A Calgary judge says further delay in the trial of a man accused of drugging and raping women in the city's sex trade is "very disappointing," but Justice Judith Shriar ultimately agreed to the defence request to adjourn the case to Wednesday.
Richard Mantha's trial was to begin Monday. However, defence lawyer Kim Arial booked a severance application, meaning she plans ask the judge to order separate trials for each alleged victim — seven in total.
But on Monday morning, Arial instead asked for the application to be delayed two days based on voluminous disclosure — more than 10,000 pages that make up the police investigation and Crown's case against Mantha.
"This is very disappointing, we have been waiting for this trial to start since August, said Shriar.
Prosecutor Dominique Mathurin didn't oppose the delay, largely because she hasn't yet received the defence application.
But Mathurin did express concern that if the severance application is granted, it would require some of the complainants to testify three or four times.
Mantha, 59, faces more than two dozen charges, including sexual assault with a gun, sexual assault with a knife, kidnapping, forcible confinement and administering noxious substances.
Arial told the judge she wants the complainants separated because she will likely have a different strategy for each case, such as deciding whether Mantha testifies in his own defence.
The application is expected to take one day but it's not yet known when Shriar will make her ruling.
It's likely the parties will still be able to make use of the trial time, whether they move forward with one complainant or more.
Originally from Quebec, Mantha has exercised his right to be tried in French, a relatively rare occurrence in Alberta, with only about two per cent of residents speaking French as their mother tongue, according to the provincial government.
Five-day search of rural property
Mantha was initially charged with drugging and sexually assaulting a woman in the summer of 2022 but missed a court appearance last March.
By April, Calgary police were investigating Mantha for further offences involving women who worked or frequented the Forest Lawn stroll.
As part of that investigation, CPS and RCMP spent five days searching Mantha's rural property east of Chestermere.
The search ended with Mantha's arrest and a host of new charges involving new victims.
After police announced the charges, more women came forward and new sets of charges were laid.
Unsealed search warrant documents reveal details about the allegations Mantha faces.
Pig mask and gun
Several of the women allegedly victimized by Mantha told police he threatened them with a gun. They also said he had piles of women's clothing in his Quonset hut and trailer.
Mantha's alleged victims say he gave them food or drinks before they lost consciousness. They say they would wake up in his trailer inside the Quonset hut or in hotel rooms.
Several of the women told police that Mantha had a pig mask and a gun.
One woman told investigators she woke up in a hotel room with Mantha videotaping himself raping her.
In recent months, one of Mantha's alleged victims died. The Crown will still pursue the charges related to that complainant.