BRITISH COLUMBIA

Accused killer denies any involvement in triple shooting in Princeton, B.C.

03/27/2015 12:44 EDT | Updated 05/27/2015 05:59 EDT
PENTICTON, B.C. - A man accused of murdering two people and wounding another flatly denied any involvement in the shootings near Princeton, B.C., while testifying in his own defence.

John Koopmans, 51, began testifying before a jury on Thursday at his B.C. Supreme Court trial in Penticton, B.C. He's accused of the first-degree murders of Robert Wharton, 43, and Rosemary Fox, 32, and the attempted murder of Bradley Martin, 50, on March 30, 2013.

"Did you commit the crimes with which you are charged?" asked his defence counsel Don Skogstad.

"No, I did not," Koopmans replied while shaking his head.

The soft-spoken man, dressed in a brown shirt and black jeans, told the court he was married for 10 years and had three children, before he inherited some money and became semi-retired in 2005.

He bought a property near Princeton and later became friends with Wharton when he began working at the man's welding shop, the trial heard.

Koopmans testified that Wharton developed a "severe" drug problem after his father died, and by 2013 the man was in "dire straits" financially.

While working at Wharton's property, Koopmans said, he noticed "drug sales, drug use, money coming in, money coming out." He said 10 days before the shooting he loaned Wharton money to buy crack cocaine from Martin.

"Keith had gone out of his way a lot of times for me," he explained.

"I had a drinking issue and if I ran out of alcohol, he'd go hunting all over to his mother's house or to town or wherever to get me something to drink."

Koopmans told the jury he once owned an illegal .357 Magnum handgun, the same calibre suspected to have been used in the shootings, but said he "cut it up" in 2007 so he wouldn't jeopardize his hunting licence if he was caught with the weapon.

He denied touching a gun or being anywhere near the Similkameen River — where two guns were recovered after the shootings.

It's the Crown's theory that Koopmans killed Wharton because he believed the man was involved in a break in at Koopmans' home. The defence has suggested the shootings were carried out by someone from the drug world.

The trial is expected to last through next week.

(Penticton Herald)