A Winnipeg cab driver was stabbed to death over a payment dispute with a man who has a history of animosity toward taxi drivers and South Asian people, a Crown prosecutor argued in court on Wednesday.
Minutes before getting into Balvir Toor’s taxi in the early hours of March 19, 2020, Okoth Obeing had gotten out of another cab before reaching his destination after a “hostile interaction” sparked by the driver asking for upfront payment, Crown attorney Chantal Boutin told court at Obeing’s second-degree murder trial.
While still “inflamed” by that interaction, Obeing got into Toor’s cab, the prosecutor told Court of King’s Bench Justice Joan McKelvey. When Toor also asked for payment upfront, Obeing perceived it as disrespect “and his anger erupted into murder” as he leaned forward from the back seat and fatally stabbed Toor, Boutin alleged.
Obeing, now 22, has pleaded not guilty to the second-degree murder charge in 44-year-old Toor’s death. Members of both families were in court for the first day of what’s expected to be a weeks-long trial, which is being heard by judge alone.
In an interview with homicide detectives following his arrest, just hours after Toor’s death, Obeing told police of his feelings of animosity toward South Asian people “as a result of negative interactions growing up.”
He also told them he had a dislike of cab drivers owing to past experiences — specifically around demands for upfront payment, which he viewed as disrespect, Boutin told court.
“The Crown’s theory is that the killing was fuelled by Mr. Obeing’s animus, aggression and perceived disrespect of him by the victim,” she said.
Obeing also told police in his interview that he was diagnosed with bipolar disorder and hadn’t taken his medication in about a week at the time of Toor’s death, Boutin said.
He was also frustrated about his personal circumstances, as he was unemployed and had recently been denied entry into a carpentry training program, she said.