Accused quadruple murderer John Brittain has been ordered to have no contact with his ex-wife, despite his lawyer arguing the pair are "isolated" and need each other for support.
Brittain is accused of the shooting death of Susan and Barry Wonch, Rudi Winter and Darlene Knippelberg on April 15, all of whom were neighbours of Katherine Brittain. John and Katherine were separated at the time but remained close, according to John's lawyer Paul McMurray.
Crown counsel argued that a no-contact order would ensure no tampering with potential testimony as they may be calling Katherine as a witness.
"We're still in the early stages of understanding the complexities of the relationship between Mr. and Ms. Brittain," counsel said. "Even if the conversations are monitored the potential damage may be done once communication is made, and monitoring won't prevent the potential impact on the integrity of the evidence. "
The Crown said the order was being sought simply out of "an abundance of caution."
John Brittain's lawyer opposed the application, saying his client has been properly advised about how to be cautious with their communications.
He said both Katherine and John are aware she may be called as a Crown witness, but are a close pair who despited being separated in their marriage rely on each other.
"They were supportive of each other, they still are supportive of each other, and Ms. Brittain has related to me that she is isolated, she is somewhat of a prisoner in her own home," McMurray said. "She has no support in the community, and she does have limited contact with Mr. Brittain, he has corresponded with her, I think they've had one telephone conversation."
McMurray confirmed Katherine has given a statement to the police, and that some documents have been seized from her home relating to her relationship with the victims of the shooting.
He said the Okanagan Correctional Centre is capable of monitoring all contact between the pair, and that there would be no private communication, since any conversations would be "under a microscope."
"The risk of interfering with the integrity of the investigation, in my submission, is minimal," McMurray said. "It could have been possible up until now and hasn't been. [Mr. Brittain] is a man that up until these events has not been in any difficulty with the law, he's 68 years old, he has been cautioned about the potential for being accused of obstructing if he attempts to influence Ms. Brittain ... any communication is meant to be of a supportive nature."
Throughout McMurray's arguments, some family and friends of the shooting victims, who have lined the front bench in the gallery at each of John Brittain's appearances, were visibly upset. Some breathed an audible sigh of relief when Judge Greg Koturbash made his ruling: Approval for the no-contact order.
Koturbash cited the ongoing nature of the investigation, and a lack of faith in the communications monitoring process.
"I'm not entirely confident that monitoring can effectively take place," Koturbash said, going on to reference the recent case of dangerous offender Ronald Teneycke being able to send a letter to one of his victims, despite a no-contact order being in place and his communications theoretically monitored.
John Brittain will now be subject to additional charges if he breaks the order and communicates with Katherine Brittain, except through a lawyer. The no-contact order will need to be renewed at each of his appearances, the next of which is set for June 26.
- Chelsea Powrie, Castanet