Trial begins in case of body dumped in North Van

Crown alleges Surrey man choked girlfriend to death after drug binge

HARVEY Bracken choked his girlfriend to death, then cut her throat and drove to North Vancouver, where he dumped her body next to a park, a Crown prosecutor said in the opening of a trial Monday in B.C. Supreme Court.

Bracken, a 50-year-old Surrey man, is on trial before Justice Gregory Fitch for manslaughter in the death of Jennifer Ferguson, 40, on Jan. 22 last year.

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Bracken and Ferguson had been living together for three months at the time she died, said Crown counsel Kristin Bryson.

Ferguson, who suffered from migraine headaches, was addicted to morphine and living on disability benefits at the time of her death. Both she and Bracken used crack cocaine and had been on a drug binge for three days before getting into an argument on the evening of Jan. 22, said Bryson.

Ferguson wanted Bracken to get more cocaine and he refused, she said.

The Crown's theory is Bracken "choked and struck" Ferguson, resulting in her death. At some point - most likely after her death - Bracken used a blade to cut Ferguson's throat, said Bryson. An autopsy showed marks left by a sharp-edged tool on her neck vertebrae.

Bryson said Bracken then wrapped Ferguson's body in a duvet, covered it with construction-grade plastic and bound it with wire. Sometime late on Jan. 22 or in the early morning hours of Jan. 23, Bracken put Ferguson's body in the back of a pick-up truck and drove to Kirkstone Park in North Vancouver where he dumped it, said Bryson.

The wooded lot across from the park was near a construction site on Fromme Road where Bracken was working at the time.

Bryson said shortly before her death, Ferguson spoke to her aunt on the phone and had been planning to visit her daughter, who was living with her aunt at the time.

When Ferguson didn't show up, her relatives called her apartment and spoke with Bracken, who said she had left the building and he didn't know where she was.

Ferguson's relatives spoke with Bracken three times and were told each time "he did not know where Ms. Ferguson was," said Bryson.

Eventually they called the police to report her missing.

On Feb. 2, 2011, a resident who was out for a walk found Ferguson's body in a wooded lot across the road from the North Vancouver park. A pathologist who examined the body was unable to determine the cause of death.

Police kept Bracken under surveillance for more than a week after Ferguson's body was found while he continued to show up for his North Vancouver construction job.

Bracken didn't return to the apartment in Surrey, said Bryson, but stayed with family and friends in the Lower Mainland.

He was arrested Feb. 10, 2011 in Burnaby.

He was interviewed seven times by police, said Bryson, starting the day before Ferguson's body was found.

Bryson said the fourth interview - conducted on Feb. 11 by members of the RCMP's major crimes section - is the key interview in the case. It is also the most controversial of Bracken's interactions with police, she said, because of the involvement of a friend and sometime employer of Bracken, Simon Rogers, in the interview.

It is during this interview that "Mr. Bracken makes his first admissions in regards to Ms. Ferguson's death," Bryson said.

Bryson said all of Bracken's interactions with both Rogers and police officers were recorded - both in and out of the interview room.

The five-week trial began this week with a voir dire - a trial within a trial - held to determine which of the police interviews with Bracken can be included as evidence.

Bracken's defence lawyer is arguing some of the statements should not be included.

Fitch - who is hearing the case without a jury - can expect more than 30 hours of audio and video interviews to be played as part of the voir dire, said Bryson.

Ferguson, who also went by the name Jennifer Sondergaard, was a mother of three children who range in age from late teens to early 20s.

The trial continues.

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