Sunday, March 30, 2008

Victim of fatal beating in Moss Park preferred bench by security lights



Mar 20, 2008 04:30 AM
Peter Small
Courts Bureau

The night Paul Croutch was beaten to death in Toronto's Moss Park, the homeless man was deliberately sleeping in a relatively well-lit area to improve his security, a defence lawyer suggested yesterday

The 59-year-old man lay on a park bench wrapped in plastic garbage bags to ward off the heavy rain, choosing an area where few other homeless people gathered, John Rosen suggested to Toronto police Sgt. Lawrence Hicks.

Hicks agreed.

Croutch placed himself in the middle of the park, near a baseball diamond with bright "security lights" on all night, suggested Rosen, lawyer for Cpl. Jeffery Hall, 24, one of three Canadian reserve soldiers accused of beating the ailing man to death.

"Yes he did," agreed Hicks, a forensic identification unit officer and, by chance, a captain in the Queen's Own Rifles, the very unit to which the three accused soldiers belong. He has testified he does not know the accused.

Cpl. Mountaz Ibrahim, 25, Pte. Brian Deganis, 24, and Hall have pleaded not guilty to second-degree murder in Croutch's beating, which occurred around 4 a.m. on Aug. 31, 2005.

They are also accused of assaulting a Good Samaritan who tried to intervene.

Crown prosecutor Hank Goody has alleged that the three soldiers, at least some under the influence of alcohol, left their unit's Moss Park Armoury, situated at the west end of the park, and kicked and punched Croutch while making derogatory comments about "bums."

His wallet contained $310 in cash and two bank cards. If Croutch had wanted to, he could have gone to one of several nearby shelters, or paid for a cheap hotel room, Rosen suggested.

Hicks agreed.

"It would appear that Mr. Croutch chose to stay in the park," Rosen said.

"Apparently," Hicks said.

Rosen showed to jurors photos of the back of Deganis's truck, which was parked in the armoury parking lot. They reveal it was filled with scores of unopened beer cans and empties.

The Good Samaritan, Valerie Valen, is expected to testify that she saw the three soldiers beating Croutch. But Rosen suggested that with heavy rains that night, visibility would have been poor and a mist may have been wafting through the park. Hicks agreed.

The trial continues today.