A voice from Greg Matters’ past, a former girlfriend of the dead military veteran, testified briefly at a coroner’s inquest on Friday.
Matters was killed during a Sept. 10, 2012 stand-off with police at his rural property shortly after he’d gone to a cabin on his mother’s property, a place where according to his sister Tracey’s earlier testimony, he often went to find “peace and comfort.”
Sonya Booker’s appearance in court just before noon was a surprise to many. However, like the 14 witnesses before her, Booker added to what the seven-person jury has already been told about Matter’s life. Booker who lives in Toronto, told inquest counsel Rodrick Mackenzie that she’d heard about the inquest now on in Prince George and had wanted to do her part. She said she knew that Matters (if their roles were reversed) would have been there for her, or anybody in her family.
“He was just that kind of man,” she said. Booker and Matters were girlfriend-boyfriend from 1998 to 2002, she said.
They met when the two were living in New Brunswick – Booker was then a reservist in the military. They had a very close relationship before, during and after Matters’ tour of duty as a peacekeeper in Bosnia. They eventually broke up, she said, in 2002 about a year after Matters’ return from overseas.
“Greg was an amazing man,” Booker said, as tears filled her eyes. “Greg had a huge heart and he really cared about people … My family loved him very dearly as did I.”
She remembered Matters as a “fiercely loyal” and “very caring individual. When he returned home from his tour of duty in Bosnia, however, he was a changed man. He’d suffered a back injury in the military that now prevented him from enjoying his former active lifestyle. His personality had changed too. Booker said Matters was deployed to Bosnia in 2001 and spent six months there.
“Our relationship was impacted, he withdrew intimately from our relationship …and from friends.” Matters’ drinking was a major concern for her in their relationship, she said, but because she was young, 18 or 19 when they began dating, she had no idea that there was a “bigger issue going on.”
Looking back, Booker said she realizes she had no knowledge about what he was really going through [post traumatic stress disorder.] After Bosnia, Matters was “still kind,” she said, but he was “different” in terms of engaging with people and in his ability to express himself.
Asked by Mackenzie if Matters had any problems with police during their relationship, Booker said, “No.” Also on Friday, two other witnesses, Matters’ brother Trevor and mother Lorraine took the stand with some very emotional moments and revealing testimony which left most gallery spectators in tears. For those stories, check the Free Press website for inquest updates. The inquest continues Tuesday when RCMP regular members and emergency response team (ERT) members are expected to testify.
The inquest got underway Monday. During the first week of testimony, Mackenzie reiterated that this is a fact finding not fault finding process. However, an inquest jury can make any recommendations it feels may be useful in preventing a future death under similar circumstances.