By Johanna Zomers

Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Pembroke — Jurors at the Coroner’s inquest into the deaths of three area women by Intimate Partner Violence in 2015 heard gripping testimony about the efforts made to keep them safe despite the perpetrator’s history of abusing women.

Faye Cassista, Assistant Coordinator Victim Service Renfrew County, spoke at length about how her agency developed safety plans with both Anastasia (Stacia) Kuyzk and Nathalie Warmerdam in the two years after Basil Borutski was released from prison after being convicted of assault charges. She told of how the agency worked with each individual woman to formulate strategies based on the victim’s experience and knowledge of the perpetrator.

“Women minimize so much of what they live with,” Ms. Cassista said. “The safety plan has to be hers. She has to own it but sometimes they don’t see the dangers that we see. I take my cues from her reality. We try to give her the tools to keep her safe.”

For Nathalie Warmerdam, a community palliative care nurse who worked out of an office in Eganville but travelled all over the area seeing her patients, that meant being equipped with an MTS (Mobile Tracking Device) which when activated would send ongoing GPS signals to the Ontario Provincial Police about her location. Driving alone at night on isolated country roads frightened Ms. Warmerdam who knew that Mr. Borutski frequently borrowed different cars from a friend who owned a garage and she never knew what vehicle he might be driving. The jury heard that she kept the tracking device with her at all times on her house calls and beside her bed at night, right up to the date of her murder on September 22, 2015.

The inquest also heard that Ms. Warmerdam was very proactive in formulating a safety plan for herself and her children which included a strategy for all to run in different directions if Mr. Borutski should show up at their house near Cormac. Her son Adrian followed that directive when he fled into the bush on the morning of his mother’s death.

Ms. Cassista also spoke of Ms. Warmerdam’s frustration with the probation system as her calls about Mr. Borutski’s release date and details of where he would live went unanswered for months. Eventually, Ms. Cassista and Ms. Warmerdam wrote a formal letter requesting that information.

Ms. Warmerdam was very disturbed that Mr. Borutski’s release date had been changed from February 2015 to December 27, 2014. She told Ms. Cassista, “this will be my best Christmas ever because he’s not getting out until February.”

She went into full panic mode when she heard about the early release date because she felt none of the protective services would be open over the holidays and she knew she would be most at risk right after his release.

“It all caused her so much anxiety, struggling to get information when no one called her back,” Ms. Cassista said.

Anastasia Kuyzk had a different approach to acknowledging her exposure to danger. Ms. Cassista spoke of how she urged Ms. Kuyzk who also travelled alone to show real estate to clients, to always let someone know where she was going and when she would return.

“Doing her safety plan was more challenging. She saw the good in everyone and didn’t think Basil was capable of lethality despite the fact that she had been subjected to much more physical and sexual violence from Borutski than Nathalie had experienced.

“Stacia didn’t portray as much anxiety as Nathalie as she felt she was moving on without him in her life and would be okay. Stacia was a very private person who didn’t like to reveal personal details,” Ms. Cassista told the inquest. “She had invited her sister to move in with her and felt that she was moving on with her life.”

The inquest also heard how the murders affected the greater community and set a lot of abused women back as their violent partners said things like, “that’s nothing compared to what I’ll do to you.” 

“A lot of people thought this was just a mental health issue. There is so little awareness around domestic violence,” Ms.  Cassista said. “A lot more work needs to be done around this issue.

The inquest continues in Pembroke until June 27.