Joshua Boyle sauntered through a suburban Ottawa shopping centre and pulled up a chair at a Timothy’s Coffee. Wearing a blue winter coat, baggy khakis and a chinstrap beard, he was indistinguishable from the other shoppers making their way in and out of the mall’s mid-range shops. “I’m sorry I’m late,” he said, planting his feet and leaning forward. “I was checking out a potential apartment and the bus got stuck in traffic.”
Less than a month and a half ago, Boyle, 33, along with his wife, Caitlan Coleman, 31, and their three children – Najæshi Jonah, 5, Dhakwœn Noah, 2, and Ma’idah Grace, around six months – were hostages of one of the most brutal terrorist groups on earth, responsible for murdering thousands of innocent civilians.
For five years they were shuttled around some of Afghanistan and Pakistan’s most inhospitable places, beaten and starved, Coleman raped, not knowing from one day to the next if they would live to see another sunrise.
But in mid-November, back in humdrum suburban Canada and the media frenzy surrounding their release reduced – for the time being – to a mild simmer, they seemed to have slipped briefly into a familiar routine: doctor appointments and apartment hunting, figuring out how to proceed with the education of their children – all born in captivity.
The family had been holed up in a hotel in downtown Ottawa, less than a kilometre from Parliament Hill. Their one-bedroom suite was littered with kids toys and bits of garbage. They had recently left the Boyles’ family home in Smiths Falls, Ont., where they stayed after arriving in Canada on Oct. 14. “We were stuck in one room there for the five of us,” Boyle explained. “It was intolerable.”
It was a surprising complaint, to say the least, given their recent past as captives of terrorists. But like so many things about Boyle and his family’s terrifying saga, things aren’t always as they seem. Weeks later, headlines blared that Boyle had been arrested on a long and disturbing list of charges, including sexual assault and forcible confinement. “It is the strain and trauma he was forced to endure for so many years and the effects that that had on his mental state that is most culpable for this,” Coleman said in a statement to the Toronto Star on Jan. 2.
In a week of meetings with Maclean’s before his arrest, signs of Boyle’s controlling nature and distress were evident. During interviews at the hotel, he refused to leave the room while Coleman spoke, at one point snapping at her when she responded to a follow-up question. “Check with me before you say any of that on the recording.”