A troubling picture of the life that Duncan Sinclair and his siblings led has emerged at the first-degree murder trial for the 21-year-old Toronto man accused of fatally stabbing his mother Rae Cara Carrington.
Sinclair’s 19-year-old sister, whose identity is protected by a court-ordered publication ban, testified that she had a strained relationship with her 51-year-old mother who worked 50 to 60 hours a week.
“I hardly knew her growing up. My father had turned many of us kids against her. We didn’t talk to her. I went a few years without talking to her. I would get in trouble if I talked to her,” said the sister who sat in witness box wearing a red sweatshirt, her brown hair falling on her shoulders. At one point, she craned her neck to wave at her brother who’s been in custody since two days after his arrest.
On April 10, 2019, Carrington was stabbed eleven times at the Fast Fresh Foods restaurant where she worked in the underground PATH in downtown Toronto.
Two days later, Sinclair, then 19, was arrested after an employee at the YMCA Employment Centre in Midland, Ont., noticed the man who had given the name “Daniel Williams” was searching a murder investigation in Toronto online.
The employee, Joanne Charlevoix testified Monday that she searched his history online and noticed the man had searched the murder twelve times, twelve different ways. She printed off a screen grab of the google chrome searches and said she watched him come back to the computer and started to delete the search history.
“I thought it was getting suspicious and weird. I went into my office, spoke to a supervisor and called Toronto homicide,” Charlevoix said. Sinclair was arrested without incident a short time later by OPP as he got up to leave the YMCA.
Sinclair’s sister told the jury that she recognized her brother in the surveillance video she had been shown via zoom a few weeks ago, by the crown attorneys and police.
“That’s him. It’s his face. The way he dresses, the clothes he wears,” she explained.
Sinclair has pleaded not guilty.
The sister also talked about the isolated childhood she and her siblings endured, confined to their apartment except for the occasional weekend errand with their mother, and living with aliases to keep outsiders from calling the authorities.
“Our dad (Paul) went by the nickname Thomas. Our dad didn’t want people from the outside or neighbours knowing our real names in case other people ratted us out to police. So we went by nicknames,” she explained.
The teenager testified that she and her seven brothers did not attend public school because their father did not want them corrupted and brain-washed with other religions. She also said, he told them that teachers were pedophiles and rapists.
“He heard about teachers kidnapping students. He preferred to keep us at home from outsiders. He wanted to protect us,” she said, only later during cross-examination admitting that she believed her father was afraid to send them to school “because he would physically abuse us, and we had marks on us, and he was afraid of teachers seeing it.”
The 19-year-old said that she and her siblings never had any formal education and would just watch TV all day. She testified she only learned how to read by studying the bible and watching TV and movies with subtitles.
“I learned how to read when I was 11 or 12 because my father told me to read a bible or otherwise I would go to hell,” she explained.
She said in February 2018 she called police looking for a phone number after a fight with her father because he tried to turn her against her mother. “It became too much for me,” she explained.
She testified she had been depressed for about five years and was having suicidal thoughts, and remembered seeing a sign for a suicide helpline while out doing errands one weekend with her mother, but could not remember the number.
The phone call inadvertently triggered questions from the officer on the line, prompting the officer to send six police officers and a psychiatric nurse to check on her.
“I tried to get them to believe that everything was okay,” said the sister who was only 15 at the time.
She told the jury that when the eldest sibling stopped living with the family in 2014, her father became paranoid that he would “rat us out to police or children’s aid for the abuse and the things he would do to us and the confinement.”
She testified the father decided to pack us up and move to a different apartment. “Our father threatened our mother and said he would murder her if he ever had contact with that son.”
That brother wasn’t part of their family anymore, the teenager told the court explaining that they moved again after she called the police in February 2018.
“He moved us again because children’s aid and police knew where we were living.” Sinclair’s sister said they lived in motel rooms in Etobicoke before an older brother brought a property in Napanee where the mother and the three youngest boys lived. She testified she stayed behind in Toronto to work, since that’s what was expected of the children once they turned 16.
“I was tired of being in the house all day. It was getting claustrophobic. I was looking forward to meeting other people and socialize,” the sister said, adding her first job was at a mall.
When crown attorney Michael Cantlon asked the teen what she did with the pay cheques, she answered “Our pay cheques would go to our father. He would take it to our oldest brother to keep in his bank account.” The money she explained would go to pay for things like rent, utilities and groceries.
“Out of each pay cheque, we would get $100 for ourselves,” she said.
Sinclair’s sister said a few months after she called police, she and Sinclair and another brother got an apartment together while they worked until she decided to put herself in foster care.
“I wanted a better job. I wanted a better life. I was working almost full-time.” The teen said she got in touch with the eldest brother, who had left the family and told him she wanted to go to foster care so she could go to high school. “We agreed to make a call to children’s aid where we spoke with a social worker that my mother had already spoken to. We agreed it was best for me to go into foster care.”
Sinclair’s sister said at the time, her parents were living in Napanee with the three youngest boys. Her father had sent Carrington to Toronto to continue working because they were running low on money and for a short time, before she went into foster care, they were all living together. Describing her mother as a “stranger.”
When Cantlon asked the young woman about the relationship between his mother and Sinclair, she answered, “It was not good. Our father had talked to Duncan and us about our mother. She would say stuff like she’s cheating on me. Some of you guys aren’t my kids. He would lead everyone to believe she was this horrible person who was cheating on him.”
Sinclair’s sister testified she learned her father was eventually arrested and the three youngest boys, aged 9 to 14 were taken to hospital to be checked out and eventually placed in foster families too. She said they were happy. “I knew my dad was physically harming us and I didn’t want the younger boys to be subjected to that. I also wanted them to have an education and have a better life and not be confined.”
She told the jury that she also feared the boys going back into her mother’s custody. “I didn’t know if she would go back with my dad.”
She explained that in the months prior to the murder, she would meet with her mom and the three youngest brothers at CAS for a weekly visit. “She was living in a women’s shelter. Our dad had all the money. She was working full time and part time,” she added her mother was trying to save up for an apartment for everyone.
When she was growing up, she remembered her mother being stressed about making money and paying bills. “Our dad would stress her out. He would pick fighters. She would have panic attacks and mental breakdowns in the middle of the night. But she didn’t really do anything about it. She was just mad. She would have nightmares about our dad hurting her,” she remembered.
“She would go into the kitchen. Pace back and forth, and she would say ‘I can’t leave. I can’t leave.’ She would say I hate him. I hate being married to him. I wish I never met him. She was mentally exhausted from everything.”
She said she was open to a relationship with her mother and the two were texting everyday until February 2019 when she testified Carrington yelled at her and said, “Calling the cops was the biggest mistake she had ever made.”
Sinclair’s sister said her mother was upset because “she had a huge fear her whole married life” that children’s aid would come and take away the kids. “She said, I made the fear come true.”
The 19-year-old said after that they still talked but she wasn’t emotionally open to her. “I didn’t like hugs when she tried to hug me. I was more closed off.”
According to an agreed statement of facts, Paul Sinclair was convicted of 12 offences related to child maltreatment on March 18, 2020. The crown has now rested it’s case. Joelle Klein, Sinclair’s lawyer said she will not be presenting any evidence.
Closing submissions are expected to begin on Wednesday.
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