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Man pleads guilty to assault on lesbians exiting Hastings bus

Andrew Joseph Walko will return to court in January for sentencing report

Jacqueline Clarke and Ali Matson say a man attacked them as they got off the Hastings bus at Commercial Drive. Credit: Rob Easton

The man charged in connection with a Sept 18, 2013, assault on two lesbians who were exiting a Hastings Street bus pleaded guilty Nov 12 to assault causing bodily harm.

Andrew Joseph Walko, 46, had been charged with assault and assault causing bodily harm for allegedly following the women off the bus and punching one in the face and one multiple times in the head.

Walko had been due to begin a three-day trial in Vancouver Provincial Court when he entered the guilty plea before Justice of the Peace K Butler.

The Vancouver Police Department (VPD) announced the charges against Walko on Jan 14, 2014, after releasing TransLink surveillance footage and asking the public for help in identifying the suspect.

The footage shows a man boarding a #135 Hastings express bus westbound at about 5:15pm on Sept 18, 2013, at Hastings and Kensington in Burnaby. The tape also shows Ali Matson and girlfriend, Jacqueline Clarke, boarding the bus at 6pm at Hastings and Renfrew.

The women alleged the man followed them as they left the bus at Commercial Drive, where they say he attacked them.

“He grabbed me by the shoulder, and he punched me in the face with all his body strength,” Matson told Xtra last year. “My nose was bleeding everywhere, and he gave me two black eyes. He was not holding back at all.”

When she tried to pull him off Matson, Clarke alleges, the approximately six-foot-three, 200-plus-pounds man punched her several times in the head as well. “It was so terrifying because I remember I just sort of watched it all happen and then he turned on me,” she told Xtra last year.

Matson and Clarke both believe they were attacked because of their sexual orientation after they exchanged a kiss and were flirting during the bus ride. They allege the man screamed repeatedly, “Shut up, you sluts!” during the unprovoked attack.

“He just did not like to see two girls kissing,” Matson suggests.

“Yes, uh, guilty, guilty,” Walko said, when asked by the court for his plea.

Butler adjourned the case to Jan 12 for the preparation of a pre-sentencing report. An accused found guilty in a summary conviction of assault causing bodily harm is liable to imprisonment for a maximum of 18 months.

VPD Constable Randy Fincham said earlier in the case that police take the allegation that the crime was motivated by the women’s sexual orientation very seriously and that the VPD’s hate crimes unit had reviewed the file.

Neither Walko nor his lawyer, Benjamin Tarnow, representing Walko’s lawyer, David Tarnow, had any comment outside court.

“I have nothing to say,” Walko told Xtra.

Ali Matson and Jacqueline Clarke say a man attacked them from behind as he followed them off the Hastings bus.