They spent five years as Taliban prisoners, surviving and keeping their three children, born in captivity, alive as well.

But less than a year after their monumental rescue by Pakistani security forces, the relationship between Joshua Boyle, 34, and Caitlan Coleman, 32, has deteriorated into a bitter court battle.

In newly unsealed documents, Coleman alleges her Canadian husband made their five-year ordeal with the Taliban-linked Haqqani network a living nightmare, physically and emotionally abusing her.

Caitlan Coleman, pictured in October 2017, is locked in a custody dispute with her Canadian husband over their three children. Photo / Getty
Caitlan Coleman, pictured in October 2017, is locked in a custody dispute with her Canadian husband over their three children. Photo / Getty

"J.B. (Joshua Boyle) regularly threatened to kill me by setting me on fire," Coleman said, in an affidavit filed back in June and obtained by the Ottawa Citizen.


None of Coleman's allegations in the affidavit have been proven in court and her husband vehemently denies everything claimed.

The couple were in family court in July, locked in a custody dispute over their three children.

Coleman is also pregnant with their fourth child and due to give birth later this month.

On July 23, Ontario Superior Court Justice Engelking granted Coleman temporary sole custody of their children and they swiftly relocated to Pennsylvania, where the mum of three is originally from.

Justice Engelking also signed off on a restraining order forbidding Boyle from contacting or seeing his wife or three children.

In handing down her judgment, Justice Engelking said keeping the family in Canada, where Boyle lives, would be like holding them hostage again.

"To say that the circumstances of this case are tragic in the extreme would be an understatement," Justice Engelking said.

"Under the exceptional circumstances of this case, requiring C.C. (Caitlan Coleman) and the children to remain in Ottawa would be akin to once again holding them hostage."


Both Boyle and Coleman filed motions against each other, alleging abuse and lack of care before, after and during their captivity.

The unsealed documents have lifted the lid on what life was like for the family, 11 months after they were rescued by soldiers in a deadly firefight.


In 2002, an 18-year-old Joshua Boyle and 16-year-old Caitlan Coleman met online.

According to court documents, Boyle was training to be a journalist and Coleman was managing a Quiznos restaurant.

In 2006, their friendship blossomed and the pair threw themselves into an on-again, off-again relationship, sustained by their shared interests.

"We both enjoyed BDSM (bondage)," Boyle said in his 23-page affidavit.

"We both wanted to travel by way of backpacking, and we both wanted to see the world."

Five years later, they married on a backpacking trip through Central America.

By 2012, less than a year into their marriage Coleman was fed up and started divorce proceedings.

But in April of the same year, Boyle flew to Pennsylvania in a last-ditch effort to fix their marriage.

The pair reconciled and flew out for a backpacking trip through Asia three months later, knowing Coleman was pregnant with their first child.

The couple went backpacking to see the world.
The couple went backpacking to see the world.

They made it to Afghanistan by October, a country Boyle thought writing about would help his journalistic career.

"We crossed into Afghanistan for a short while, in hopes that I could meet people who could give me a story I could write about," he wrote in his affidavit.

"I had hoped that personal experience in Afghanistan might help me to land more permanent journalism work."

But on October 12, as they left a Kabul hostel in a taxi, they were kidnapped. Coleman was five months pregnant.

In their affidavits, the couple tell conflicting stories of their five years in captivity as they were bounced around between hideouts across Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Coleman alleges her husband was intent on making her an "enemy in his life".

"The guards would separate us for a few days, weeks or months at a time," she said, according to court documents.

"When we were returned together, J.B. would accuse me of betraying him by accepting niceties from the guards and not asking for him more often."

Three years into their captivity, the mother of three claims her relationship with her husband got physical.

"J.B. had uncontrolled rage, instituted corporal punishment of me, and struck me in a fit of rage," Coleman wrote, later claiming he said "a husband who kills his wife is justified".

Eight months before their rescue, Coleman claims her husband "hit me in the face hard enough to break my cheekbone" and that he would often lock her in a small shower stall.

Boyle vehemently denied all of his wife's allegations, submitting his own affidavit of 23 pages.

He alleges his wife neglected their three children.

"Multiple captors would reference me as the 'wife and mother, husband and father' in the family, noting that all nurturing of the children was entirely upon me," Boyle said.

He claims he would forgo food so his children could have more, built a garden so the three kids could learn to garden and would collect rags to make clothes for them.

Boyle also claims he kept the children educated and entertained for their five years as hostages.

"Their knowledge of Canada was exhaustive enough to being able to identify northern islands such as Devon, Banks and Victoria on hand-drawn maps, a desire to move to the Magdalene Islands due to a Stompin' Tom Connors song they knew, bedtime stories often drawn from Road to Avonlea, and pretending to be Emily Carr when using mud to finger paint pictures of Salish homes (that always looked suspiciously like our cell, unsurprisingly)," he wrote.

In his affidavit, Boyle said his return to Canada and adjusting to his new-found freedom was traumatising.

"While captivity was the worst thing that ever happened to me," he wrote, "the adjustment to coming home was a very close second."