A 68-year-old Mount Royal University professor told a Calgary judge she acted on "instinct and absolute terror" when she managed to escape from her home after being severely beaten in her bedroom by a naked stranger.
The professor, Janet Hamnett, was the first witness at Matthew Brown's trial. He is charged with two counts of break and enter, assault with a weapon, and mischief. He's accused of a brutal, unprovoked attack in the southwest Calgary community of Springbank Hill on Jan. 13, 2018.
Brown was a student at Mount Royal University (MRU) at the time, which police have described as a coincidence. His lawyer has previously indicated a plan to put forward a defence of extreme intoxication, arguing Brown was too high on magic mushrooms to understand his actions.
Originally from Truro, N.S., Brown has no criminal record and played major junior hockey before he became the captain of the MRU varsity team for three years. His parents have travelled from Nova Scotia to be in court to support the 28-year-old.
'Hit, hit, hit, hit'
It was about 4 a.m. when Hamnett was woken out of a deep sleep to a loud noise followed by a "horrendous explosion."
She got out of bed and put on her glasses with the intention of investigating the noise but didn't make it out of the bedroom before a "huge presence" began his attack.
Hamnett said she was thinking "please God let it stop" as she was hit over and over again. Investigators later found a broken broom handle in the victim's home.
"It felt like it went on forever," Hamnett told prosecutor Matthew Block. She dropped to her knees and put her hands up to protect her head.
"Hit, hit, hit, hit," she says the naked man screamed during the attack.
Suddenly, the violence stopped. As the man walked away from her, she scurried into her bathroom and locked the door.
Hamnett looked around — blood covered the walls, mirror, floor and sink.
"I realized it was coming from me," she said. "I had huge gashes all over me that were spurting blood."
'I ran as fast as I could'
Hamnett says she was shaking in terror but knew she had to escape. When she could no longer hear the man walking around her home, she cracked open the bathroom door.
She could see her sliding glass doors had been smashed. In her bathrobe and slippers, Hamnett made a run for it.
"Go for it," she told herself. "I ran as fast as I could."
Once at her neighbour's, Hamnett pounded on their door and rang the bell over and over until they woke up and opened the door.
"You saved my life," she told them. "I fell apart at that point."
The neighbours called 911. Police and paramedics arrived shortly after.
Hamnett was taken to hospital, where photos of her injuries were taken. She had broken bones in one of her hands. Both were extremely swollen, cut and bruised.
She has a permanent disability in her right hand with stiffness, reduced movement and reduced strength.
Hamnett said getting back to teaching at MRU was an "enormous achievement."
"I will never be the same person that I was before this happened," said Hamnett. "I am changed forever. I am anxious. I fret more. I worry more. It is always with me in some way."
Attacker 'sounded like an animal'
An earlier court decision allows Brown to put forward a defence of extreme intoxication. His lawyer, Sean Fagan, is already setting the stage for that defence.
Under cross-examination, Fagan asked Hamnett about the sounds her attacker made as he struck her.
"It sounded like an animal," she said, confirming it was "like a roar."
She agreed with the defence lawyer that it was "not a human-type sound."
Hamnett's neighbour Michael Crone testified he woke up to hear his doorbell ringing "about 100 times."
He found his "extremely traumatized" neighbour standing at his door in her robe, her hands wrapped in bloody towels.
Neighbour spots naked man
While his wife called 911, Crone went outside. Crone spotted a naked man rummaging through a neighbour's car. It was about –20 C out.
He took several photos before the man ran away. Brown was arrested a short time later.
Under cross-examination, Crone said it seemed like the man was "whacked out" on drugs or having some kind of "mental breakdown."
Fagan, will argue his client was too high on magic mushrooms to understand his actions.
One of Brown's friends testified that Brown began acting strangely after he consumed the drug.
'Matt and violence just don't go together'
Claire Erickson and four others, including Brown, were drinking at a home near the victim's. Although she didn't remember if she had consumed magic mushrooms, Erickson said she understood Brown had.
Erickson said Brown wasn't himself that night. Usually the life of the party, Brown became introverted, quiet and restless. He went to bed twice only to get up and re-join the group.
Around 3:45 a.m., the group noticed Brown was standing at the front door, naked. Then, he ran out the door.
The friends got bundled up and went looking for Brown, calling 911 as they searched the neighbourhood.
Erickson said thinking about Brown being violent is "so completely out of character" that it's "almost laughable."
"Matt and violence just don't go together," she told the court.
Originally, the case was set to be tried by judge and jury but Fagan re-elected to have the matter heard by Court of Queen's Bench Justice Michele Hollins.