This Sunday was supposed to be Ila Watson’s 42nd wedding anniversary. Instead of spending it with her elementary crush turned longtime spouse, she’ll be alone — knowing legal proceedings for the man accused of taking her husband’s life get underway the following morning.
Brian Watson was killed in a two-vehicle collision in Magna Bay on April 3. The 60-year-old Kamloops-Thompson school district employee was struck by a pickup truck from behind while out for one of his first motorcycle rides of the season.
According to police, the driver of the truck fled the scene. Raymond Edward Swann, 55, of Sorrento is facing charges of criminal negligence causing death and failure to stop at an accident. He is slated to make his first appearance in Kamloops provincial court on Monday.
Based on evidence at the scene, Watson said, police initially thought her husband had been the victim of a murder.
“They said it looked deliberate,” she said, wiping tears with a tissue.
“They came to the house and said, ‘Does Brian have any enemies? Was he dealing drugs?’”
Far from it, Watson said. Her husband was a painter for the school district, spending time interacting with students and staff at Kamloops-area schools while keeping facilities looking spiffy.
“His co-workers said every time Brian walked in, he put smiles on their faces,” Watson said. “Brian just lit up the room.”
Watson would know. She’s been in rooms with Brian since they were both six years old.
“We went to school together in Grade 1,” she said. “We started dating at 15. We got married young, at 18.”
The two grew up in a rural community in eastern Ontario, near the Quebec border. Watson said she knew there was something there when she was 11.
“We were in Grade 6, I think,” she said. “You know how kids just kind of choose each other around the school ground? That was us.”
They married in 1974, moved to Manitoba the next year and then followed family to B.C. a few years later.
The Watsons eventually settled in Chase. They had four children and, to this point, have six grandkids.
Watson said her husband’s sudden death has been very hard on the entire family.
“It’s just been a nightmare,” she said. “And my kids are just so heartbroken. It’s just been terrible. They were so close to their dad.”
Watson said April 3 started out like any other Sunday. Her husband had just licensed his motorcycle and was eager to get it out on the road. She had to travel from Chase to Kamloops to exchange a light fixture. They planned to meet at a family barbecue later in the day.
“I said, ‘I’ll come into Kamloops,’ and he said, ‘OK, I’m going to go for my bike ride,’” she said.
“He made it out to Magna Bay. We’ve taken that trip, the two of us, a few times. This fellow just hit him from behind and fled the scene.”
At the time of the incident, which took place on Squilax-Anglemont Road, police said the suspect was likely under the influence of drugs when the collision took place. Swann is not facing any charges related to impaired driving.
Watson said she returned to her Chase home and saw her son’s vehicle outside — along with a police cruiser.
“I came home but my son had just pulled in because he saw the police vehicle pull into our driveway,” she said.
“The police had told him. Then I got in about 10 minutes later. He came to my car door and said, ‘Something terrible has happened. Dad was killed on his motorbike.’”
Watson said she’s struggled in the months since her husband was killed — not just with adjusting to everyday life without him, but also the logistics of letting people know he’s died.
“It’s been really tough,” she said. “He did the yard, he did all the outdoor work. All I did is I’m a good cook and a good cleaner.”
That means Watson has been spending extra time outside — but not just for work’s sake.
“I don’t go inside until about 9 o’clock,” she said. “Every night. I can’t stand being in the house without him. I’ve just started back at work and it’s been really hard. A lot of people don’t know [he died], so I’m still having to deal with that.”
When her husband was killed, Watson said, he was in the middle of a big project at their Chase home. Over three weekends in March, he’d installed 10 new windows and painted the home’s interior.
Now, SD73 employees and local companies are going to finish the job.
“They’re all going to get together and finish off all the jobs he didn’t finish,” Watson said, noting a Kamloops paint shop even renamed a shade — Bri’s Brown, which is actually the grey colour used on lockers in local schools — in her colour blind husband’s honour.
“So, I’ve got to get some. I’m going to have to paint one of my rooms this ugly colour.”
At her husband’s funeral, Watson couldn’t bring herself to speak. Instead, she wrote a note and had it projected on a screen for people to read.
“From the time we sat across from each other in Grade 1, he’s been my everything,” it said. “It is so tragic when such a wonderful person had to be taken away from us this way. My dearest love, you will remain with me forever.”
Watson said the note was a good indicator of her feelings.
“I just expressed our loss,” she said.
“An innocent person killed.”