Dispute at HIV trial over when woman dated carrier
TORONTO - The exact year in which an "affectionate" but allegedly lethal summer of romance took place became a heated bone of contention at an unprecedented AIDS-related murder trial on Thursday.
A close relative insisted it was in 2000 that Johnson Aziga was happily dating a robust and vigorous S.B., but S.B. herself later told police it was in 2001.
That would have been six months after she was diagnosed with what doctors say was the AIDS-related cancer that would kill her.
"They were very affectionate toward one another," S.B.'s first cousin testified about the summer visit to his farm in Fergus, Ont., that the couple made.
"She was very happy."
The Crown alleges Aziga, 52, had sex with 11 women, two of whom later died, without telling them he knew he had the virus that can lead to AIDS.
The former Ontario government worker has pleaded not guilty to two counts of first-degree murder and 11 of aggravated sexual assault.
It's believed to be the first first-degree murder trial anywhere involving criminal HIV transmission.
None of the alleged victims can be identified by court order.
R.B. testified that his once-married cousin, whom he described as more like a sister, was healthy, bubbling and "lots of fun."
The visit by the couple was the only time R.B. met Aziga, and the only time S.B. ever brought a man to the farm, a place she visited almost every weekend, R.B. testified.
Aziga cut an athletic figure that hot summer day, looking as if he had just stepped out of a soccer match. He was dressed in a white T-shirt, white shorts, knee-high socks and white running shoes, R.B. told the Ontario Superior Court jury.
He said it was definitely in 2000 because he had only moved onto the farm the previous fall, while S.B. was already wearing a wig at a big family reunion in the summer of 2001 because cancer treatments had caused her "long, blond beautiful hair" to fall out.
Defence lawyer Munyonzwe Hamalengwa took issue with R.B.'s recollection of dates.
The lawyer hammered away at the fact that S.B. told police on her death bed in November 2003 that she dated Aziga, whom she met at work in Toronto, in 2001.
R.B. was adamant that his memory was good, saying it was possible that a dying S.B. likely got mixed up about the exact dates.
"She was dwindling away to nothing," an angry R.B. told the lawyer.
S.B. died in an "absolutely disgusting way" because of her "poor judgment," the witness said.
"I sympathize with you," Hamalengwa said, adding he was only trying to get at the truth.
The lawyer noted that police were still trying to pin down the time of the relationship as late as 2006.
The lawyer also asked R.B. why he allowed the police interview to proceed if his cousin was so ill and under sedation for severe pain.
"That was a death confession, sir," R.B. said.
"I felt she had every right in the world to tell everybody what had happened to her."
S.B. died of lymphoma at age 51, within weeks of talking to police.
R.B.'s wife, identified as D.B., also described S.B. as a happy, robust woman, until the disease took its toll and she moved onto the farm because she could no longer care for herself.
Her skin was discoloured, she lost a lot of weight, bruised easily and was weak, D.B. said choking back tears.
She also said she met Aziga, whom she described as polite, friendly and well spoken, in the summer of 2000.