CANADA

A fatal attraction?

A trial turns on charges of HIV injections

BRIAN BERGMAN May 15 1995
CANADA

A fatal attraction?

A trial turns on charges of HIV injections

BRIAN BERGMAN May 15 1995

A fatal attraction?

CANADA

A trial turns on charges of HIV injections

He looks fit and healthy. But as photographer Con Boland told an Edmonton courtroom last week, he is living under a potential death sentence of AIDS, allegedly the result of a bizarre sexual relationship with a dark-haired former model. According to the celebrated 47-year-old portrait specialist whose subjects have included Pierre Trudeau and Wayne Gretzky, he was twice injected with the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) by former lover Marilyn Tan—once in his elegant riverside home in Edmonton and a second time during a sadomasochistic sex session with the ex-model in a California hotel room in June, 1992. Testifying at the trial of his alleged assailant last week, Boland described the second incident in graphic detail. Blindfolded and wearing only a jockstrap and clothes-pin-like clips on his nipples, Boland said that he engaged in sex with a whip-wielding Tan. “It was a female domination type of sex where Marilyn would be in control,” said Boland as a grim-faced Tan listened intently from the prisoner’s box. “She wanted me to be weak. I went along with it”

During their sex games that night, Boland told the court, Tan insisted that he drink some hard liquor. The photographer, who said that he is normally an abstainer, testified that after drinking only half a glass he grew ill and passed out. He awoke the next morning with a large bruise on his left thigh—an injury that Tan told him had been caused z when he bumped into a dresser during § the night. (Under cross-examination, § Boland admitted that the bruise was § near his buttocks, where Tan had hit 5 him with the whip.) While the couple i had engaged in kinky sex before, t Boland said there had been only one | other time that Tan insisted he wear a blindfold and drink liquor. That happened in Edmonton a few months earlier and the Crown alleges that on both occasions Tan had drugged her lover before injecting him with HIV-tainted blood that she obtained from her sister, Evelyn, who worked in a California hospital.

In November, 1992, Boland said that he received a call from a client, Rachel Deitch, who was also a confidante of Tan’s. According to Crown prosecutor Brian Peterson, Deitch told Boland at that time about Tan’s plot to infect the photographer with the AIDS virus and urged him to get tested. Boland did so, testing positive—even though a similar test in March, 1992, had come up negative. He then took his suspicions to the police and

in July, 1993, they arrested Tan. The 35-yearold Tan now stands charged with aggravated assault, conspiracy to administer a noxious substance and administering a noxious substance, in relation to the HIV attacks. She is also accused of uttering a death threat against another former girlfriend of Boland’s, 29-year-old Jeanette Kunkel. If convicted, Tan

faces a maximum sentence of 14 years on the first three charges and five years for the death threat.

Tan’s trial, which has fascinated and titillated Albertans, is expected to last about three weeks. During Boland’s testimony, the courtroom was filled to capacity with curious spectators—including a group of high-school students on a field trip. In part, the interest is due to the rarity of the offence: it is believed to be the first case of its kind in North America. But mostly it is because of the steady stream of salacious details about the seven-year affair between Tan, a Philippine-bom beauty, and the

Dutch-bom Boland, who arrived in Canada in 1967 and quickly earned a reputation as Alberta’s pre-eminent portrait photographer.

As Boland told the court last week, he met Tan in 1984 when she applied for a job at his in-home studio. She moved in the following year and later worked as his assistant. Their relationship, he said, was often tempestuous. He complained about her spendthrift habits. She complained about his promiscuity, and worried that his admitted fondness for sleeping with prostitutes exposed the couple to the risk of AIDS. (Boland confirmed this predilection during his testimony, and even admitted shooting up cocaine and other drugs with hookers. But he insisted that he always used clean needles and, since the 1960s, had always worn condoms during sex.) By February, 1992, the relationship had reached the breaking point. Yet, over the next eight months, Tan continued to live with Boland and to occasionally have sex with him, even as each of them dated other people.

The Crown alleges that, by this point, Tan was driven by jealousy and bitterness and wanted Boland dead. Kunkel, who began dating Boland in the spring of 1992, testified last week that in June of that year Tan, wearing a black leather trench coat, black stiletto-heeled shoes and dark glasses, had confronted her in an alleyway and threatened to have her killed unless she stopped seeing Boland. The day after the alleged death threat, Tan and Boland left for California—a trip that Boland described as a final fling. “She had promised some really wild lovemaking,” recalled the photographer. Boland said that he had misgivings about the trip, but added: “I basically did it to appease Marilyn. I’ve always believed it’s nice to end a relationship on a harmonious basis.”

Last week’s testimony ended with another strange twist— and further evidence of Tan’s apparent hold over members of the opposite ^ sex. Peterson had urged 1 Court of Queen’s Bench ^Justice Keith Ritter to I allow one of his witnesses i—a wealthy Edmonton |businessman who once I offered to pay Tan $2 milo lion if she would commit j2 to a 10-year personal rela° tionship with him—to testify from behind a screen to mask his identity. Peterson said the witness had nothing to do with the alleged crimes and did not want his reputation sullied. Ritter considered the application in camera and then reserved judgment. Whichever way he rules, Tan’s trial promises to provide more than enough embarrassment to go around.

BRIAN BERGMAN with BART JOHNSON in Edmonton

BART JOHNSON