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Cop hired to kill state witness on his way from church

Sybil E Hibbert

Sunday, September 23, 2012    

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THE public expects every lawman out on our streets to serve and protect us, the citizens, from harm.

So when Leonard Austin, a policeman, betrayed that trust the script was flipped.

On a lazy Sunday morning in 1991, when many would have been preparing for, or returning from church, Austin, an Acting Corporal of Police, a married man with two infant children was committing murder most foul.

It was the prosecution's case that about 9:45 that fateful Sunday morning of March 17, 1991, Ludlow Campbell, described as "a Christian gentleman", was on his way from church when he fell victim to an assassin's bullet. That assassin, it was alleged, was none other than Leonard Austin.

And what is more, the 54-year-old supervisor employed at Kingston Wharves at the time he met his death, was the main witness in a drug bust, resulting in the arrest of six policemen from the Marine Division of the Police Force.

Justice Cooke (later Judge of Appeal and now retired) and a jury heard evidence in the Home Circuit Court, how, after the brutal slaying of Campbell, the accused went to his cousin's home in Central Village, St Catherine and gave her his service revolver and cartridges to put up carefully for him, as he said, he was on his way to the Norman Manley International Airport to catch a flight.

And he did catch the flight. However, the long arm of the law caught up with Austin, as, within 48 hours, he was back on Jamaican soil, facing a charge of murder.

Among witnesses who testified for the prosecution were Superintendent Rupert Linton, ballistics expert, who carried out tests on the bullet extracted from Campbell's neck and Dr Royston Clifford, consultant forensic pathologist who performed the post-mortem examination. Linton testified that the bullet was fired from Austin's service revolver.

Also giving evidence were the law officers who escorted Austin back from his very short New York trip.

According to Austin, he had been with his girlfriend in Portsmouth, St Catherine, from 7:00 am on Sunday, March 17, 1991 until she accompanied him to Central Village to visit his cousin. Then, he claimed, he took a taxi and went straight to the airport. He told the court he left his service revolver with his cousin because he was running late for his flight; he had instructed her to give it to a policeman to hand it in for him.

According to him, he knew nothing about Campbell's murder. But unimpressed, the jury found him guilty of capital murder and the trial judge passed the sentence of death upon him.

The case for the prosecution was presented by the late Marcia Hughes, assistant director of public prosecutions (later resident magistrate) and Patrick Cole, crown counsel. Austin was defended by Howard Hamilton,QC and Earl Witter (later public defender and QC).

In July 1994, the Court of Appeal ruled that Campbell's execution did not amount to capital murder and classified the crime as non-capital murder. In the result, Austin's sentence of death was quashed and life imprisonment substituted.

Also, the six policemen who had been charged in connection with the drug bust at Kingston wharves, were reinstated in June 1993, in the Jamaica Constabulary Force. Reason being that the main witness — Ludlow Campbell — was absent; shot and killed.

From the Journal of Retired ACP Isadore "Dick" Hibbert

"In the case of R v Leonard Austin, his ties and/or his association with narcotic crime led to his arrest and subsequent conviction for murder.

In March 1991, I was a senior superintendent in charge of Investigations (crime) in the Metropolitan areas of Kingston & St Andrew and St Catherine. Owen F Johnson, deputy superintend of police, was my assistant. We were attached to the CIB Headquarters in Kingston.

Leonard Austin was then an acting corporal stationed at the Denham Town Police Station in Western Kingston. He was assigned duties as an aide to the Criminal Investigation section at that station. Austin was issued with a .38 police service revolver and 12 rounds of ammunition, which he was allowed to take home whilst off duty.

In accordance with force policy, he must sign a register which sets out the type of firearm, serial number, number of rounds, and date and time of receipt. The issuing officer must also sign.

The deceased was one Ludlow Campbell, a 54-year-old security supervisor employed by Security Administrators Ltd, Port Bustamante in Kingston. He resided with his wife at 6 Mansfield Avenue in Washington Gardens, St Andrew.

Campbell was the chief witness in a drug bust on the wharves in December, 1990. Six policemen from the Marine Division of the Force, were arrested in connection with the disappearance of four of seven steel cannisters with ganja. The ganja was later found floating in the sea and attached to the side of the ship Zim Savannah.

The accused persons appeared before the Resident Magistrate's court on several occasions. The matter was latterly postponed to the end of March, 1991.

Without Campbell's testimony, the prosecution's case against the six accused policemen would most likely, fail, resulting in their acquittal.

Austin, according to evidence unearthed later, was engaged to kill Campbell.

And so, on Sunday, March 17, 1991, about 9:45 am, Campbell and his wife were returning home from church in their motor car when he was ambushed and shot in the right ear.

The assassin then jumped into a waiting car which sped away. Citizens who witnessed the shooting, immediately contacted 119 police control, giving a description of the get-away car. The injured man was rushed to the Kingston Public Hospital where he was admitted in a critical condition.

The getaway motor car was identified and traced to Austin.

I led a small team of investigators to Austin's home at 108 Bob Marley Boulevard in Cooreville in the parish of St Andrew. There was the car properly parked in the carport. The bonnet of the car was still very warm, confirming that the car had been recently driven.

Austin was not at home. His wife told us that her husband had parked the car there and had left immediately to an aunt in Central Village in St Catherine. Austin's wife gave us the name and address of Austin's aunt, a teacher by profession.

In continuation of our investigation and in hot pursuit of Austin, we proceeded to Central Village and located the teacher.

She told us that Austin visited her home earlier that morning, handed her a revolver and cartridges and told her to put them up carefully for him as he was hurrying to the Norman Manley Airport to board a plane. She added that she was very surprised to see Austin as he had not visited her for a long time.

The teacher showed us where she had put the weapon and cartridges for safe keeping and I took possession of same. The revolver showed signs of being recently fired/discharged. It was a .38 Smith & Wesson revolver, similar to those used by members of the Jamaica Constabulary Force.

Investigations carried out at the Denham Town Police Station where Austin was stationed, proved that the weapon was indeed issued to and signed for by Austin; and further, that it had not been returned.

Enquiries carried out at the Norman Manley International Airport in Kingston revealed that Austin left Jamaica by Air Jamaica at 11:30 am that Sunday, March 17, 1991 destined for New York, USA.

ACP Dan Wray, of CIB Headquarters, contacted our counterparts by phone at JFK regarding the detention of Austin. Later that day, we received information from the US Immigration that Austin was detained.

Arrangements were made for the return of Austin to Jamaica to face charges of attempted murder, shooting with intent and illegal possession of a firearm.

DSP Johnson and I were dispatched the following day — Monday, March 18, 1991 — to the USA, for the sole purpose of escorting Austin back to the Criminal Investigation Headquarters in Kingston, Jamaica.

We arrived in New York at 3:30 pm, contacted the relevant authorities and arrangements were made for the deportation of Austin the following morning. We overnighted in New York.

DSP Johnson and I boarded the first Air Jamaica flight out of New York about 7:00 am Tuesday, March 19, 1991. Austin was escorted by two US marshalls and handed over to us. He was placed to sit between us both. We travelled in silence from JFK to Norman Manley International. This was deliberately to keep Austin in suspense. We landed at Norman Manley International at 11:20 am.

Before disembarking, DSP Johnson handcuffed Austin to ensure no escape. We were rushed through Immigration and whisked away by our colleagues-in-waiting to CIB Headquarters. There, we learned that Campbell had succumbed to his injuries.

It was now time to break the silence with Austin. It was now question time. I cautioned Austin and informed him that we were investigating the murder of Ludlow Campbell, a security supervisor of Kingston Wharves and of Washington Gardens, which murder took place on Sunday, March 17, 1991. We were going to ask him a number of questions; he was not obliged to answer any of these questions, but if he did, the questions and answers would be recorded and may be given in evidence. He signed the caution.

I asked him where he lived. He gave his address as 108 Bob Marley Boulevard, Cooreville Gardens, St Andrew. I asked if anyone lived there with him. He said his wife and two small children. Asked if he owned a motor car, he replied in the affirmative. Asked to describe his car, he did so. The answers to those questions linked him to the getaway car.

Asked where he was stationed, he replied, Denham Town Police Station. Questioned about the .38 Smith & Wesson revolver handed over to us by his aunt on Sunday, March 17, 1991, he admitted that he left same with her for safe keeping. He further admitted that this weapon was issued to him at the Denham Town Police Station.

Austin was then arrested and charged with the March 17, 1991, murder of Ludlow Campbell, security supervisor of Kingston Wharves and of Washington Gardens. Cautioned, he said:

'Mr Hibbert, you don't think you should have respect fi me job?'

'You have lost that a long time ago,' I retorted.

Following a preliminary enquiry and trial in the Home Circuit Court, Leonard Austin, 34, was convicted for Campbell's murder and sentenced to death.

NEXT: Murder at Hilltop prison

Sybil E Hibbert is a veteran journalist and retired court reporting specialist. She is also the wife of Retired ACP Isadore 'Dick' Hibbert, rated as one of Jamaica's top detectives of his time. Send comments to allend@jamaicaobserver.com.

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