TORONTO — The Crown attorney in Peter Nygard's sexual assault trial challenged statements the former fashion mogul has made to police and in court, as Nygard continued to deny allegations against him on the stand Wednesday.
Crown lawyer Neville Golwalla suggested in his cross-examination that there are inconsistencies in what Nygard said to a Toronto police detective more than two years ago, and what he has testified in his own defence at the trial.
Five women, whose identities are protected by a publication ban, have alleged they were taken to Nygard's company headquarters in Toronto at different times under pretences including tours and job interviews, with all encounters ending in a top-floor bedroom suite where they allege they were sexually assaulted.
The 82-year-old founder of a now-defunct international women's clothing company has pleaded not guilty to five counts of sexual assault and one count of forcible confinement in alleged incidents ranging from the 1980s to mid-2000s.
Golwalla said Wednesday that Nygard initially told a Toronto police detective in October 2021 that he did not recall going to a Gatineau, Que., club in the late 1980s, where one of the complainants in the trial said she met Nygard before he allegedly sexually assaulted her in Toronto.
The Crown attorney suggested that Nygard only said that he was at the club once the detective showed him a photo from the fashion event held there, but Nygard replied that the photo helped refresh his memory.
"At that meeting (with the detective), I had not remembered Chez Henri,” Nygard said, referring to the venue, but added that he subsequently started remembering some details.
Nygard testified last week that he had no recollection of meeting the complainant at the nightclub and said her testimony that he had offered to help with her fashion design aspirations made no sense.
Nygard said on Wednesday that he still doesn’t understand how he could have helped that woman, who court heard was aspiring to design clothes for kids and teens.
"I was not interested in the junior business at all," he said.
Golwalla read portions of a newspaper article about the Gatineau event, which reported that Nygard was collaborating with a well-known Canadian model at the time on a clothing line for 12- to19-year-olds.
"That’s not true at all. We were not working on anything like that,” Nygard said, although he accepted that the article had quoted him accurately and said it's possible the clothing line was something the model herself was planning to work on.
When the Crown attorney suggested that it would "make sense" for the complainant to have a mentor in the fashion industry, Nygard replied, "I would only do such a mentorship if it was in my business interest.”
Nygard repeated that he doesn't recall meeting the complainant and that "there was no reason" for him to take her phone number at that event. "None whatsoever," he said.
Nygard has previously said that he had no memory of meeting another complainant, who testified that she attended a Rolling Stones concert with him in Toronto in the late 1980s before being led to Nygard’s top-floor bedroom suite, where she alleged she was trapped and attacked.
Nygard has testified that he did not recall ever attending a Rolling Stones concert in Toronto.
Golwalla pressed Nygard on that point Wednesday, saying that he told the police detective in 2021 that it was his habit to go to “key concerts” in whichever city he was at the time. Nygard said he wasn’t a fan of The Rolling Stones and he didn’t consider their show to be a “key concert.”
Golwalla suggested that a man of Nygard’s position and power would have access to tickets for big entertainment events.
“If Rolling Stones were in town, Peter Nygard was there, correct?” he asked.
“Not correct, I wasn’t there,” Nygard replied.
Golwalla also quizzed Nygard about his testimony regarding the use of an emergency contraceptive called Plan B.
A complainant who alleged that Nygard sexually assaulted her at his Toronto headquarters in the early 2000s had testified that another woman who was there gave her pills on her way out, which she later recognized as Plan B.
Nygard told the court last week that he never gave anyone Plan B “in those years” but that he may have done so once it became “legal.”
Under questioning from Golwalla, Nygard said he believed that Plan B became legal sometime between 2008 and 2010. When Golwalla told him that Health Canada approved the use of Plan B without a prescription in April 2005, Nygard said, “I have to accept that but … I did not know that at the time.”
Nygard previously testified that he has never done the things the five complainants have accused him of, nor would he engage in such behaviour.
He also testified that he went into the October 2021 interview with "nothing to hide" from police, but could not recall several details of that conversation when questioned about them in court.
The trial continues Thursday.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 1, 2023.
Sonja Puzic, The Canadian Press