Nunatsiaq News
NEWS: Montreal February 06, 2018 - 10:30 am

Accused killer of Nellie Angutiguluk “wanted to get rid of her,” witness says

Kwasi Benjamin, 32, on trial for 2015 homicide of 29-year-old Puvirnituq woman

COURTNEY EDGAR
Kwasi Alfred Benjamin, 32, is on trial in Montreal for the 2015 homicide of Nellie Angutiguluk, 29, of Puvirnituq. (SVPM PHOTO)
Kwasi Alfred Benjamin, 32, is on trial in Montreal for the 2015 homicide of Nellie Angutiguluk, 29, of Puvirnituq. (SVPM PHOTO)
Nellie Angutiguluk, 29, was found dead inside an apartment in Montreal's Côte-des-Neiges neighbourhood on May 18, 2015. (SPVM PHOTO)
Nellie Angutiguluk, 29, was found dead inside an apartment in Montreal's Côte-des-Neiges neighbourhood on May 18, 2015. (SPVM PHOTO)

Special to Nunatsiaq News

MONTREAL—A man testified yesterday that Kwasi Alfred Benjamin, 32, on trial for the 2015 homicide of Nellie Angutiguluk, said in a conversation in jail that “he wanted to get rid of her.”

Police found Angutiguluk’s body on May 18, 2015 inside an apartment in Montreal’s Côte-des-Neiges district.

Benjamin, her live-in boyfriend, was charged with murder on July 8, 2015. Angutiguluk, who was 29 at the time of her death, is originally from Puvirnituq.

Benjamin’s trial at the Palais de Justice in Montreal, before a judge and a six-woman, six-man jury, got underway in mid-January.

A witness, known only as XY due to a publication ban, said Benjamin had met a new girlfriend he had fallen in love with and was trying to break up with Angutiguluk. But since she was financially dependent on him, she would not move out.

“He told me she was an Inuit [sic] woman and she had problems with booze and drugs, and he didn’t want to be with her any more because he had another girl,” XY said.

Benjamin even brought that new girlfriend to a vigil that was held for Angutiguluk just weeks after her death.

When Crown prosecutor Dennis Galiatsatos asked XY how Benjamin had told him he had tried to end the relationship before her death, XY told the jury that Benjamin tried to get Angutiguluk to leave the apartment.

But she refused to do that, XY said.

So, according to XY, Benjamin admitted he took matters into his own hands.

“He told me that he brought her to the bar and they had some drinks,” XY said. “And he told me someone drugged her, put something in her drinks, and he brought her back to the apartment.”

The court heard that the couple would often “play sexual games” involving a belt or cord hanging from a closet bar, although it was unclear if that occurred that night.

The autopsy revealed a mark on Angutiguluk’s neck, and the jury heard last week from investigators that police, after her death, found an alarm clock with an electrical cord hanging from the bar of the couple’s closet.

According to XY, Benjamin told him that when they came back from the Vegas bar that night, Angutiguluk was foaming at the mouth and passed out.

So he picked her up, put her in his bed, and left her there while he went to work the next day.

When Benjamin came back later that night, she was in the same position.

Two and a half hours after returning home that night, Benjamin called 911.

XY said that during the conversation, the accused “seemed nervous and sort of scared,” but that even though his attorney had told him not to speak to anyone about the case, Benjamin had said he looked like someone he could trust.

“He told me that I couldn’t talk about this to other people,” XY said. “And he was saying it wouldn’t have shown in an autopsy if she hadn’t been strangled.”

This didn’t sit well with XY.

“If a murder happened, it weighed on my conscience, so I called the police,” he said. “I was doing this out of my own conscience.”

Witness XY has a criminal record and has been incarcerated several times.

Stepmother of accused gives evidence

The stepmother of Kwasi Benjamin also testified on Monday.

Carmen James, a hospital housekeeper, told the jury that she had disapproved of the relationship that Benjamin had with Angutiguluk.

And even though she had met Angutiguluk two or three times at church, she was not allowed at James’ home.

“Kwasi always loved her,” James said. “He would work to feed her, let her use his cell phone.”

She told the jury that her stepson was the kind of person who took aggression from past girlfriends and never hit back, describing him a few times as “autistic,” though undiagnosed, but then saying she meant slow in reaction and not slow in a mental sense.

Benjamin’s defence lawyer, Paul Skolnik, read a transcript of James saying to police in earlier interviews, “He doesn’t have to speak for you to know he is a little autistic.”

Of the three times James saw Angutiguluk, the only instance outside of church was when they happened to be on the same bus.

“She was drunk at the back of the bus, telling people not to look at her,” James told the court.

“Cursing, swear words. Someone on the bus said: get her off the bus!”

James found her stepson’s relationship brought her shame.

“I told Kwasi, I don’t want her to come to my home—there’s no drinking, no smoking,” James said. “If you ever bring her to my house, even to the door, you’re banned.”

She testified that she received a phone call from Benjamin after the ambulance had taken Angutiguluk away, but she couldn’t recall if it was morning, evening or the middle of the night.

In the phone call, James said Benjamin told her that he had come home from work and found Angutiguluk in the same position as when he left for work, unresponsive.

James said her stepson told her he saw frothing at her mouth and tried to wipe it, and that even though the paramedics had told him Angutiguluk was dead, Benjamin just didn’t believe it.

“He said, how could she pass away?” James said. “I said if the professionals say she is dead, she is dead.”

James told the jury that Benjamin said the couple had been drinking Mojo—a canned energy-drink cocktail—all day and then went to a bar, but when they got home, Angutiguluk sat on the floor.

“So he picked her up and brought her to bed. He said: lie down, baby.”

The next time Benjamin called his stepmother it was because police had vacated their apartment as a crime scene, and he asked if he could sleep at her home.

But she refused.

“I told him to stay away from that girl and that was his punishment,” James said. “It’s embarrassing for me. She’s an alcoholic.”

The trial was to have resumed at Montreal’s Palais de Justice on Tuesday, when the defence lawyer will cross-examine XY.

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