By Jennifer Saltman, The Province
SURREY — A trial began in provincial court on Monday for a Surrey man accused of calling two women and threatening them shortly before their house burned down.
Timothy Ralph Berg, 54, is charged with uttering threats and arson in relation to an inhabited property. The fire took place at a home in the 11400-block 142 Street in Whalley.
In his opening statement, Crown prosecutor Mike Fortino told the court that on Oct. 9, 2015, Debora Segal received a number of calls from Berg, an acquaintance.
Fortino alleged that when she refused to speak with Berg, he became angry and began threatening Segal and her friend Barbara Newman, who was with her and answering the phone. The women didn’t take the threats seriously because they believed Berg was intoxicated.
“They thought these were just the ramblings of a drunk man,” Fortino said.
Shortly after 11 p.m., Fortino said, Newman allegedly saw Berg in the back yard of the neighbouring property and saw him launch a firework at the house. A neighbour went out to see what had happened and saw some grey smoke, but no fire.
Neither Segal nor Newman called police.
Between 11 p.m. and 1 a.m. Berg allegedly continued to call Segal’s phone, demanding to talk to her. She refused to speak with him.
“At this time he threatened to kill both (women) and burn the house down,” Fortino said.
Homeowner Nathan Davidowicz arrived at the house around midnight and nothing was amiss. He went to bed.
Segal allegedly received another call from Berg demanding to speak with her around 1 a.m. Newman told him that Segal would call him back in 10 to 15 minutes.
“Mr. Berg said she had five minutes or he was going to light the house on fire,” Fortino said.
Fortino said Segal attempted to call Berg back, but he did not answer. As she called, she looked out the window at the back of the house and saw that the porch was on fire. Newman tried to put out the fire but it quickly spread.
Segal, Newman and Davidowicz were able to escape. The home was gutted by the fire and neighbouring homes were damaged.
Fortino alleged that as Segal was being interviewed by police on the street, Berg called. Segal put him on speaker phone and he said, “I asked you to call me and talk to me, and you keep ignoring me, and I told you I’ll burn the house down if you don’t f—— talk to me.”
Fortino said Berg’s roommate is expected to testify that Berg returned home around 1:30 or 1:40 a.m. on Oct. 10. He appeared intoxicated and allegedly told his roommate “that the house was burned down and they were all dead.”
Berg was arrested at his home.
Surrey RCMP Const. Andrew MacMillan, the lead investigator on the case, was the first witness to testify.
MacMillan said that when Berg was brought into the detachment he smelled of liquor and was slurring his words.
“He was very upset — he was fairly belligerent,” said MacMillan.
MacMillan said that he seized a number of items that had been in Berg’s possession, including a pack of matches and a cellphone. The matches were wet and three were missing. He said that he put Berg’s cellphone into a plastic evidence bag, and when he opened it about an hour and a half later it smelled like “burned firewood.”
The trial continues.