KAMLOOPS, B.C. - A man accused of beating his girlfriend to death with a hammer has changed his story about what he planned to do with the body, a Crown lawyer has suggested.
Robert Balbar, 42, is charged with second-degree murder in the death of Heather Hamill, whose body was found floating in the North Thompson River on Aug. 1, 2003.
Balbar told his first trial, in 2009, that he wanted to bury Hamill but did not have a shovel and lacked any tools with which to dig a grave. He appealed his conviction and a new trial was ordered.
On Tuesday, he told Crown lawyer Iain Currie that he intended to give Hamill a traditional native burial rather than dump her body in the river.
Balbar said he planned to bury Hamill in a treed area on the T’Kemlups Indian Band reserve near the Halston Bridge, a location he said he was told was home to traditional native burial grounds.
He intended to dig Hamill's grave with a small garden shovel he had in his backpack, Balbar said, adding he got spooked by barking dogs before digging the grave and decided to dump his girlfriend's body in the river.
“Since then, you remembered you had a shovel?” Currie asked.
“I’m pretty sure I did,” Balbar replied. “I don’t know why I wouldn’t have brought it.”
“Here’s a reason you wouldn’t have brought it,” Currie responded. “You wouldn’t have brought it if you brought Ms. Hamill to the river to dump her in the river so she would float far away from your house.”
Balbar maintained he intended to bury Hamill.
“So, you were going to use your little garden shovel and bury her in the trees?” Currie asked.
“I didn’t have an exact plan, but yeah,” Balbar said.
Balbar became uncomfortable on the stand, at one point criticizing Currie’s questioning tactics.
“You’re putting me in a spot where I have to guess,” Balbar said.
“Actually, sir, I’m putting you in a spot where you have to answer to the words you used in the last trial,” Currie replied. “And, I appreciate it’s an uncomfortable spot for you, but it’s the spot you’re in.”
Court has previously heard Balbar beat Hamill to death with a hammer inside the apartment the couple shared in late July 2003.
Balbar claimed in his testimony that he was acting in self-defence after Hamill threatened his nine-year-old son with a machete.
He wasn’t arrested until 2007, following a three-month RCMP Mr. Big undercover operation, during which he was plied with money and promises of sex. (Kamloops This Week)