it was a white drywall pail. Inside was a sickly, syrupy, brown liquid with something floating in it, but he still did not know what it was.
“The person inside me didn’t want to know, but the cop inside me had to,” said Juneau.
At that point, he used his boot to kick over the bucket so the liquid spilled onto the grass.
“I was hoping I would find puppies inside,” he said.
“And what did you see?” asked Crown attorney Douglas Kasko.
At that point, the officer, formerly dry and concise, lost his composure and bowed his head in silence for a few seconds, then took a deep breath before he could continue speaking.
“The half a torso of a woman fell out, with her left arm,” he said in a choking voice.
“The arm had a wristwatch and there was a ring on the finger.”
The officer said the body parts appeared to be that of a woman or a female child.
“And what did you do next?” asked Kasko.
After another second of silence, Juneau answered, “I looked up at the sky. There were a lot of stars. I think I said, ‘Oh, [expletive]’ ... Then I asked God for help.”
He said he then quickly closed off the area as a crime scene.
But Borbely’s defence lawyer, Paul Cooper, wasn’t convinced the officer’s show of emotion was genuine, noting Juneau has been an officer for 28 years.
“You have been to all kinds of grisly scenes. You’re even known as the guy who is tough as nails,” said Cooper.
“That’s my image,” said the officer.
“You were purposely acting emotional to garner sympathy from the jury, am I right?”
“Absolutely not, sir. I am a human being, and I knew this person,” he said, explaining he later learned the remains were those of Collins, who he had contact with in the town before she disappeared.
“But you would be used to being at grisly scenes like this,” suggested Cooper.
“You get used to the adults,” agreed Juneau. “But never the women and children.”
Sitting alone in court, Collins’s mother appeared to weep as she listened to the troubling evidence.
It was not until one year later that Borbely was arrested at his Orillia home for the murder.
The trial is expected to last four months.