A woman felt “worthless” in her relationship and controlled by her husband, a Brandon courtroom heard on the fifth day of Robert Hughes’ murder trial.

A woman felt "worthless" in her relationship and controlled by her husband, a Brandon courtroom heard on the fifth day of Robert Hughes’ murder trial.

Brandon Police Service Const. Jordan Barbeau read from the journal of Betty Hughes, who was allegedly killed by her husband, Robert Hughes, before their Queens Avenue East house exploded on Oct. 22, 2019. Hughes pleaded not guilty to second-degree murder on the first day of his trial in the Brandon Court of Queen’s Bench.

Betty and Robert Hughes in an undated photo.


Betty and Robert Hughes in an undated photo.

The charges have not been proven in court and he is presumed innocent until proven guilty. Hughes was 63 when he was charged.

Barbeau opened the blue Hilroy journal, which was found in Betty’s locker at the Brandon Regional Health Centre, where she worked before her death. He read notes from it after being asked by Crown attorney Christian Vanderhooft.

"I feel worthless," Barbeau read from the journal.

"If I want something you don’t, you think you have the right to say no. I’ve lost all respect for myself. I feel you think you know what I want better than I do. I resent the fact you want to control my life. You try to make me feel guilty for not working hard enough on the things you want done.

"I need to get completely away from you to see how I really feel about everything."

The rest of the journal contained a breakdown of the couple’s financial information, he said.

Barbeau also testified about Betty’s autopsy. He said evidence was seized from her body, including hairs in her clenched fist, nail clippings and swabs.

In the days after the explosion, police also conducted a search warrant at an address on 20th Street, which belonged to the couple, but it appeared to be in the middle of renovations, Barbeau told Vanderhooft.

Hughes wore a grey suit while seated behind defence lawyers Saul Simmonds and Adam Hodge.

While cross-examining Barbeau, Simmonds asked whether the passage had anything to do with the alleged events of 2019. He said there were calculations in the book from 2005 until 2016, but none were more recent.

"So all of this … may have absolutely nothing to do with the time frame in question," Simmonds said to Barbeau

"I don’t know," Barbeau responded.

Simmonds raised issues about police getting subsequent information from Hughes’ telephone calls, but he said police didn’t do followup interviews with the people who called or investigate further.

"You actually had a theory with respect to what had happened," Simmonds said, which Barbeau confirmed.

"You learn all these other things as a result of what you overheard in these conversations ... and you don’t take a single step to determine whether or not any of that could be accurate," Simmonds said.

Brandon Police Service Const. Karen Raga said she and Sgt. Devon McLean arrested Hughes at Winnipeg’s Health Sciences Centre on Oct. 25, 2019, after he was transported there following the house explosion.

She told Vanderhooft that Hughes had a plastic brace on his left forearm after he cut a tendon in his arm. He also had bandages on his right arm.

"I believe my sergeant had a back-and-forth [conversation] with him about his suicidal thoughts and whether he would be safe in the back seat. He indicated he was, so we placed him in the back seat without handcuffs," she said.

Once back in Brandon, Raga said she transported Hughes to the Brandon Correctional Centre, where he laughed about not knowing where his cellphone was and how the skin colour of his face appeared to have darkened after the explosion.

Hughes had a number of injuries when he was lodged at the provincial jail, including cuts on his arms, burns on his hands and bruised and swollen knuckles.

During cross-examination, Simmonds said police didn’t specifically document or photograph Hughes’ injuries.

Raga said she believed medical records supplied by the hospital would show them better.

Crown attorneys Vanderhooft and Caroline Lacey closed their case Monday afternoon. The defence is expected to begin calling evidence this morning.

On the first day of the trial on Nov. 29, Brandon Police Service Const. Travis Foster said Betty was found inside the destroyed east end house with a multitude of cuts and lying in a pool of blood.

The court heard from multiple witnesses over the first week, including firefighters who first responded to the blast. The court also heard from pathologist Dennis Rhee, who said Betty died of blood loss after an artery near her face was cut.

The trial is scheduled to last approximately three weeks and is expected to continue today.

» dmay@brandonsun.com

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Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition December 7, 2021 1