A Grand Court jury of four men and three women retired Wednesday afternoon to consider evidence in the trial of Michelle Bouchard.
Justice Paul Worsley directed them to return separate verdicts on each of 26 counts on the indictment.
Bouchard is charged with 15 counts of theft totaling more than $2 million from James Bruce Handford between May 2010 and October 2012, as well as one count of forgery, one of obtaining property by deception, three counts of transferring criminal property and six counts of attempting to transfer criminal property.
Before they retired at 1:26 p.m. to consider their verdict, Justice Worsley instructed jurors on the law and reviewed the evidence. He said the prosecution’s case was that Bouchard was a scheming gold digger, while the defense said she was in a caring relationship with Mr. Handford and had access to money with no restrictions.
The issue was whether Bouchard was acting dishonestly when she used money in both a U.S. and a CI joint account she held with Mr. Handford, the judge said.
Justice Worsley called the jury back at 4:40 p.m. Wednesday and instructed them to return Thursday morning to continue their deliberations.
Mr. Handford, now 88 and residing in a secure care facility in Australia, suffers from dementia. He gave statements to police in October 2012. There were earlier indications that he was having memory problems. The judge said the defense was asking jurors to consider Mr. Handford’s mental state at the time; the prosecution said Mr. Handford’s statements were detailed and gave a balanced account of his relationship with Bouchard.
Mr. Handford’s first statement said he met Bouchard after he bought a condominium that required decorating and the management company hired her. She subsequently asked to stay in a spare room for a few months while she got on her feet after losing her job. She offered to do secretarial work and her payment would be room and board.
Mr. Handford opened a joint account so she could pay his bills, he said in his statement. Then he added her to his U.S. account to facilitate a business she wanted to develop – buying an old property, refurbishing it and selling it at a profit. She would keep the profit, which he approved of as a way for her to build a nest egg. She knew she could not buy a property without his approval.
At no time did he tell her she could transfer cash from their joint account to her personal account and it was understood his initial investment had to be returned, Mr. Handford recorded in his statement.
“Anyone who knows me knows I do not hand out hundreds of thousands of dollars to anyone, not even my own children,” he said.
Mr. Handford further indicated that properties were to be purchased in Cayman, so no money should have been transferred to Canada.
Over the years, Mr. Handford said, he developed feelings for Bouchard and asked about taking their relationship to the next level of boyfriend-girlfriend, but she was not interested in a physical relationship. On a few occasions, she asked him to buy her jewelry and he thought they were taking the relationship further, so he bought them.
In his statement, he said while he was in Australia [his native country, which he visited each year], he asked if she wanted to get engaged and she said she would look for a ring. He said they did not get engaged and he never saw the ring.
He had been asked if he had signed a credit card authorization form; he did not recall any conversation about signing because he had the cash to pay. Shown a document, he could not say whether the signature was his.
When he was shown bank statements in September 2012, he was shocked, he said. It was the first time he had looked at them in a few years.
From May 2012 to September 2012, Bouchard had transferred more than $1 million dollars from the joint accounts to her personal accounts. She had no authorization to do so, he said.
He added that he was not complaining about her paying her credit cards from the joint accounts or withdrawing small amounts.
The defense pointed to inaccuracies in Mr. Handford’s statements, including the fact that the U.S. joint account was new, not one Bouchard was added to, and Mr. Handford had asked Bouchard about becoming engaged when he was in Cayman, not Australia.
A statement from Dr. Clement von Kirchenheim was read to the jury. Dated Nov. 21, 2012, it says Mr. Handford was referred for assessment. There was no evidence of delusions, hallucinations or other symptoms suggesting a major psychological or psychiatric disorder.
Testing indicated he was suffering from significant deficits in his higher learning functions. He was oriented to time and place and his concrete memory as measured by vocabulary was intact. However, his thinking fluidity was impaired. One test of connecting a series of numbers took him four minutes and 10 seconds; it should have taken 30 seconds. On another test, he was not able to remember the instructions.
According to the report, although Mr. Handford might appear to be only marginally impaired, through his social skills and vocabulary, he was suffering from considerable impairment in all his higher learning functions, including verbal and visual memory, reasoning and problem solving.