NEWS
09/21/2015 14:21 EDT | Updated 09/21/2016 01:12 EDT

Fisherman "saw red" during crew's attack on Phillip Boudreau off Cape Breton

PORT HAWKESBURY, N.S. — A Cape Breton fisherman who has pleaded guilty to manslaughter in the death of a man whose overturned boat was found shortly after he disappeared off Nova Scotia told a psychiatrist he "saw red" at the time.

A sentencing hearing for Dwayne Samson is being held today in the Supreme Court of Nova Scotia in Port Hawkesbury in the death of 43-year-old Phillip Boudreau in June 2013.

Samson has admitted he was steering the Twin Maggies when it struck Boudreau's boat off Petit-de-Grat because he thought Boudreau was tampering with his lobster traps.

Boudreau's overturned boat was found shortly after he disappeared, but his body has never been recovered.

Joseph James Landry of Little Anse was sentenced earlier this year to a 14-year term after a jury found him guilty of manslaughter in Boudreau's death, although he is appealing his sentence.

Craig Landry was given 28 days in jail for being an accessory after the fact in the case.

At the sentencing hearing today, Crown prosecutor Steve Drake questioned forensic psychiatrist Scott Theriault about an assessment he had conducted on Samson more than two years after Boudreau disappeared.

In his report, Theriault said Samson had told him he had not suffered from any type of mental illness or panic attacks prior to June 1, 2013 — the day Boudreau went missing.

Theriault confirmed that Samson told him during a two-hour interview that after the first shots were fired from the Twin Maggies at Boudreau's boat, he "went into a state of panic."

Theriault's report goes on to quote Samson saying that he felt "like I was above and looking down" at the scene unfolding on the boat.

Theriault said Samson told him there was "no time to think," and that he was "seeing red" amid a "whirlwind of events."

An agreed statement of facts read in court after Samson pleaded guilty earlier this year says the Twin Maggies left the wharf in Arichat at about 5 a.m. for a day of lobster fishing when the boat's crew came upon Boudreau's boat on the water.

James Landry and Samson had an ongoing suspicion that Boudreau had been interfering with their lobster traps, the statement says.

Landry, who is Samson's father-in-law, used a rifle to shoot at Boudreau's boat four times, hitting him once in the leg, the document says. When he fired the second shot Boudreau tried to get away but his propeller got tangled in rope, causing his boat to sit idle.

Landry then told Samson to turn the Twin Maggies around so he could gaff Boudreau's boat and tow it out to sea.

With Samson at the wheel, the Twin Maggies rammed Boudreau's boat three times, knocking him into the water. The document says Landry hooked Boudreau with a gaff and Samson drove the Twin Maggies out to sea.

Theriault told the sentencing hearing that Samson reported having a rapid heartbeat, profuse sweating and a dry mouth, symptoms that were consistent with a typical panic attack.

When Drake asked Theriault if he had any doubts about what Samson had told him, Theriault said the symptoms described by Samson were consistent with a panic attack and a disassociative disorder.  

Asked by Drake if someone could find a list of those symptoms by using Google, Theriault said that was possible but Samson did not appear to be psychologically sophisticated, which meant his recollections came across as more genuine.

Theriault agreed, however, that there was no way for him to discern whether Samson was telling the truth about what he experienced that day.

Outside court, defence lawyer Nash Brogan said the stress of the situation meant Samson could do little else but obey the commands of James Landry.

"They started off being angry and it developed into a state of high panic where they couldn't resist the commands of James Landry," Brogan said.

"The moral blame worthiness of our client is a lot less."

Michael MacDonald, The Canadian Press