Jury gets glimpse of accused killer’s family life as murder trial for his mother’s death
The jury at the trial of a man charged with stabbing his own mother to death in 2019 got a window into the accused killer’s bizarre upbringing for the first time on Wednesday.
Crown lawyers in the case are pulling back the curtain on Duncan Sinclair’s family life in an attempt to establish a motive in the death of Rae Cara Carrington, who was stabbed 12 times while she was at work in downtown Toronto’s underground PATH system.
Sinclair, 22, was 19 at the time of the killing. He has pleaded not guilty to a single count of first-degree murder in Superior Court in Toronto.
Det. Sherri Plunkett testified in court’s afternoon session, telling the jury that a Toronto police investigation conducted by the child and youth advocacy unit revealed the Sinclair family was largely shut off from the outside world. The children had no access to schooling or medical care, and were living a transient lifestyle complete with aliases to elude authorities and children’s aid, she said.
All of this was dictated by Sinclair’s father, Paul, she told the court. According to an agreed statement of facts submitted at the trial, Paul Sinclair was convicted of 12 offences related to child maltreatment in March of 2020.
“The eldest kids and mom just worked and worked and worked, and brought all the money home to Paul,” she said.
“It was his way or the highway. He ruled with an iron fist.”
Plunkett testified that Paul Sinclair was a hoarder and the family lived in filthy situations. She said sometimes they didn’t even have plumbing, and would be forced to use buckets as a toilet. Sinclair’s father told his children to shower anywhere from once every two weeks to once a month, so they wouldn’t alert landlords to how many people were actually living in their apartments, she said.
“He claimed to have home schooled [the kids], but he didn’t,” Plunkett said, adding that Paul Sinclair would staple curtains to their windows so the children “couldn’t look out and no one could look in.”
The family moved whenever someone started asking questions about them, she said.
Plunkett testified that according to other family members, Duncan Sinclair and one of his brothers were “minions” of their father.
“They very much were brainwashed by him or were on his side, and had adopted his way of thinking,” she said.
Though Plunkett provided a wealth of information Wednesday, Justice Anne Molloy cautioned the jury that much of her testimony constituted hearsay evidence. But, the judge added, it still had relevance as the Crown is seeking to establish that Sinclair had a motive to kill his mother.
“This officer has been giving a lot of evidence about what other people told her,” Molloy told the jury.
“It might have a very narrow function in your decision making.”
Sinclair interviewed by police
The jury also saw video of an interview that Toronto police officers conducted with Duncan Sinclair on Jan. 9, 2019, before his mother’s death. By this point, his father had been arrested, though not convicted.
Plunkett said Sinclair and one of his brothers had come forward with allegations against one of their siblings and their mother, after members of their family had spoken to police and their father was subsequently arrested.
She said it was very apparent that these statements were “almost in retaliation” for other family members having provided statements to police.
In the video, Sinclair tells police about one of his brothers knocking out one of his teeth when he was five or six years old, as well as another instance where his brother shoved him against a wall as a child, resulting in a “crack in his skull.”
Sinclair also told the officers that his mother had a “tendency to flip out” sometimes, and display “intense moments of rage or anger.”
Sinclair also said that he doesn’t think his father is manipulative.
“Anything that he tells you he can say no to,” he said.
Woman found ‘eviscerated,’ security guard testifies
Earlier in the day, court heard a harrowing first-hand account from a security guard who was working at the Commerce Court building where Carrington was stabbed.
William Bardy said he was working as a senior officer for Paragon Protection on April 10, 2019, when an emergency call came in over his radio from a dispatcher.
“He stated loudly and clearly that he had been notified by a cleaner that there had been a stabbing in the food court,” Bardy said.
“We all sprinted as fast as we could to get there.”
More than two years on, he said he still vividly remembers the sound of a woman screaming ‘Oh my god, she’s going to die’ at the scene, amidst the cacophony of multiple people all calling 911 at once.
He said he entered the Fast Fresh Foods location where Carrington worked, and found her “eviscerated,” lying in a pool of her own blood.
“She had more stab wounds than I could conceivably apply pressure to,” he said. “Her organs were spilling out of her belly. I remember gripping them and trying to stop them from coming out.”
“I’m not sure how long that went on for. It felt like an eternity.”
The trial continues Thursday.