BRANDON — A Brandon man allegedly blew up his house after killing his wife with a knife as their marriage came to an end two years ago, a court heard Monday.

BRANDON — A Brandon man allegedly blew up his house after killing his wife with a knife as their marriage came to an end two years ago, a court heard Monday.

Robert Hughes is accused of killing Betty Hughes before their house on Queens Avenue East exploded Oct. 22, 2019. He pleaded not guilty to second-degree murder on the first day of his trial in the Brandon Court of Queen’s Bench.

"All marriages come to an end, that is a fact," Crown attorney Christian Vanderhooft said in his opening statement.

"Most people hope that the marriage they are in will come to an idyllic end, growing old together in good health and being able to enjoy fond memories of family and friends until we pass away in our sleep one sunny afternoon," the Crown lawyer said.

"More rarely, marriages sometimes end in homicide. That, sadly, is what happened here."

Hughes, who was 63 when charged, and his 63-year-old wife had recently bought a new house together, but it didn’t help their relationship, Vanderhooft told the court

Betty put the house up for sale on the day she died. The accused only allegedly learned that fact when he came home to see the real estate sign in the front yard, the Crown said.

"Betty Hughes was cut badly in the face and head, which ultimately caused her to bleed to death in her own kitchen," he said.

The Crown alleged Hughes then went downstairs and tampered with the gas line. The accumulation of gas eventually ignited on the water heater’s pilot light, which caused a "massive explosion."

Betty was dead by the time Brandon Fire & Emergency Services paramedics arrived.

"Her husband, who was the only other person there, did not help her," Vanderhooft said.

"He knew there was no turning back. Rather than call 911, he dealt with the situation in a cowardly way," trying to take his own life and destroy the house in the process.

Hughes wore a black suit and was seated slightly slouched forward in the accused’s box while the Crown spoke.

Brandon police officer Const. Travis Foster, of the forensic identification team, was the first to testify in the Crown’s case. When he arrived on scene, all four walls were "detached" from the house, and sections of the roof were sagging, Foster said.

Manitoba Hydro had excavated the backyard and crimped the gas line to prevent further leakage, he said.

Betty’s body was found in the house’s kitchen with a "significant" amount of blood around her, Foster said under questioning from Vanderhooft.

Police later moved her body to the garage, as the structure of the house was unstable after the explosion.

"There (was) a large laceration on her right jawline, around her ear on her right side of her head, and toward the back," Foster said. "There (were) small lacerations and abrasions on the left side of the neck."

Police found a blood-stained utility knife. Officers seized blood-stained clothes from Hughes, court was told.

Hughes was transported to hospital that night. At the time, there was a noose tied with a yellow nylon rope around his neck, which the hospital cut off, Foster testified.

A total of 14 jurors — eight women and six men — were chosen in the morning at the Western Manitoba Centennial Auditorium.

The trial is scheduled to last about three weeks.

— Brandon Sun