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Accused testifies for first time at Toronto cop murder trial

A man accused of killing a Toronto police officer in a parking garage nearly three years ago began testifying in court Tuesday.

Umar Zameer pleaded not guilty to first-degree murder in the death of Det.-Const. Jeffrey Northrup. 

The officer died on July 2, 2021, after he was struck by a car while investigating a stabbing in an underground parking garage at Toronto City Hall. 

Zameer, his wife Aaida Shaikh — who was eight months pregnant at the time – and their two-year-old son were returning to their Vaughan, Ont., home after sightseeing downtown for Canada Day. 

The family was inside their BMW when they were approached by Northrup and his partner, Sgt. Lisa Forbes, around midnight. Both officers were in plainclothes at the time, court has heard. 

Zameer was not involved in the stabbing, although he and his family had coincidentally walked past the victim earlier in the night.

Image of a police officer in uniform.
Northrup died after being struck by a car in the parking garage at city hall on July 2, 2021. He left behind his wife and three children. (Toronto Police Service/Twitter)

During the initial stages of his testimony, Zameer, a 34-year-old accountant and father of three, said he grew up in Pakistan. He moved to Malaysia in 2015 for his future wife, he said. In 2019, the couple moved to Canada. 

Prosecutors allege the officers identified themselves as police more than once as they approached Zameer. 

They allege the accused chose to make a series of manoeuvres with his car, hitting Northrup and crushing him. 

The defence has argued Northrup’s death was an accident and that Zameer did not know the pair approaching him were officers. Instead, he and his wife thought their family was being ambushed by criminals, court has heard.

Heated cross examination of defence’s crash expert

Earlier in court on Tuesday, the defence’s crash reconstructionist expert said the Crown was “misleading the jurors” while being cross-examined Tuesday in the trial of a man charged with killing a Toronto cop nearly three years ago.

Crash reconstructionist Barry Raftery previously testified that Northrup was on the ground in the car’s blind zone at the time Zameer ran him over, meaning the officer was not visible to the accused. 

Court sketch showing a man testifying and a crown attorney speaking to him.
Crown attorney Michael Cantlon cross-examines crash reconstructionist Barry Raftery during the trial of Umar Zameer on Tuesday. Zameer faces first-degree murder charges in connection with the death of Toronto police Det.-Const. Jeffrey Northrup almost three years ago. (Pam Davies/CBC)

“I’m an engineer, I look at the physical evidence,” Raftery said Tuesday when asked by Crown counsel Michael Cantlon whether he had read Zameer’s account of what happened on July 2 before coming to his conclusions. 

Cantlon challenged two images of the incident Raftery created in his report that showed a green mannequin, meant to represent Northrup, within the blind spot of the BMW that Zameer was driving that night. 

Raftery agreed the mannequin did not reflect Northrup’s frame of six feet, three inches tall and around 300 pounds, saying it was instead used only for “illustrative purposes.” 

Later in the cross-examination, Raftery appeared frustrated and said Cantlon was “misleading the jurors” when the Crown prosecutor again referred to the mannequin size.  

“You had the opportunity to pick a mannequin that would have accurately represented the dimensions of Officer Northrup and you chose not to,” Cantlon said. 

Rafterty later apologized for his reaction while being re-examined by defence lawyer Nader Hasan, saying, “I get upset when someone suggests I’m not adequately representing something.”

Jeff Bassingthwaite, a police crash reconstructionist previously called by Crown prosecutors, told the court he concluded the officer had been knocked to the ground by the car reversing, before he was run over by it going forward. 

However, three officers who witnessed the incident testified Northrup was standing in the middle of the garage laneway with his hands up when he was run over.

Raftery said he had read transcripts of audio statements given by the three officers on the evening of July 2. 

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