Ex-hostage Boyle says he hit wife with broom only because she asked him

OTTAWA — Joshua Boyle acknowledges hitting his wife Caitlan Coleman with a broom after they were freed from overseas captivity, but says he did it only because she asked to be spanked.

Under cross-examination in Ontario court, Boyle denied Tuesday that he struck, choked or bit Coleman in anger while they lived together in Ottawa.

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Boyle, 36, has pleaded not guilty to offences against Coleman, including assault, sexual assault and unlawful confinement in the period of October to December 2017.

The incidents are alleged to have taken place after he and Coleman returned to Canada following five years as prisoners of Taliban-linked extremists, who seized them during a 2012 backpacking trip to Afghanistan.

Boyle has portrayed Coleman as unstable, violent and prone to fits. He says he had decided before being released to leave her, but didn't want their three children born in captivity to associate freedom with immediately losing a parent. As a result, he planned to break off the marriage gradually, initially taking separate vacations before parting ways permanently.

Crown prosecutor Jason Neubauer has accused Boyle of being obsessively controlling, assaulting his wife on several occasions and prompting her to finally flee their home in stocking feet despite Ottawa's bitter cold on Dec. 30, 2017.

As Boyle sat in the witness box, Neubauer alleged he hit Coleman with a broom as a punishment in late December 2017.

Coleman has testified that Boyle struck her with the broom for failing to satisfy him sexually.

Boyle has told the court that hitting her on the backside with the broom was unrelated to anything sexual. He said last week that Coleman had shoved one of the children, struggled with self-loathing and wanted to be punished.

"She asked to be spanked with the broom. She was worked up and insistent."

On Tuesday, as Neubauer tried to pick apart his testimony, Boyle said his now-estranged wife often made such requests.

"I shrugged and gave her a few half-hearted swats," he said. "It was not uncommon for her to ask to be spanked."

Neubauer said Boyle hit her out of anger.

"You struck her hard with that broom, Mr. Boyle. You struck her seven or eight times."

Boyle could not remember how many time he hit Coleman but said the swats were not hard enough to be painful and when she indicated any discomfort he stopped. "It was a ceremony, in her mind."

Asked by Neubauer what was going through his own mind at the time, Boyle said he was hoping Coleman was satisfied with the swatting but that he was generally annoyed by the episode.

"I was tired of indulging her fantasies," he told the court. "I was looking to get a divorce."

Neubauer's questions were just one element of a painstaking dissection of Boyle's testimony that is slated to stretch into Wednesday.

—Follow @JimBronskill on Twitter

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