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'I didn't want her to be alone': Rescuer found woman bloodied, weeping on highway, court hears

Richard Mantha, 59, is accused of drugging and raping seven women. Mantha's trial got underway Friday after a judge denied his request to have separate trials for each complainant. (Richard Mantha/Facebook - image credit)
Richard Mantha, 59, is accused of drugging and raping seven women. Mantha's trial got underway Friday after a judge denied his request to have separate trials for each complainant. (Richard Mantha/Facebook - image credit)

One of the Good Samaritans who stopped on the side of the highway after spotting a bloodied, weeping woman testified at Richard Mantha's sexual assault trial Monday, telling the judge she found the victim on the ground, wet and freezing cold with no shoes.

Mantha, 59, faces 20 charges involving seven alleged victims. He is accused of drugging and sexually assaulting women in Calgary's sex trade.

The Crown's first witness, whom CBC News has identified as Avery, finished her testimony Monday afternoon.

Avery told the court that although she was still working in the sex trade when she was picked up by Mantha on April 22, 2022, she went with the understanding she would be paid to do manual labour for him on his rural property near Chestermere.

Weeping, bloodied and wet

But once there, Avery says Mantha attacked her, physically and sexually.

She testified she fought back and managed to escape, running through farmers' fields toward the highway, where she was found by passersby after collapsing.

Sybil Pridmore, who was driving to Langdon at the time, was one of the first people to pull over and offer help to Avery.

Pridmore testified that at first, Avery was sitting on the ground weeping but eventually curled up into the fetal position. Her pants were down and she was wet and freezing cold.

The first motorist who had stopped got her a blanket. Pridmore testified that Avery had blood on her face and her knuckles were swollen and bloody.

'I didn't want her to be alone'

Pridmore told prosecutor Dominique Mathurin that she called 911 but didn't know what to tell the operator.

"I didn't know where she came from … it's just field."

"There was no shoes, no purse. There was nothing there, just her."

The 911 operator asked if Avery had been assaulted, choked or sexually assaulted. Through Pridmore, Avery answered "yes" to each question.

RCMP arrived and asked Pridmore and the other passerby for help getting Avery into the cruiser.

"I remember holding her … opening the door of the vehicle and thinking, 'Oh my god, it's so warm in there.' But I didn't want to close the door because I didn't want her to be alone in there."

Avery cross-examined

Earlier Monday, Mantha's lawyers suggested Avery's ability to remember was impaired by years of drug use.

Mantha's trial, which got underway Friday, continued Monday with defence lawyer André Ouellette's cross-examination of Avery.

Avery has been sober for nearly 18 months but confirmed to Ouellette that at the time of the alleged incident she'd been addicted to crack cocaine on and off for about 24 years.

Ouellette asked Avery if she agreed that drug use affects memory.

"In some cases, it may have, but in this case, it does not," she replied.

But Ouellette persisted, pointing out that Avery had told police in an interview a month after the alleged attack that her brain was "scrambled" on the day of the incident.

"Your brain was scrambled because you'd been using drugs for a substantial period of time," he suggested.

2 complainants met in rehab

During his cross-examination, Ouellette also pointed out there were numerous times Avery told the investigating police officer that she didn't remember or didn't know the answers to the officer's questions.

During another line of questioning, Avery confirmed she met another of Mantha's alleged victims in addiction recovery treatment but the two didn't realize their connection until recently.

About a month ago, Avery says the two realized they were both complainants in this case after she made a post on Facebook that talked about attending court.

But Avery told Ouellette "there was no discussion" about the details of "what happened with Mantha."

Justice Judith Shriar is presiding over the trial, which is set to last another three weeks.