The father of eight-year-old Teagan Batstone – who was found dead in South Surrey on Dec. 10, 2014 shortly before her mother Lisa Batstone was arrested for murder – said what he misses most about his daughter is holding her hand.
Gabe Batstone made the comment to media outside B.C. Supreme Court in New Westminster Monday, moments after he testified at his ex-wife’s second-degree murder trial.
Lisa, wearing black trousers and a light blue button-up shirt, sat motionless throughout the three-hour testimony, but looked back at her supporters several times to share a smile and wave.
Throughout the testimony, Gabe and Lisa didn’t make eye contact. Seated in the prisoner’s box, Lisa had a computer monitor taped to the desk in front of her, obstructing her view of Gabe. She would turn her head away when Gabe entered and exited the courtroom.
Defence counsel and prosecutors took turns examining Gabe, and heard about the loving relationship he shared with his daughter, the falling out of his and Lisa’s relationship and the sometimes “combative” and “acrimonious” communication and custody battle that followed.
The father testified that the last time he saw his daughter was on the morning of Dec. 8. Gabe, who lives and works in Ottawa, was in Vancouver for an unexpected trip and had requested a visit with his daughter.
Gabe walked Teagan to her classroom at Rosemary Heights Elementary after a dentist appointment.
“I remember the steps down the hallway, holding her hand, of course – she always loved to hold hands – and seeing the door open and her hand, almost like a movie, her fingers pulling away as she walked and neither of you knowing, you’ll never see each other again,” he told CBC News outside of the courthouse.
“If you could do it again, I would have hugged and kissed her and smothered her, right? But having said that, it was the beautiful touching way that we always left each other.”
The court heard that Gabe received a message from Lisa soon after, which said that “it seems you rather I just disappear.”
A message of that nature, Gabe told the court, “didn’t seem out of the ordinary.”
Gabe said he received an email at 4:11 a.m. from Lisa on Dec. 10, 2014 saying that Teagan has the flu and that she wouldn’t be going to school.
Teagan’s body was found later that day in the back of a vehicle in the 13900-block of 35A Avenue.
Gabe and Lisa separated in 2008, and divorced two years later. Gabe told the court that communication was a challenge between the two parents, and that they enlisted the help of Vancouver-based family counsellor Michael Elterman.
Gabe said Elterman was “pivotal” in creating a strategy for meaningful communication.
The strategy, Gabe told the court, was that he and Lisa would exchange emails once a week to discuss plans and child care.
The counsellor was helpful to “reduce the tone, or perhaps fever,” of the communication, he said.
However, Gabe told the court he was receiving texts, phone calls and emails from Lisa throughout the week at such a rate that “it would have been impossible” to respond to them all.
He told the court that his routine was to compile Lisa’s messages and respond accordingly in an email on Sundays. He avoided phone calls, he told the court, because they weren’t recorded but he would sometimes answer or call back to see if there was an emergency.
Those answered phone calls, Gabe told the court, would “often” end with him hanging up on Lisa or vice versa.
The defence questioned Gabe on the type of language he used with Lisa, particularly after she tried to kill herself in 2012.
Defence counsel Tony Paisana asked if Gabe told Lisa that she “abandoned” Teagan by trying to commit suicide. He also asked Gabe if he ever mocked Lisa’s intelligence.
Gabe said he couldn’t recall either.
“I think she took opportunities to make my life more difficult,” Gabe told the court.
In the months leading to Teagan’s death, Gabe told the court he noticed a change in Lisa’s tone. Paisana suggested Lisa was “spiralling.”
“I thought something was clearly different,” Gabe responded.
The trial was initially booked until Dec. 7, but is now expected to continue for several more weeks.