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UPDATE: Murder suspect convicted of manslaughter in stabbing near Cochrane

A 12-person jury has found Calgary man Andrew Christal guilty of manslaughter. Christal was charged with first-degree murder in the stabbing death of Kasif Hirani in a rural area in Souther Alberta

An Airdrie man charged in the fatal stabbing of a Calgary Uber driver has been found guilty of manslaughter.

The 12-person jury that deliberated Andrew Christal's role in the Dec. 29, 2019 murder of Kasif Hirani, made their return to court late Thursday afternoon, a day after hearing final legal instructions from Justice John McCarthy in the two-and-a-half week trial.

Christal was charged with first-degree murder, but his defence lawyer Jim Lutz argued for his acquittal.

"Mr. Christal had no idea Mr. Hirani was going to die," Lutz said to the jury in his closing arguments April 26. "Mr. Christal was not involved in this homicide.”

Hirani's body was found on a rural road near the Springbank Airport the morning after his murder by a man out walking his dog.

Autopsy reports recorded the deceased's body as having 39 stab wounds to his abdomen, face, neck and hands. 

In a botched robbery attempt, Hirani was forced into his vehicle outside a Calgary home the night of his murder and driven to the location in west Rocky View County. In the vehicle with him were Christal, co-accused Robert Daignault and ‘friend’ Trista Tinkler, who was Daignault’s then-girlfriend. Tinkler was handed a six-year manslaughter sentence in February for her connection in the killing.

Christal testified that he did not take part in the stabbing and had no knowledge that Hirani would be killed.

He told the court that Daignault was driving the vehicle and had become angry with Hirani after he threatened to send someone after them for stealing his vehicle and banking information.

Christal said Daignault proceeded to stop the car and pull Hirani from the back seat, where Daignault began stabbing him.

The accused said in court that he tried to “steady” the victim when the assault began. He also told police in a separate statement that he held Hirani after Daignault ordered him out of the vehicle.

“All I did was flippin’ grab him while he stabbed him,” Christal said to RCMP in a video clip played by crown prosecutor Vince Pingitore.

The prosecutor argued that Christal was the "muscle in the hustle" of Hirani's murder for his part in holding the victim. 

Throughout the trial, the accused repeatedly expressed his fear of Daignault, and Christal’s defence lawyer pointed out that his client felt he would "be next to Mr. Hirani in the ditch” if he didn't co-operate with his demands.

“If you needed nothing else to underscore how fearful someone should’ve been of Rob Daignault, that 39th stab wound Mr. Hirani received has to make that point and drive it absolutely home without any question,” Lutz told the jury.  

The deceased’s bank card was used following his murder and over $14,000 of purchases were made.

The defence lawyer said of the amount stolen, his client did not benefit from any of it.

"The accused did not make any purchases nor accept any merchandise purchased with the deceased's banking information," he said. “Mr. Christal got nothing."

The night of Hirani's murder, Tinkler met the victim in the parking lot at the Regal Beagle Pub in Calgary on 94 Ave. SW after having drinks with Christal, who was a friend and prior love interest.

Tinkler admitted in her testimony to luring Hirani with the promise of sex for money.

She and Christal parted ways and the woman left with Hirani to buy a box of condoms at a nearby gas station and then went to a liquor store with him, according to an agreed statement of facts read in court by crown prosecutor Vince Pingitore. She and Hirani then drove to the home where Tinkler was staying with Daignault.

Hirani was forced into the back seat of his own vehicle from there. According to Christal, who was also present at the home, Daignault drove the car away with Tinkler in the passenger seat, Hirani behind her, and Christal seated on the driver's side of the back seat. 

Christal said he went along for the ride thinking they were going somewhere to do drugs, and he denied having any part in forcing or keeping the victim in the vehicle.

His sentencing is expected to take place June 3.

Daignault, who was scheduled to stand trial earlier this year before his hearing was postponed due to testing positive for COVID-19, will now stand before a judge without a jury in January.