ST. JOHN'S, N.L. - A former Toronto TV broadcaster was in a state of menopausal exhaustion during a mid-flight incident that has "decimated" her career and ruined her health, she testified Tuesday.
Colleen Walsh has pleaded not guilty to charges of assault, obstructing the operation of an aircraft and causing a disturbance. The 49-year-old one-time host for Rogers TV and Global Television was forced off a Toronto-bound flight from London last March 31 after it was diverted to St. John's for a medical emergency.
"I had been up for 30 hours and I was on hormone replacement therapy," Walsh told provincial court Judge Greg Brown after citing a hot flash as she removed her suit jacket.
"I was in a panic. I'm shaking right now, too."
Walsh said she feels like she has been convicted in the media for essentially offering first aid to an ill passenger.
She accused Air Canada staff, airport security and police of treating her "like a caged animal."
Walsh blamed the airline - which had lost her luggage en route from Dublin - for what she called its "incompetent" handling of a medical situation.
But Walsh vehemently denied saying she hoped the Air Canada Boeing 767 that left St. John's without her would "blow up," contrary to a police officer's earlier testimony.
"I would never say something like that. My whole background has been in healing and helping," she testified.
"The police lied - out and out."
Const. Jim Lynch of the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary said Walsh made the comment in the back of a police cruiser after she was taken off the flight.
"I hope the plane blows up," he quoted Walsh as saying at her judge-only trial.
Lynch's recollection of events arose during a hearing to determine the admissibility of the comment. Brown ruled it admissible.
Walsh blurted the remark without prompting after Lynch and another male officer led her through the St. John's International Airport, Lynch testified.
"She was angry. She was yelling and screaming and she appeared to be intoxicated."
As passengers in the departures area rubbernecked, Lynch said Walsh shouted, "Is this what the Newfoundlanders do?" She then uttered an obscenity, he testified.
Walsh denied Lynch's version here too, saying that as "a high-profile television personality" she would never draw such attention to herself.
Air Canada staff have testified that Walsh had a tarmac tantrum when the plane was diverted to St. John's after a young woman faded in and out of consciousness. About a 50-minute delay ensued as Walsh became increasingly agitated, court has heard.
Walsh said she is a former Canadian Ski Patrol member with high-level first aid training who just wanted to help.
"The female flight attendant barked at me, 'Are you a doctor? We asked for a doctor."'
Walsh said she has in recent years tried to parlay her experience as a medical journalist into a new career as a health issues "authority."
She had travelled to Switzerland seven times to study the Grinberg Method. As described online, it aims to enhance health and ease stress using "touch, breath, movement, physical exercises" and other techniques.
On Monday, Stan Harrington, a 67-year-old passenger, told the court that Walsh struck him on the head after he told her to sit down.
But Walsh testified that the incident was misconstrued. She had two glasses of wine and a sleeping pill and fell asleep after her first aid offer was rebuffed, she told the court.
She awoke in St. John's not knowing what was happening, she said.
"I turned and asked if anyone knew what was going on." That's when Harrington "yelled" at her, she said.
"He quite frightened me, actually."
Walsh said she was shocked when Harrington later accused her of hitting him. In fact, she testified, she had merely "gently nudged" his forehead with the heel of her hand in an attempt to defuse his tension and get him to be quiet, Walsh said.
"I could feel the energy of the plane up front and it wasn't calm."
Crown lawyer Wendy Zdebiak presented a number of comments on a blog which Walsh confirmed she had written.
In the posts, Walsh describes Harrington as an attention-seeking "liar and a weak man, whose only intent is to inflame the horrible attacks against me."
"All I did was stand up to help the so-called passenger, but the ignorant Air Canada flight attendants didn't want my help."
Three police officers and a security guard testified earlier Tuesday that Walsh was loud, unruly and insulting.
"She questioned the seriousness of the medical emergency that had caused the diversion," Keith Barrett, a retired police officer who now works as a security guard at the airport, told the court.
Barrett said Walsh "had a strong smell of alcohol on her breath and her face was flushed" when he first saw her. She was also in a brewing confrontation with an Air Canada manager as she held up a small digital camera in an attempt to document her treatment, Barrett testified.
Barrett said he briefly restrained Walsh and asked if she would calm down.
"Ms. Walsh was not what you'd call a fall-around, stumble, intoxicated person," said Barrett, who did about 800 sobriety tests as a former breathalyzer technician.
But she was loud, red-faced and a bit unsteady, "which led me to believe that she'd been drinking somewhat."
Const. Jamie Carroll of the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary testified that Walsh hurled insults at Barrett, saying, "Look at him. He needs a treadmill."
Carroll said he took Walsh's camera away when she kept trying to take pictures.
Walsh testified that Carroll grabbed the camera with such force its case flew through the air.
Walsh said the two police officers were verbally aggressive and dialed legal aid when she asked to call her own lawyer.
She repeatedly interrupted or answered questions with questions during cross-examination by Zdebiak, who asked about her contact with Harrington.
"You really want the court to believe that you were engaging in therapeutic touch?" Zdebiak asked.
"I was certainly trying to calm him down," Walsh replied.
At one point, she accused Crown lawyer Mark Stares of making faces at her, which he denied.
The trial is expected to conclude Wednesday.