03/20/2012 04:03 EDT | Updated 03/21/2012 11:54 EDT

Mark Stobbe Trial: Defence In Former Political Adviser's Murder Trial Says Crown Has Failed To Prove Killing

WINNIPEG - The defence says that despite calling almost 80 witnesses over several weeks, the Crown has failed to prove a former political adviser killed his wife.

"(A) suspicious case is not enough to say that Mr. Stobbe is the one who killed his wife," lawyer Tim Killeen said Tuesday as he gave his final arguments to the 12-member jury.

"What you're left with is saying, 'Sure, it could have been him. Or it could have been somebody else.'"

Mark Stobbe, a senior adviser to former Saskatchewan premier Roy Romanow, is accused of killing Beverly Rowbotham with a hatchet in the couple's backyard in St. Andrew's, Man., in October 2000. The couple had moved to Manitoba earlier that year because Stobbe had accepted a job with the recently elected NDP government of Gary Doer.

Rowbotham was found dead in her car in Selkirk, 15 kilometres north of her home. Stobbe told police she had gone grocery shopping and he had fallen asleep with one of their two sons. When he awoke, he realized she'd never returned.

The Crown's theory is that Stobbe killed his wife during a heated argument, drove her body to Selkirk, then bicycled back home to report her missing. Crown attorney Wendy Dawson presented circumstantial evidence, including DNA tests that showed blood, hair and small bone fragments from Rowbotham were found in the backyard and garage.

But there were no witnesses to the killing, and no one has testified to seeing the couple argue.

"Have you seen anything at all in the evidence ... that said that they had a fight that night?" Killeen asked the jury.

"(Stobbe) had no reason why he would want to kill her."

Killeen admitted that it's unusual Rowbotham was killed in her backyard without Stobbe hearing anything. But, he said, that was what happened.

Killeen also told the jury to question a dozen Crown witnesses who testified they saw a large man on a bicycle near where Rowbotham's body was found.

While the witnesses said it was unusual to see a cyclist in the dead of a late-October night on a rural highway, Killeen pointed out that none could identify Stobbe as the man. They also gave varying descriptions of the cyclist, he added.

The Crown was to present its final submission Wednesday. The jury is expected to begin deliberations next week.