Lawrence Thompson was arrested and charged with abduction, kidnapping, sexual assault and sexual interference May 14, 2018.
His trial began late Monday, and the pandemic means many participants are taking part virtually. Thompson and his defence lawyer, Lakin Afolabi, were in a courtroom Monday. The first witness, the now seven-year-old girl, appeared via video from a separate room, with a support dog nestled next to her on a couch.
Her identity is protected by a publication ban.
In a roughly 40-minute video of the child’s statement to police on May 13, 2018 that was played in court, she tells the officer interviewing her that she is nearly five years old.
She shows him a sliver in her toe from gymnastics and he moves the room’s furniture around so she can show off a cartwheel. Then, he explains to her the difference between telling a lie and telling the truth.
“When you’re talking to me, I’m going to ask that you don’t lie okay? Because this is really important stuff,” he said. “I don’t make stuff up,” she replies.
Looking for ladybugs
The young girl tells the officer that she had been riding her bike and had put it in the garage of her parents’ northeast London home, and had been looking for ladybugs before the man approached her.
“He picked me up on a baby size,” she says in the video. The child later clarified, when being questioned by Crown attorney Kristina Mildred during Monday’s hearing, that she meant he had slung her over his shoulder before putting her in the car.
In the video of her police statement, the girl at four years old is restless. Sometimes she’s on the floor, sometimes she’s on the couch, sometimes she’s rocking back and forth with her feet in the air.
At one point, she goes up to the officer and whispers in his ear, “This one is going to be a secret. He pulled down my pants.”
She tells the officer the man laid her down on his lap, on her tummy, and that nothing else happened. When asked if the man said anything, she said no.
“I said I might take out his eyeballs and cut him up and have him for dinner!,” she exclaims. But when asked if she really said that to the man, she tells the police officer “No.”
‘I didn’t like what he did’
There are differences in the story the four-year-old girl tells the police officer and the story she told in court Monday. For example, she told the officer nearly three years ago that she punched, kicked and slapped the man who kidnapped her.
On Monday, she told the court that didn’t happen, and she doesn’t know why she said it did.
She also said more about what happened in the car. The child told the court that Thompson pulled her onto his lap in the car, on her tummy, pulled her pants and underwear down to her ankles, and slapped her bum.
“Just once,” she said.
Then, she said, he put her back into the passenger seat and started driving. He asked where she lived and he pulled into her neighbour’s driveway and she ran home to her family, she said.
“I told them that I got kidnapped,” she said. “I didn’t like what he did.”
On Tuesday, the seven-year-old will be cross-examined by Afolabi, the defence. Mildred, the Crown, expects to call on four more witnesses, including the girl’s father.
The trial is expected to last five days.
Thompson is being transported from the Niagara Detention Centre to the London courthouse each day for the hearings. He can’t be kept at Elgin-Middlesex Detention Centre for the duration of the trial, the court heard, because of an outbreak of COVID-19.
Accused faced previous sex charges
Court records show that Thompson faced sexual assault and sexual interference charges in 2009, but they were eventually withdrawn and he entered into a peace bond.
That means he had to be on good behaviour.
Thompson was a custodian with a Thames Valley District School Board (TVDSB) elementary school. According to the school board, he worked for them until 2014.