Thomas Chan found guilty of manslaughter in death of his father

Thomas Chan, who blamed magic mushrooms for his “unprovoked attack,” has been found guilty of manslaughter and aggravated assault following the death of his father and injuries to his dad’s partner.

Justice Cary Boswell rendered the verdict in Peterborough Superior Court on Thursday morning following a trial that began in September.

Chan, 21, was arrested and charged with the second-degree murder of Dr. Andrew Chan and attempted murder of Lynne Witteveen following altercations at Dr. Chan’s Haggis Drive house in Peterborough on the night of Dec. 28, 2015.

He pleaded not guilty to the charges.

“This case isn’t about whether Thomas did the crime — he did,” Boswell said in his opening remarks. “It’s about whether Thomas is criminally responsible for what happened.”

The trial heard Chan had consumed magic mushrooms and alcohol with friends prior to breaking into his father’s house. Witnesses testified Chan suddenly began calling people “devils” and referred to himself as “God.”

A key Crown witness, psychiatrist Philip Klassen, told court it was likely Chan was in a psychotic state due to the drugs but it’s not known exactly how much he ingested.

Witteveen testified Chan stabbed his father in the kitchen and then stabbed her in the chest. She got to a bedroom to call 911 and was stabbed again. Court heard she has had eight surgeries, which included the removal of her right eye and sections of her bowels, and hernia repair. She suffered vocal chord paralysis and wounds to her arm and chest which have caused mobility issues.

LISTEN: Lynn Witteveen’s 911 call on Dec. 28, 2015

The defence had argued Chan had a long history of concussions from playing high school rugby and grappled with depression and substance abuse. The defence said those factors, along with magic mushrooms, contributed to Chan’s violent outburst but that it was impossible for him to understand what he was doing and the consequences of his actions.

The Crown compared Chan to an impaired driver who needs to be held accountable for what happened.

Police video showed a calm Chan in custody telling officers the attack was not provoked and he wanted to highlight the risks of concussions and drug use.

“Believe me when I say I’m not a bad person and this was a ridiculous, unprovoked attack,” Chan is heard on an audio recording from a police cruiser.

Justice Boswell said he had to decide if Chan suffered a mental disorder at the time of the attack, and if so, did it render him incapable of appreciating the nature and consequences of his actions.

He said that there was no motive for the attack and that Chan was under the influence of drugs.

“It is readily apparent to me that Mr. Chan was experiencing an acute break with reality,” Boswell said.

He noted there was evidence Chan had a mild traumatic brain injury but said there was conflicting testimony on whether someone with a brain injury is more susceptible to the effects of hallucinogenic substances.

Boswell said in this case, there was not a sufficient scientific case to say that Chan’s brain injury made him more susceptible to the effects of the magic mushrooms.

The case has been adjourned to Jan. 15, 2019 for sentencing.

More to come.


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