By Jake Scott and Laura Woodward
Expert witness James Gillespie, a fire investigator with Ontario’s Office of the Fire Marshall, was found to be a credible witness in the trial of Farshad Badakhshan for the alleged July 2010 murder of Ryerson student Carina Petrache.
Defence lawyer Paul Burstein raised questions about Gillespie as an expert, on the grounds that he holds no degrees and is therefore unqualified to testify.
After a two-hour break and an hour of arguments, Judge Michael Dambrot decided the witness was credible within specific context.
“He has the expertise necessary to give an opinion about the origin and causes of fires, but not [to] sequence them,” Judge Dambrot said.
Gillespie has three years experience as a fire fighter, 17 years with both the Ontario Provincial Police and Toronto Police Services and five years as a fire investigator at the Office of the Fire Marshall.
The court heard from many forensic experts over the past week, all testifying to the legitimacy of their initial reports filed in 2010.
Mike Harrison, a forensic science expert, testified regarding the presence of reactive flammable fluid found throughout the residence.
“A volatile ignitable liquid is a liquid that readily evaporates and causes a fire. Kerosene, gasoline, charcoal-starting fluids,” said Harrison on Feb. 3.
When questioned by the defence, Harrison said he was unable to identify the quantity of the liquid or its presence in similarly burned pieces of evidence.
“[It] may have evaporated by the time the samples were collected or it may have been consumed in the fire,” Harrison said.
On Jan. 29, witness Peter Tran testified to his experience on the date of the alleged murder.
Tran was staying at the residence with his partner, Steve Masse, when the fire began.
Believing the fire alarm to be false, the two stayed in Masse’s room until a neighbour had seen them through the basement window and informed them the residence was burning.
“I just assumed it was getting hot because it was summer,” Tran said.
After exiting the house through the back, Tran witnessed Volodymyr Selivinov (another resident) drag Petrache from the burning building.
“I heard her say ‘He wouldn’t stop hitting me,'” Tran said. “Her voice was not panicked, she was sort of calm. She was loud enough so I could hear her, but she wasn’t screaming.” Tran poured water in Petrache’s mouth from his bottle.
“Her hair was really burnt, her skin looked plastic-y, and her clothes were damaged,” Tran said.
The trial continues.