By Joe Fries
Special to OsoyoosToday
The case against the man accused of kidnapping two people at gunpoint last year near Princeton got off to a shaky start Monday, with one of the alleged victims having apparently fled the country and the other claiming she doesn’t remember what happened.
Afshin Maleki Ighani, 47, is accused of taking Jodie Walker and Christopher Gliege captive on April 22, 2017, while driving between Okanagan Falls and the Lower Mainland.
Mr. Ighani, who’s being tried by judge alone in B.C. Supreme Court in Penticton, pleaded not guilty to 10 offences, including two counts of kidnapping using a firearm and assault with a weapon.
Ms. Walker, 22, was the first Crown witness to take the stand and claimed she had no memory of the events in question.
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“I don’t recall what we did that day,” she said.
Crown counsel John Swanson then played for the court a video recording of a statement Walker gave to Const. Chad Jackson at the Princeton RCMP detachment following the incident.
Ms. Walker admitted several times during the statement she was afraid of Mr. Ighani.
“He said if I talk to you guys I’m going to end up dead,” Ms. Walker told the officer.
Nonetheless, she explained how Mr. Ighani, who she knew was wanted by police for shooting a man in Oliver, had asked for a ride to the Lower Mainland in exchange for $400.
Ms. Walker and her then-boyfriend, Mr. Gliege, agreed and left around 7 a.m. via Highway 3.
As they passed through Manning Park west of Princeton, however, Mr. Ighani directed Ms. Walker to turn off on a logging road, she said.
While off road, she said, Mr. Ighani twice ordered Mr. Gliege out of the car. On the second occasion, Ms. Walker said, Mr. Ighani pointed a gun at Gliege’s head and fired a shot into the air.
After leaving Mr. Gliege behind, Ms. Ighani and Mr. Walker drove to a mobile home park in Princeton, she said, where police caught up to them and arrested Mr. Ighani, who had stashed the gun in the car’s engine compartment.
Ms. Walker disavowed herself of her police statement.
“Do you recognize yourself in that video?” Swanson asked.
I don’t,” she answered.
Mr. Swanson then called Const. Jackson to verify the video in an attempt to get the statement into evidence that way.
Const. Jackson’s testimony continues today. The trial is expected to conclude this week.
The proceedings began with a voir dire during which Mr. Swanson was able to convince the judge to accept into evidence the testimony Mr. Gliege gave at a preliminary inquiry.
Court heard police believe Mr. Gliege has since fled to the U.S.
Mr. Swanson said in his opening statement police found a gun in the engine compartment of Ms. Walker’s car, but the results of DNA testing on the firearm were inconclusive.
Mr. Ighani was also accused of the attempted murder of Oliver man Thomas Szajko on April 19, 2017; however, the charge was dropped following Mr. Szajko’s unrelated death on Dec. 1, 2017.
Mr. Ighani, who’s still awaiting trial for allegedly assaulting two prisoners and a guard at the Okanagan Correctional Centre, is no stranger to the courts, having been sentenced in 2007 to 42 months in prison for his connection to an Oliver drug ring.
The native of Iran was ordered deported after that conviction, but his departure was stayed because he faced the death penalty in his home country, according to a source with knowledge of the matter.
Joe Fries is an editor and writer for The Penticton Herald. OsoyoosToday and The Herald share an informal editorial use agreement.