The trial for three people accused of harassing a Calgary mother played out more like the plot of a Hollywood film, with twists that included warrants issued for the victim, a mysterious letter to the media and three men who were previously convicted in the same case.
As jurors began deliberations Monday afternoon in the trial of retired Calgary police officer Steve Walton, his wife Heather and their former client Ken Carter, they may have wondered why they never heard from the victim.
Now that the jury is sequestered, CBC News can report Akele Taylor disappeared right before the trial and despite Canada-wide witness warrants issued for her arrest, police have not been able to locate her.
'I don't want to go through with the charges'
The trio is on trial accused of following and intimidating Taylor in an effort to have her give up custody of her daughter to her ex, Carter, when the couple was in the midst of a bitter split that started in 2012.
Carter paid the Waltons $800,000 from 2012 to 2013 to follow Taylor and help in his effort to gain full custody of his daughter.
In late July, about a month before the trio's trial was to begin, Carter's defence lawyer Gavin Wolch told prosecutors Taylor did not want to testify.
So began lead investigator Det. Todd Nichol's effort to get in touch with Taylor.
"I'm not coming to court and I don't want to go through with the charges against Ken," wrote Taylor in a text message to Nichol on Aug. 2.
The backup plan was to have Taylor's testimony from an earlier trial admitted as evidence.
In that trial, which ended in April, three current and former police officers — Bryan Morton, Brad McNish and Tony Braile — were convicted of corruption-related offences for their participation in the harassment of Taylor. The officers were employees of the Waltons.
But Justice Glen Poelman denied that request. In his decision, Poelman noted that while Taylor had been cross-examined by three other lawyers, she had not been questioned by the Waltons' or Carter's lawyers.
"If her testimony is admitted, what she said about these three accused will go untested," said Poelman.
An affidavit sworn by lead investigator, Det. Todd Nichol on Sept. 14 details how police and prosecutors lost their most important witness.
In July, a subpoena ordering Taylor to attend court was sent to her home in Vancouver.
'It will just make things worse for me'
A week later, she sent a text message to Nichol telling him she did not want to help the prosecution.
"It doesn't make sense for me because I share a daughter with him and have to deal with him for years to come," Taylor wrote. "It will just make things worse for me."
Taylor's lawyer wrote a letter to prosecutor Ryan Persad indicating she was living in the U.S. and reiterating that she would not be testifying.
Persad responded with a warning: "She is evading service … as counsel, you may wish to inform her of the consequences of doing so."
Another letter — this one sent by local criminal defence lawyer Ian McKay — was sent to Persad in the middle of the trial. In the correspondence, McKay tells Persad the first trial was "highly traumatizing" for Taylor and that she continues to "struggle to cope."
"Ms. Taylor does not have any interest in seeing the parties convicted," wrote McKay. "Mr. Carter and Ms. Taylor's relationship has improved in recent years."
Taylor painted as drug addict
The Waltons ran a private investigation firm, or as Steve Walton has described it, a risk management protection company.
When Ken Carter — estimated to be worth about $80-million — was in the middle of his messy break-up with Taylor, he hired the Waltons.
Steve Walton was the only one of the three currently on trial to testify in his own defence. Walton said he, his wife and their client were simply trying to protect the daughter shared by Taylor and Carter.
In the first trial — which saw CPS officers Bryan Morton and Brad McNish and Tony Braile convicted of harassment, bribery and unauthorized use of a computer system — Taylor testified she was terrorized for two years as the Waltons and people working for them surveilled, stalked and harassed her, which included installing a GPS device on her car.
Email to journalists
Friends of Taylor's were offered thousands of dollars in exchange for disclosing negative information about her.
Defence lawyers for all six people charged have painted Taylor as a drug addict who lived a questionable lifestyle. They argued following Taylor was justified in the interest of keeping the daughter she shared with Carter safe.
In another unusual twist, an email was sent mid-trial to journalists covering the case, including to CBC News.
"We are friends of Akele," the email begins. "It is sick what the police are doing to her."
The email goes on to call one of the witnesses who testified about Taylor's drug use "nothing but a COKE HEAD who is mad at her for leaving him."
Meanwhile, the lawyers for Morton, McNish and Braile will try to get their clients convictions overturned next month, arguing for a judicial stay or a mistrial because prosecutors handed over disclosure after the men were found guilty.