Animosity towards South Asian people, prepayment request fuelled fatal stabbing of Winnipeg taxi driver, Crown argues

A Winnipeg man accused of fatally stabbing a Duffy’s taxi driver more than two years ago was angry about being asked to prepay for his cab ride and had recently stopped taking medication for bipolar disorder, the Crown argued on the opening day of his trial in the Manitoba Court of King’s Bench.

Okoth Obeing, 22, pleaded not guilty to second-degree murder in the homicide of Balvir Toor, 44, in the early morning hours of March 19, 2020.

Members of Toor’s family including his wife, two daughters, son, and nephew sat in the front row of the gallery as the trial got underway while family members of Obeing sat on the opposite side of a small courtroom.

Crown attorney Chantal Boutin told the court a man entered the cab being driven by Toor shortly after 5 a.m.

“Minutes later that same man leaned over…reached around the plastic shield meant to protect the driver and stabbed Mr. Toor repeatedly,” Boutin told Justice Joan McKelvey. “The Crown’s theory is that the killing was fuelled by Mr. Obeing’s animus, aggression and perceived disrespect of him by the victim, Mr. Toor.”

Court heard members of the Winnipeg Police Service (WPS) were called to the 500 block of Burrows Avenue, after a passerby came upon a cab on the street with its emergency lights flashing.

Boutin told the court Obeing disclosed to officers with the WPS’s homicide unit during a videotaped interview that he had feelings of animosity towards South Asian people because of negative interactions growing up.

“He also expressed a dislike of cab drivers owing to past experience and specifically demands for upfront payment, which he viewed as disrespect,” Boutin told the court.

Boutin outlined in court how the Crown will call evidence alleging Obeing was off his medication for bipolar disorder in the days leading up to the homicide and that he was frustrated about his personal circumstances because he didn’t have a job and had been denied acceptance into a training program for carpentry work.

“It likely comes as no surprise to anyone in this courtroom that this is a trial about state of mind,” she told the court.

Prior to getting in Toor’s taxi, the Crown told the court Obeing got a ride in a different cab operated by Unicity Taxi. When the driver of the first taxi asked for prepayment, there was a hostile exchange between Obeing and the driver which resulted in Obeing getting out before he reached his destination.

Boutin alleges Obeing got in Toor’s taxi “while still inflamed” by his interaction with the previous cab driver.

“Mr. Obeing was verbally confrontational and aggressive, at one point hitting the plastic shield behind Mr. Toor’s seat,” Boutin told the court. “When Mr. Toor requested an upfront payment, Mr. Obeing perceived it as disrespect and his anger erupted into murder.”

Prosecutors aren’t disputing Obeing was suffering some effects of his mental illness but they plan to argue he understood the nature of his act and knew it was wrong.

“We, the Crown, say that this killing was an intentional act of violence born of anger, a murder for which he is criminally responsible,” Boutin told the court.

The trial on Wednesday heard from two officers with the Winnipeg Police Service’s Forensic Identification Unit, the passerby who came upon Toor’s cab and called 911 as well as a police officer who testified he found a knife in a garbage bin near the scene of the incident.

Court heard blood on the knife matched Toor’s DNA and that blood taken from the right cuff of a jacket seized from Obeing also matched Toor’s DNA.

The trial, which is scheduled to take place over three weeks, continues Thursday morning. 

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