Fatal stabbing of cab driver fuelled by prepayment request: Crown

Okoth Obeing had not been taking his bipolar disorder medication when he stabbed Winnipeg taxi driver Balvir Toor to death, but the killing had nothing to do with his mental illness, a judge was told Wednesday.

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Okoth Obeing had not been taking his bipolar disorder medication when he stabbed Winnipeg taxi driver Balvir Toor to death, but the killing had nothing to do with his mental illness, a judge was told Wednesday.

Instead, the fatal attack was sparked by racist attitudes and a “dislike of cab drivers” who showed Obeing “disrespect,” Crown attorney Chantal Boutin said.

Toor, 44, died March 19, 2020, after he was stabbed to death in his cab as it pulled over on the 500 block of Burrows Avenue.

Balvir Toor died after he was stabbed to death in his cab as it pulled over on the 500 block of Burrows Avenue. (Mikaela MacKenzie / Free Press files)

Obeing, 22, is on trial for second-degree murder.

Court heard Obeing had already been involved in an angry exchange with another taxi driver before getting into Toor’s Duffy’s cab at 5:07 a.m.

Just 20 minutes earlier, Obeing exited a Unicity cab on Burrows Avenue after the driver asked he be paid in advance, leading to a “hostile interaction,” Boutin told King’s Bench Justice Joan McKelvey in an opening address laying out the Crown’s case.

Once inside Toor’s vehicle, Obeing “still inflamed by his interaction with (the other driver) was verbally confrontational and aggressive, at one point hitting the plastic shield behind Toor’s seat,” Boutin said.

When Toor asked he be paid upfront, Obeing “perceived it as disrespect and his anger erupted into murder.”

Court heard video from the cab, as well as a nearby home security camera, show a man reaching around the cab’s protective shield and repeatedly stabbing Toor.

The family of murdered cab driver Balvir Toor arrives at the Law Courts building Wednesday afternoon. (Mike Deal / Winnipeg Free Press)

Members of both Toor’s and Obeing’s families sat on opposite sides of the court gallery Wednesday.

Toor’s widow was overcome by emotion as the Crown prepared to question a police officer about graphic photographic evidence and was led out of court by family members.

In a police interview following his arrest, Obeing told investigators experiences growing up left him with negative feelings toward South Asian people and he had a dislike for cab drivers, specifically those who demanded payment upfront, Boutin said.

In the days prior to the killing, Obeing was off his medication for bipolar disorder and was frustrated after he had not been accepted into a carpentry training program.

“The Crown does not dispute that Obeing was suffering some effects of his mental illness at the material time,” Boutin said.

Okoth Obeing (Facebook photo)

“However, when Okoth Obeing killed Balvir Toor, he no doubt appreciated the nature and quality of his act and knew that it was wrong… The Crown will argue that all the evidence in this case, including Obeing’s own words and actions, reveal that it was his animus and his feelings of anger and frustration that bore on his psyche at the material time.”

Kelly Lee testified he was driving to work when, from a distance, he witnessed the emergency lights flashing on Toor’s cab.

“As I was approaching, I saw the front door open up and close real fast,” he said. “I slowed down and came to a stop and saw the door open again and the victim’s hand kind of wave at me.”

Lee said Toor stood up outside the car and waved at him, before falling down and climbing back into the car.

“I asked him if he needed help or me to call 911,” Lee said. “He answered with one word, either ‘Yes’ three times or ‘Please’ three times… He was full of blood everywhere and he couldn’t communicate with me.”

Lee called 911 and two area residents applied a towel to Toor’s wounds before a police officer arrived on the scene about 10 minutes later, Lee testified.

 

Const. Bryan Romaniuk, the first officer to arrive, told court he later canvassed the area for witnesses and found a security video that showed a man running from the cab through a clearing between two houses and down the back lane between Burrows and Magnus avenues.

Romaniuk said he searched the back lane and found a blood-covered knife in a garbage bin.

Court heard blood on the knife was a match for Toor’s DNA, as was blood found on Obeing’s jacket.

A picture provided to court of Toor’s red hoodie showed its right side soaked in blood, with 27 white flags marking stab wounds.

The trial is set for 14 days.

dean.pritchard@freepress.mb.ca

Dean Pritchard

Dean Pritchard
Courts reporter

Someone once said a journalist is just a reporter in a good suit. Dean Pritchard doesn’t own a good suit. But he knows a good lawsuit.

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