Crown queries defendant’s claim of being engaged

‘I loved that man,’ Michelle Bouchard tells court

When her trial enters its third week on Monday, Michelle Bouchard is scheduled to continue being questioned by lead prosecutor Simon Russell-Flint.

Michelle Bouchard
Michelle Bouchard

He began his cross-examination on Friday morning, starting with her journals, parts of which have been read to the jury, and her engagement to James Bruce Handford, who came to Cayman from Australia in 2007.

It is Mr. Handford from whom Bouchard is accused of stealing some two million dollars from joint accounts between May 2010 and October 2012. Now 88 years old, he is back in Australia, residing in a secure care facility on the dementia ward.

Bouchard, now 55, has pleaded not guilty to 26 counts of dishonesty, including thefts and attempts to transfer criminal property.

The jury has already heard that she lived with Mr. Handford in his Seven Mile Beach condo, but she had her own room and they were never physically intimate, although he had expressed an interest in taking their friendship to the next level. She told the court on Friday that she had made her position clear to him: “I was willing to have a full sexual relationship with him if he was willing to address my concerns.”

Her concerns, she agreed, were for her long-term security. She said that in January 2011 he promised her all of his physical assets in Cayman. Mr. Russell-Flint asked if she were obsessed with money and she replied, “I was aware that Jim’s promise would be very beneficial to me if it became a reality …. It was regularly on my mind.”

Questioned about her journals, she agreed that they generally reflected her first waking thoughts. She explained that she had kept the journals as a tool in “The Artist’s Way” approach to spirituality and creativity. Writing things down was a way “to rid myself of concerns, record my love for people in my life and sometimes my fears and insecurities …”

Unfortunately, she sometimes wrote about her frustrations. They were the same frustrations everyone has, but other people did not write them down, she said.

Asked later about another entry, she explained it as “my private conversation with God.”

Asked why she had written in November 2011 that she believed her “gravy train” had decided to leave the station, Bouchard said the expression was unfortunate and crass.

She had been frustrated, sad and angry because she was recovering from surgery and didn’t “hop” when Mr. Handford asked her for something, so he had used crude language toward her.

On March 11, 2012, Bouchard related, she shared with Mr. Handford the news that her former boyfriend in Canada was getting married. She said he replied, “What about us? Why don’t we get engaged?” She said she agreed to marry him.

Mr. Russell-Flint asked if they set a date. “No, because I didn’t have a ring,” she replied.

Asked who knew about the engagement, Bouchard said some girlfriends in Canada and some in Cayman knew. After Mr. Handford left for Australia in May, she was in touch with his daughter Sue about his health, but she did not mention the engagement because “if he wanted to tell his family, that was pretty much up to him.”

She noted that she had also spoken to consultants about possible changes in her immigration status.

Mr. Russell-Flint said he was looking at her journal: “You agreeing to become Mrs. Handford doesn’t seem to get a mention.”

Bouchard replied that on March 13, 2012, Mr. Handford went to the bank and gave instructions to raise $1.5 million from his investment portfolio. “That would be consistent with him addressing my concerns,” she pointed out.

After the lead prosecutor asked more questions, Bouchard told him, “My journal entries are imperfect. They are not a diary and they are not a time sheet.”

He then suggested that Mr. Handford did ask her, “and you didn’t give a definitive answer, but what you did was go out and find a very expensive diamond.”

Bouchard agreed that she spent a great deal of time looking for a diamond because she wanted Mr. Handford to see it before he left for Australia in May.

Mr. Russell-Flint suggested that the engagement was something she had fabricated to cover up her purchase of a $200,000 ring.

Bouchard replied that Mr. Handford was “one of the most intelligent men I had ever met … an incredible man.”

Earlier, when questioned by her attorney, Peter Carter, she explained how she had spent a lot of time with Mr. Handford as his hired interior designer and they shopped for his condo. Then he asked her to assist with a house he was building. She described him as great fun, very adventurous and engaging. They shared many interests, including architecture, motorcycles and traveling.

She stayed in his condo with him for four years. “I did everything in my power to make him comfortable … I loved that man,” she said, commenting that the love might be different from what other people expected.