Witnesses at Peter Nygard's sexual-assault trial describe bedroom suite at Toronto HQ

Witnesses describe suite

The Toronto office of Peter Nygard's clothing company housed a bedroom suite featuring a door built into a mirrored wall that could only be opened by a control panel, his sexual-assault trial heard Wednesday as witnesses detailed the layout of the building where the former Canadian fashion mogul allegedly forced himself on women.

Nygard, the founder of a now-defunct international women's clothing company, is being accused by the Crown of using his position in the fashion industry to lure women and girls. 

The 82-year-old has pleaded not guilty to five counts of sexual assault and one count of forcible confinement in alleged incidents ranging from the '80s to mid-2000s.

The Crown has said in its opening arguments at trial that all five complainants in the case are expected to allege that they were taken to the building under pretences ranging from tours to job interviews, with all encounters ending in the top-floor bedroom suite, where they were sexually assaulted.

David Gauthier, who previously worked for Nygard doing construction and design work, testified Wednesday that one door inside Nygard's Toronto suite was built into a mirrored wall and could only be opened by pushing a button on a control panel near a large bed. 

"Someone else would have to press that button," he said, "because by the time you pressed it and got to the door, the maglock re-engaged."

Gauthier has also told the trial the bedroom suite had another door that was opened by pushing a button next to it. 

In its opening address on Tuesday, the Crown had indicated that the doors to Nygard's private suite had no handles. 

Gauthier said Wednesday that the door on the mirrored wall did have a handle inside the bedroom but the door could only be opened if it was unlocked by the control panel near the bed.  

Under cross-examination, Gauthier also said the top-floor suite was one of two bedrooms in the building, which were also used by business associates or Nygard employees, with Nygard's permission.

Jurors were also shown extensive photographs of the inside of Nygard's headquarters, located at 1 Niagara St., and they heard that his properties were often designed in style with his Finnish heritage. 

The top-floor bedroom suite was mostly made of wood and featured a balcony with a view of downtown Toronto, a stone Jacuzzi and a large TV screen. 

Outside the bedroom was an office, a stage for fashion shows and an area known as the "Berlin room," because it featured a coffee table made with a piece of the Berlin Wall, court heard. 

Marcel Buisse, who worked for Nygard International from 1991 to 2018, testified that one of the doors in the top-floor bedroom suite "was sort of like a hidden door, but all doors in the facility were hidden doors."

Nygard founded Nygard International in Winnipeg in 1967, and stepped down as chairman of the clothing company in February 2020 before it filed for bankruptcy.

The five complainants in the case, whose identities are protected by a publication ban, are expected to testify in the coming weeks.

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