Toronto Advertising Executive Convicted of Assaulting His Soviet Wife, Baby : Cold War Love Story Turns Into Sordid Soap Opera of Sex and Violence
It started out as one of those familiar Cold War love stories, but it turned into a sordid soap opera of sex, greed and violence with astonishing speed.
A year ago, the Iron Curtain parted briefly and Kirby Inwood, a fortyish, bespectacled Toronto advertising consultant, was reunited here with Tanya Sedorova, his steely and determined young Russian wife.
Canadians cheered and cooed.
In Ottawa, officials described the decision of the Soviets to allow Sedorova to emigrate as a sign that relations between the two countries were warming. The highly publicized Inwood-Sedorova forced separation was one of several such cases that Canada’s foreign minister had mentioned when he met his Soviet counterpart the previous fall.
When Sedorova and the couple’s year-old son, Mikhail, arrived at the international airport in Montreal, carrying just two suitcases of belongings, they were met by swarms of photographers and reporters. “This is the happiest day of my life,” she said in clear English. “I never gave up hope.”
Inwood described himself as a “white knight” as he recalled his long campaign over many months--the letters to newspapers and the appeals to everyone from Prime Minister Brian Mulroney and Soviet leader Mikhail S. Gorbachev on down.
Two weeks later, the Inwood-Sedorova affair was again on the front page. But this time she was talking about a nightmare, about how her husband had slapped, kicked and punched her and dragged her by the hair down a flight of stairs and how he had assaulted their child just nine days after they had arrived from the Soviet Union.
“With Mr. Inwood I’m finished,” she declared firmly in an interview with the Toronto Globe and Mail, “and I plan to start my new life. I plan to study good English and to be a good mother and get a good job.”
Not Afraid of Canada
She spurned the offers conveyed by a Soviet diplomat to return home. “I am afraid of my husband,” she told him, “but I am not afraid of Canada.”
Last Friday, after a trial that stretched across the spring and summer and packed the courtroom, titillating Canadians, a judge here found Inwood guilty of the charges, although he said he believed that Sedorova may have exaggerated the severity of the attack. After listening to the intimate details of their relationship, her version and his version, virtually no one quarreled with the verdict on the assault charges.
But a number of questions remained. Perhaps the most prominent of them was the question of how both the press and the government could so flagrantly overlook the flaws in the relationship they had dreamily depicted as being the drama of a white knight seeking to rescue a damsel in distress.
There were long lines to get in to the trial this summer. For feminists, who picketed outside the courtroom when they felt Inwood’s attorney was being too aggressive in his cross-examination of Sedorova, the trial was a classic case of wife and child abuse.
Dropped Baby Twice
As the testimony unfolded, no one save his lawyer stepped forward to defend Inwood after he admitted “dropping” the baby twice during an argument with his wife. But there were many who wondered whether the case was as open-and-shut as the feminists made it out to be.
“I can’t tell you the number of times I was approached--or my office was called--by people who had stories about friends who married Russian women who left them immediately after they got out,” said Inwood’s lawyer, Edward Greenspan.
The prosecutor in the case rounded up five other former women friends of Inwood who were prepared to testify that they had been threatened or physically assaulted by him, although the judge would not hear their accounts, saying they were immaterial to the case. During the trial, Inwood testified that he could not possibly be the father of the baby boy he had once embraced so proudly for the cameras because he suffered from “a form of impotence.”
A ‘Russian Yuppie’
On the witness stand, he accused Sedorova of being a “Russian yuppie” who was obsessed with material goods. “She was absolutely committed to leave and to go to the West, because that was where the money was,” he testified.
Inwood’s lawyer alleged that Sedorova had illegally sold Russian icons on the black market for profit and had owned a car that was worth more than she could have earned legally. She said the car was a gift from her parents.
The couple met in late 1985 when he traveled to the Soviet Union on vacation. He was 41 and she was 29. Both had been married and divorced.
Sedorova testified during the trial that she happened by chance to meet him when she was on the way to the hairdresser and he offered to buy her a drink. Inwood said that it was she who picked him up, at the bar in his hotel in Leningrad. He testified that she had bought him champagne and caviar before they went up to his room and spent the night together. He said he tried to give her money, but she preferred to talk instead about marriage and handed the cash back to him, asking that he use it to buy a gift for her from a foreigners-only store.
There was no conflict in the accounts of the two about how they became inseparable over the next three or four days and about how he vowed before leaving to come back and marry her and take her to Canada.
“There was an element of great romance,” Inwood testified. “It gave me the strength to fight the Russian government.”
Returns Four Times
He returned to the Soviet Union on four other occasions, during which Sedorova informed him that she was pregnant with their child and they were married. He sent her and her family $15,000 and ran up a $5,000 telephone bill, wrote letters and got stories in the press.
After she and young Mikhail arrived on Sept. 4 last year, both agree that what had appeared to be a Cold War fairy tale quickly degenerated into a bitter domestic dispute.
On a shopping trip, Sedorova would later testify, Inwood abandoned her and the baby outside a fur store after she suggested he spend his money on his advertising business or on a car instead of buying things for her.
Later, she said, Inwood yelled about the baby and threatened to kill him. When the child slept, Inwood poured water on the baby’s face. She said she picked up the baby and her husband slapped her and beat her like a “wild animal.” She ran for help, she said, and when she returned to their apartment with police she found the baby in his crib with a swollen eye, a bump on his forehead and welts on his back.
Police officers who testified at the trial confirmed the injuries.
While Inwood denied that he had set out to do harm to his wife and the baby, he confessed he had “dropped” the child. “I think he sort of just squirmed out of my arms,” he testified. “He was fussing. He was fighting me.”
The advertising executive conceded that he had not been adequately prepared for a new life with a crying infant and a demanding wife.
“I use the words ‘postpartum depression’ to describe it,” he said on the witness stand. “All of a sudden, I had a wife and baby in the house. I didn’t know how to handle a baby or change diapers.”
In contrast to her account, however, Inwood said Sedorova immediately began mocking his apartment and possessions after her arrival, describing them as “cheap garbage.” He said she told him the baby was not his and that she intended to leave him. After a few days, he testified, he was sleeping on the couch and she was alone in the master bedroom. Inwood said a term she often used was “money doesn’t smell.”
“Money is her goal in life,” he testified, “and its source does not concern her. Money is money. Money doesn’t smell.”
A reporter covering the lengthy trial observed that Inwood continued to wear his wedding band and Sedorova kept on the sapphire-and-diamond ring he gave her the day she arrived in Canada.
New Woman Friend
On the day of the verdict, Inwood appeared in court with a new woman friend who had accompanied him throughout the trial. She added excitement to the day by falling unconscious in front of the throngs of reporters and cameras and had to be rushed to the hospital. Inwood’s lawyer said Inwood had been ruined by the trial, his business had collapsed and he was on welfare.
Sedorova, who had posed for photographs with her son Mikhail for various newspapers in various city parks before the verdict was rendered, said she was also receiving public assistance. She was granted alien status a week before the verdict and had completed adult education courses in English, business and computers and was beginning a course in real estate. An admirer had given her a car, she told The Toronto Sun. A broad grin on her face, she told the Canadian Broadcasting Corp. evening television interviewer that she was contemplating various book offers and that there was talk about a movie deal.