Jury set to begin deliberations in Sylvia Consuelo murder trial
|Toronto Star 04 May 2019 at 16:20|
Sylvia Consuelo, a slight 34-year-old woman with long, dark hair, was found dead on the floor of her Etobicoke apartment in the early hours of Jan. 30, 2016. A bunch of unopened condoms had been scattered over her body and she had been sexually assaulted with an object.
Three years later, a jury is set to decide whether Najib Amin, 31, murdered Consuelo because he believed — wrongly — that she was HIV-positive and had given HIV to three people through unprotected sex.
Sylvia Consuelo was violently murdered and sexually assaulted on Jan. 30, 2016. Najib Amin has been charged with her (Court Exhibit)
There is no DNA evidence in the case, no fingerprints or an eyewitness to the murder.
In closing arguments on Thursday, the case against Amin was described as entirely circumstantial and based mainly on two pieces of evidence: security footage from Consuelo’s building that shows Amin and the alleged murderer on different days wearing apparently identical clothing and secretly recorded conversations between Amin and undercover police officers during a months-long operation to see whether Amin would confess to killing Consuelo.
Amin was captured on surveillance cameras entering the Kendleton Dr. apartment complex — three Toronto Community Housing buildings joined together by basement tunnels — on Jan. 24, 2016.
On Jan. 30, 2016, three hours before Consuelo was found dead, a man enters the complex wearing what appear to be the same grey shoes, jeans, black leather jacket, black hat with white writing on it, and same striped shirt as Amin days before. Before entering the building the man pulls a scarf up over his face that the Crown argues is remarkably similar to one worn by a woman who was with Amin on Jan. 24. The man left the building just over an hour later, his face still covered.
“Did someone break into Mr. Amin’s residence and raid his closet that day and just happen to steal and choose to wear these five, specific, distinctive pieces of clothing and then that person just happened to walk over to Sylvia Consuelo’s apartment,” said prosecutor Scott Arnold in his closing address. “It defies any coincidence.”
Defence lawyer Jennifer Penman argued the clothing Amin was wearing — including the blue jeans with a white seagull-like pattern on the back pockets — are extremely common and that, as Amin told the undercover officers, his friends often borrowed his clothes.
Penman also argued there is no way to know the masked man is the same person who murdered Consuelo. There are no cameras in the building hallways or elevator and therefore no video showing whether the man went up to Consuelo’s floor or entered Consuelo’s unit. The jury heard about plenty of illegal activity occurring at the Kendleton Dr. complex, she said, suggesting the masked man could have been concealing his identity for another reason other than murder.
Once police identified Amin as a suspect, an undercover police operation was launched in April 2016. The plan was to have an officer befriend Amin and for them to become business partners with another officer posing as a wealthy businessman with the ability to make legal problems — even murder — go away.
The identities of the two undercover officers are covered by a publication ban.
The operation began when police arranged for Amin to win a $100 shopping spree at Square One mall after filling out a marketing survey about a shisha bar. An officer known to Amin as Ryan was made a fellow winner and the two men struck up a friendship after spending the day together. After the shopping spree, Amin, his girlfriend and Ryan were treated to a free meal by the marketing company at a nearby shisha bar where Amin was introduced to an undercover officer posing as Raz, a big-shot businessman hoping to open a shisha bar in London.
On one occasion Amin, his girlfriend and some other undercover officers went to Ripley’s Aquarium to look at the sharks because Raz wanted to install a shark tank at his cottage, court heard.
Ryan and Amin continued to spend time together including at various strip clubs and Ryan began complaining about an ex-girlfriend called Jessie who had taken a gun he was keeping for his cousin.