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Defence suggests slain Burnaby girl was attracted to Ibrahim Ali, sex wasn’t forced

Defence lawyer Kevin McCullough wrapped up his closing arguments Friday at the first-degree murder trial of Ibrahim Ali.
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The B.C. Supreme Court in Vancouver

Advisory: This story includes disturbing details about a murder trial.

The lawyer of a man accused of murdering a girl found dead in a Burnaby park more than six years ago said his client was "handsome" back then and it isn't "outlandish" to think the 13-year-old was attracted to him.

Defence lawyer Kevin McCullough made the remarks during his closing submissions at the first-degree murder trial of Ibrahim Ali in B.C. Supreme Court in Vancouver Friday.

Ali is accused of killing the 13-year-old girl, whose body was found in Central Park just after 1 a.m. on July 19, 2017, less than two hours after her family reported her missing.

Ali has pleaded not guilty.

The girl cannot be named because of a publication ban.

The Crown's theory is that Ali and the young teen were strangers to each other and that he attacked her on a path in Central Park, pulled her into the forest and killed her while sexually assaulting her.

Crucially for the Crown, Ali’s semen was found inside the girl’s vagina and anus.

But Ali's lawyers have suggested the sex was not forced.

And, during the second day of his closing arguments, McCullough took aim at what he described as "lifestyle witnesses," which he said the Crown used to paint a "rose-coloured version" of the girl as an innocent child.

"Their case rests on instilling a belief that it would be wholly out of character for (the girl) to have sex with Mr. Ali," McCullough.

McCullough emphasized repeatedly that the girl was 13 years and nine months old.

He said the girl's mother, school friend, summer school teacher and family friend, who testified she wasn’t interested in boys, didn’t drink or take drugs and abided by her curfew, appeared to be trying to make her seem more like a 10-year-old child or younger.

McCullough said their characterization was "at best, a partial picture; at worst, a lie."

"We all know what teenagers are like," he said. "That's common sense."

Teenagers keep secrets from their parents, McCullough said.

He questioned how well the Crown's witnesses, including her own mother, knew the girl.

McCullough said the girl's mother was "away from home a lot" at her job, according to her testimony, sometimes leaving the girl "to her own devices" for eight hours at a time.

McCullough also pointed to multiple examples of the mother's testimony being contradicted by other witnesses.

During the first half of his closing remarks Thursday, McCullough urged the jury not to convict Ali because they found it "morally reprehensible" he had had sex with a 13-year-old.

On Friday, he built on the idea the sex between 27-year-old Ali and the girl could have been consensual.

"In 2017, he was young, he was fit, and – really not my cup of tea but – he was a good-looking guy," McCullough said. "I don't think it's outlandish that (the girl) could have found him attractive."

He noted the Crown used cellphone records as evidence Ali and the girl were strangers to each other, but pointed out teenagers use all kinds of apps to communicate that would not have been captured in those records.

He also pointed out the Crown's evidence only included about a month of phone records.

The defence did not call witnesses or present evidence during the trial, but during more than four hours of closing remarks (the Crown took an hour and a half), McCullough worked to pick holes in the Crown's case.

He said the element of a violent sexual assault was crucial to the Crown's theory.

"They need the violence of a sexual assault to flow into the violence of the killing," McCullough said.

But the Crown had not proven beyond a reasonable doubt there was a sexual assault, according to McCullough.

He returned repeatedly to a statement made by forensic pathologist Dr. Jason Morin, who testified a tear in the girl's vagina and a bruise in her rectum were consistent with penetration by a blunt object, such as a penis, but said under cross-examination he couldn't say whether the injuries were caused by forced or unforced sex.  

McCullough also took aim at the Crown's theory that the sexual assault and killing happened just metres from a Central Park path while it was still light out.

He noted no witnesses heard or saw anything, despite a police witness saying the park was busy when officers returned to the scene at the same time of day a week later.

He also noted there were no drag marks in the forest.

Based on the facts, McCullough suggested it was more likely the girl was killed elsewhere by someone other than Ali and then dumped in the park later, under the cover of darkness.

As for how Ali's semen got inside the girl, McCullough said the Crown hadn't proven the two didn't have a "willing sexual encounter."

Earlier in his closing arguments, McCullough said he wasn't there to "sugarcoat things" but to deal with the "cold, hard fact." 

"Mr. Lynskey and I are not here to make friends. Our sole purpose is defend Mr. Ali."

McCullough reminded the jury it was the Crown's burden to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Ali murdered the girl.

He said the Crown had failed and told jurors they were therefore obliged to find Ali not guilty.

Closing submissions wrapped up Friday afternoon.

Justice Lance Bernard is scheduled to give final instructions to the jury on Wednesday morning.

After that, the jury will begin its deliberations.

Follow Cornelia Naylor on Twitter @CorNaylor
Email cnaylor@burnabynow.com