Ex-hostage Boyle says he was worried about wife the night she fled their home

OTTAWA — Former overseas hostage Joshua Boyle says he was concerned for his wife Caitlan Coleman's safety the winter night she fled their Ottawa apartment in stocking feet, accusing Boyle of assaulting her.

Over two days of testimony in Ontario court, Boyle has denied allegations he told Coleman that no one liked her, clasped his hand over her mouth and struck her in the face with his fist on Dec. 30, 2017.

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Coleman has previously told Boyle's assault trial that he ranted at her that night, forced her into their bedroom and punched the side of her face.

She testified his treatment of her that evening took her to the breaking point and she decided to leave her husband.

Boyle, 36, has pleaded not guilty to several offences against Coleman, including assault, sexual assault and unlawful confinement, as well as a charge of misleading Ottawa police in the hours before he was arrested.

The offences are alleged to have taken place from October to December 2017, after the couple returned to Canada following five harrowing years as prisoners of extremists who kidnapped them in Afghanistan during a hiking trip through Asia.

In Ottawa, the couple settled into an apartment with the three children Coleman had in captivity in spite of often primitive conditions.

Coleman has testified her husband spanked, punched and slapped her during their time as hostages. She said the violence resumed shortly after they were freed by Pakistani forces.

Boyle has consistently disputed allegations he mistreated Coleman, portraying her as unstable, prone to fits and bouts of self-loathing.

Coleman's mother Lyn, who was visiting from the United States, came for dinner on Dec. 30, 2017. Boyle later drove her back to a hotel.

He said he got home to find the children still awake and his wife asleep. An argument ensued.

Coleman was distressed about the possibility of Boyle divorcing her, he said. Boyle testified his wife told him she was never going to get better and that if he was going to leave her, she should kill herself.

"She was worked up and acting inappropriately," he said. "She was naked and saying things it was not healthy for the children to be hearing."

Boyle said he encouraged her to go back to sleep. However, Coleman was soon making a ruckus, climbed the back fire escape and began knocking on a neighbour's door, he said. Boyle shrugged and thought she might simply be seeking a sympathetic ear.

After a while, though, Coleman took off into the night.

Boyle called 911 to say his wife had run screaming from their Ottawa apartment, threatening to kill herself.

He denied a suggestion he had a long-standing plan to lie to police should they ever come knocking.

The call triggered a police investigation that led an officer to Coleman at her mother's hotel. Boyle was arrested shortly after for allegedly assaulting his wife.

Crown attorney Jason Neubauer began cross-examining Boyle Thursday, suggesting he tried to manipulate Coleman early in their relationship for his own ends.

Boyle denied doing so.

"Nobody controls Caitlan," he said. "And I understood that fairly well at that time."

—Follow @JimBronskill on Twitter

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