Brandon Newman, the Calgary youngster charged with murder of Nigerian social worker, Deborah Onwu, physically appeared in court for the first time today, 4 November, to answer to the charge.
He however spent only a few minutes in the dock before his lawyer, Allan Fay, successfully got the judge to accept that the suspect be taken to a psychiatrist for examination that will prove whether “he is fit to stand trial.”
Fay requested Judge Karim Jivrag, who has been assigned to the case, to have his client sent to a psychiatry facility for examination to determine if he is able to give instructions to his lawyer and whether he understands the legal process.
The defence informed the court that a Dr. David Tano had interviewed Newman at the Calgary Courts Centre cell and has recommended that the youngster be taken to Southern Alberta Forensic Psychiatry Centre for a thorough evaluation.
Judge Jivrag granted the request and adjourned the hearing to 2 December 2019.
Police arrested Newman a few hours after Ms. Onwu, a social worker, was found stabbed to death on 25 October 2019 at the Wood’s Homes’ social care centre located at Block 1800 of 27th Avenue, SW Calgary in the Alberta Province of Canada.
Her death has roused social workers in Calgary to speak out on their conditions of employment, and to press for changes in the workplace that will protect case workers like Deborah Onwu who have hitherto worked under extremely dangerous work environments.
On the case..
A pressure group, “Justice for Debbie” has been formed to fight the course of justice and for home care managers to henceforth treat their staff with more dignity and compassion. Another concerned caregiver has taken to “Change.Org” to log a petition for persons working in high risk environments, as a result of Ms. Onwu’s death.
There are fears that the way the murder case is being presented in court may lead to the suspect getting away with an insanity plea, a possibility that has the Group also exploring how to get their employers to follow work safety rules to protect case workers.
There is also the possibility that Wood’s Homes may eventually be sued for violation of basic safety standards in the workplace for social caregivers like late Ms. Onwu.
The Canadian Union of Public Employees has questioned why Ms. Onwu was working alone on the night of the murder.
Union spokesperson, Lou Arab, said that the accused person was reported to have “complex health needs and a violent history,” which should have made it mandatory for more than one caregiver to be with Newman on the night shift.
Ms. Onwu’s sister, Nancy Uwangue, flew in from London to arrange her sister’s funeral and observe how the cause of justice will be served on her sister’s murder.
She told the Calvary Sun newspaper that she was devastated by her sister’s death and hopes that justice will be served.
She also said she had warned her sister about the dangers of her job.
“Unfortunately, she died doing what she liked the most,” Uwangue said.