Was it just harmless tough talk or a criminal act?
That's the question a Manitoba judge must answer in an unusual case in which an RCMP officer is on trial for allegedly threatening a fellow Mountie who dated -- and eventually married -- his former girlfriend.
The "love triangle" took centre stage Thursday at the start of the three-day trial for Const. David Obirek, who has pleaded not guilty to uttering threats.
Obirek, 44, has been suspended with pay for the past 28 months. He is accused of sending several text messages to his ex-wife in August 2011 in which he spoke of wanting Const. Landon Durston dead. He was allegedly angry because Durston had started dating his ex-girlfriend, a civilian member of the RCMP.
Durston would later marry the woman, who moved west with him last summer because of ongoing safety concerns. Durston told court Thursday he was stunned when Obirek's ex-wife contacted him to convey the messages she had received.
"She said something like 'He's having you followed around and is going to have you taken out,' " Durston testified. He immediately phoned Winnipeg police, who began an investigation. And the RCMP quickly conducted a risk assessment.
"They decided to install a panic alarm in our home and gave me permission to take my firearm home every day after work," said Durston, who was working in special operations at the RCMP D Division headquarters at the time.
Eventually, the RCMP agreed to his request for an out-of-province transfer because he and his wife continued to live in fear. The woman had previously obtained a protection order against Obirek in October 2010 -- nearly a year before the texts surfaced.
Durston said Thursday he took Obirek's words very seriously given what he knew about the accused through the woman.
Defence lawyer Bruce Bonney previously told court there is no dispute the texts his client is accused of sending appear ugly on the surface. But he plans to argue Obirek was just "upset and blowing off steam" and didn't intend to cause any fear.
There's also the unique issue at play where the alleged victim of the threats never actually received them, as they were only conveyed through the third party.
The trial is expected to continue today and may include testimony from Obirek.