Tragic details emerge as trial begins
Bracebridge native Natalia Novak attempted to put an end to the violent, on-again off-again relationship with her accused killer the day before her death, an Ontario Superior Court jury heard Friday.
The 20-year-old Ryerson University student told her roommate she wanted to date someone “more her age” and that her boyfriend Arssei Hindessa, then 30, had become overly possessive, said Crown prosecutor Mary Humphrey.
Approximately 24 hours later, on May 15, 2006, Novak was stabbed to death in her Toronto apartment. Hindessa has been charged with first degree murder in her death.
The trial began Feb. 6.
During her opening address to the jury, Humphrey detailed the pair’s tumultuous relationship, including at least two prior assaults on Novak by Hindessa. During one assault, which occurred at a party, court was told that Hindessa ripped Novak’s shirt open and chased her with a stick or small bat. During another, the accused pushed Novak and assaulted a neighbour present with them that day, court heard.
Hindessa was charged for the assaults. He was on probation and had been ordered not to have any communication with Novak at the time of her death, Humphrey said.
Still, on the night of her murder, Hindessa went with Novak and two of her roommates to a bar. The group returned to Novak’s apartment, and Novak and Hindessa went to her room.
Court heard that Novak’s roommate Kier Mierle, also from Bracebridge, later saw the accused walk by his bedroom toward the kitchen. Several minutes later Mierle and Novak’s other roommate, Will Robson, heard Novak screaming “get off me, get off me, get the hell off me,’” Humphrey said.
Robson and Mierle tried to open the door to Novak’s room, but were unable. Humphrey said Robson heard a crash on the garbage cans beneath Novak’s bedroom window and believed the accused jumped off the balcony.
Mierle attempted to access Novak’s room via a window onto the balcony. Court heard that Robson eventually got the bedroom door open and discovered Novak’s body. The pair called 9-1-1.
Humphrey said Novak was stabbed nine times and her throat was slashed.
While waiting for police to arrive, Robson and Mierle spotted a knife on the balcony outside Novak’s room. Court heard Mierle later told police he believed the knife used to kill Novak belonged to him. The eight-inch Henckel chef’s knife was given to him as a birthday present. Mierle said the knife was always kept in the kitchen. Court heard that Mierle believed Hindessa took the knife when he walked past his bedroom minutes before the murder.
It was Mierle’s testimony, Humphrey indicated, that prompted police to lay the first-degree murder charge against Hindessa.
The accused was apprehended by police on the night of Novak’s murder attempting to jump off the Bloor Street bridge, court was told.
He has pleaded not guilty.
Dressed in a dark jacket and dress slacks, and sporting long dreadlocks, Hindessa, a landed immigrant from Ethiopia, was placed in the prisoner’s box during the opening day of the trial.
He waved hello to several observers after being seated.
As of Friday, Hindessa was representing himself during the trial. Court heard that he fired his lawyer and had refused to participate in his defence. A court-appointed lawyer was present to assist in the defence proceedings. On Monday, Hindessa re-hired lawyer Aston Hall to represent him.
Novak’s parents, Bracebridge residents Ed and Dawn Novak were present for the Crown’s opening address, along with her brother Nick and a crowd of supporters.
The family wept during emotional testimony by Toronto Police Services Det. Const. Richard Weller, who presented video from the crime scene.
According to Humphrey, Novak was planning to work for a cruise line during the summer of 2006. She had also planned to take a trip to Los Angeles on May 18, 2006, just three days after she was killed. Novak planned to go without Hindessa, court was told.
Humphrey told jurors that Hindessa believed Novak was cheating on him and during a conversation with a friend, made a threat to harm her.
Court heard that Hindessa made a gesture, which is an African custom, where he touched the ground, stated “haki amoungo” and ran his finger across his throat. The motion, Humphrey said, means “I swear to God.”
The trial continues this week. The Crown is expected to call witnesses Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday to testify about a prior assault on Novak by Hindessa.