Ian Charles Borbely is led into the Bracebridge court house shortly after he was charged with the murder of Samantha Collins in this 2011 file photo. (Photo by Louis Tam)
Brought to tears during her testimony, Samantha Collins’ younger sister recounted the very moment she informed her sister’s accused killer about the discovery of her remains.
On Monday, Jan. 28, Nicole Fowlie-Smith said she phoned Ian Charles Borbely – the Orillia man accused in the case – on July 8, 2010, the same day police identified Collins from remains found in pails at a Merrick Drive cottage. Just 29 at the time of her disappearance in 2007, Collins was in a relationship with Borbely and shared a young child with him.
“I said to him, ‘They found Samantha’s remains,’” Fowlie-Smith said. “It was a very brief phone call.”
Fowlie-Smith said some words of disbelief were exchanged before Borbely ended the call abruptly.
“Oh s---, I’m at work, I’ll call you back,” Fowlie-Smith quoted Borbely as saying before he hung up.
She said he never called back.
A year after that call, police arrested Borbely and charged him with Collins’ murder.
Fowlie-Smith said she last spoke to Collins in January 2007, when they discussed maternity and plans for Collins’ birthday that month. Collins vanished two months later in March 2007.
Fowlie-Smith wept after telling crown attorney Douglas Kasko about how she embarked on a two-year search for her sister’s whereabouts, which included scouring social media websites for clues. Eventually, she was able to locate Borbely.
“I found him on Facebook in I believe April 2009,” she said.
Through private Facebook messages, she said she questioned Borbely about her sister’s whereabouts. She said Borbely gave her a phone number to call him at but kept “putting off” the conversation.
Eventually, she said Borbely told her Collins had taken off to southern Ontario, clearing out a bank account in the process.
“He told me there was a lot of arguing and he told me she left with some guy,” Fowlie-Smith said.
Fowlie-Smith said she kept in contact with Borbely over the next several months, and sent a birthday gift for the child he shared with Collins.
She said she then got a strange text message from him early one morning on June 2009.
“It had said, ‘Call me, I need to you tell you something,’” she said.
But when she called, she said Borbely dismissed its importance and said the text was sent while he was intoxicated.
In addition to sharing a child with Borbely, Fowlie-Smith said Collins also had a child when she was 16 with a man from a previous relationship. She said that child is now 18, and ended up living with the father and a step-mother in southern Ontario.
She said Collins then had a relationship with another man in Windsor for about three to four years which produced no children. Collins arrived in Bracebridge sometime between 2003 and 2004.
“She moved out here with her boyfriend Ian Borbely,” Fowlie-Smith said.
Though Collins was with Borbely up until the time of her disappearance, the court also heard she was having an affair with a 21-year-old man. In testimony that began on Friday, Jan. 25, the lover revealed a series of intimate emails he exchanged with Collins beginning in December 2006, when he was away in British Columbia for work.
Now 27 years old, the man told defence attorney Paul Cooper that feelings developed quickly between himself and Collins.
“She didn’t say too much about Ian,” he said.
While on the west coast, he said he sent Collins $200.
“She called me very upset … ‘We’re short on rent,’” he quoted her as saying in a phone conversation.
Both Collins and the man repeatedly professed love for one another in the emails, and the court also heard of potential discussion between them about possibly having a child together.
Cooper argued that a brief rift apparently appeared in the affair after the man left the province. At one point, the tone of the emails appeared to sour.
In the emails, Collins had said she was worried their relationship was just a fling, and that she was concerned about Borbely discovering their affair.
The man returned to Bracebridge on Jan. 28, 2007, and immediately called Collins from Toronto twice beginning at around 7 a.m. Phone records Cooper produced show the two calls lasted just one minute each.
The court heard that the man met up with Collins at the Wellington Street home she shared with Borbely a short time later. There, Cooper said Collins scolded the man, telling him they could have had a good relationship together, but that he “blew it.”
Several weeks later, the man met up with Collins at the Concrete Monkey, a now defunct Manitoba Street bar.
Though the man said he couldn’t remember if that encounter was planned or not, he said he ended up having sex with Collins that night. When he woke up, he testified that Collins was gone, and that it was the last time he ever saw her.
Cooper suggested that it was on that night that the man decided to end the affair with Collins. The man denied that was the case.
Last week, the court also heard testimony from Mark Hill, a 48-year-old retired painter who helped Borbely clear Collins’ belongings from the couple’s home after her disappearance.
Sporting a ponytail and a crucifix around his neck, the Muskoka Lakes native told the court he remembered Collins as a “cheerful waitress” at the Purple Pig bar in Bracebridge where she worked.
“One day, I decided to bring her a rose,” he said.
Shortly after his courting gesture, however, Hill said he was confronted by Borbely, and later backed off from his advances. But afterwards, Hill said he began a budding friendship with Borbely and later visited their home, and said he saw the couple argue on several occasions.
When Collins left the home, the court heard that Hill arrived to help Borbely clear her belongings. Hill said Borbely told him “nonchalantly” that Collins had moved “to the city,” and that she had just “dumped” their child with him.
Hill initially told the court that Borbely and Collins had talked about splitting before, but that it was only on that day he learned Collins had left town.
Cooper, however, didn’t buy Hill’s explanation, and argued that he actually knew well in advance that Collins planned to skip town. He then read from the transcript of a November 2010 interview between Hill and police, proving the point.
“I stand corrected,” Hill said after a lengthy grilling.
Cooper suggested that as a painter, Hill would have used pails. Cooper also suggested that Borbely was standing right beside Hill when he received a text from Collins after her departure.
Hill denied the claim, and said he wasn’t aware of any pails at Borbely’s residence.
“I just didn’t understand how someone could just leave everything,” he said of Collins’ disappearance.
Earlier, the court also heard testimony from a daycare worker, who was employed as a temporary teacher at a local daycare centre shortly before Collins’ disappearance. The worker said she first met Collins on the week of March 19 to 23, 2007.
On their first encounter, the worker said Collins dropped her child off but left quickly, and appeared upset as the worker had some trouble getting the facility’s doors open.
“The dad usually picked (the child) up,” she said.
The daycare worker said Borbely’s parents also picked up the child.
Two days later, she said Collins called her at the centre, asking that Borbely and his parents be denied permission to pick up the child.
“That was it, the conversation was very short … there was just ‘click,’ there was no goodbye or anything,” she said.
The trial continues Thursday.
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