Hitmen came for Telstar's David Darby

Sunday, July 08, 2012    

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DAVID Darby was a hands-on man and had quickly developed his company — Telstar — into the leading cable television provider in Jamaica.

One fateful Saturday in February 1996, he was high up on a pole installing cable wires along Roehampton Circle in St Andrew.

What happened next could have come straight out of one of the movies that Telstar transmitted to thousands of Jamaican homes.

Darby was among a team of technicians installing the cables when two men walked up to them and asked for the boss.

At the time, it was said, Darby was on a ladder working on some wires. One of the technicians pointed to him in response to the question asked. Darby descended the ladder and approached the two men. Suddenly the men pulled guns and fired at him then made their escape.

Darby died shortly after, the result of four bullet wounds he received.

It would later be confirmed that hitmen were sent to take out David Darby and thus eliminate the competition.

But the case had other dramatic twists and turns. For example, the chief prosecution witness, having been put under government protection, was later locked up in the same prison with convicts he had testified against.

That contract murder of the Telstar Cable company principal was the first such killing under the amended Offences Against the Person Act of 1992. Such felonies, according to law, would now fall under the category of capital murder because it was committed for reward.

For this heinous crime, three men — Kenneth Clarke o/c 'Paul'; Donovan Starrad o/c 'Danny'; and Hopeton Robinson o/c 'Flipper' or 'Starchie' — were arrested and later tried in the Home Circuit Court.

The allegation by the prosecution, led by Hugh Wildman, deputy director of public prosecutions (now outgoing Trustee in Bankruptcy in the Cash Plus saga) was that the three accused had been paid $90,000 by a competitor (unspecified) in the cable business to "get rid of" Darby.

The main witness for the prosecution was Kirk Rose of Thatchwalk district in the parish of St Ann, but was temporarily residing in St Andrew at the time of the murder.

Rose was arrested and taken into custody from his aunt's home at 19 Myrie Avenue by Det Sgt Errol Williams of the Constant Spring Police Station on Sunday, March 17, 1996. He gave a statement under caution which was recorded.

The Court was told that the police later decided not to proceed with the charge against Rose and he agreed to become a Crown witness and was placed under the Witness Protection Programme.

On March 27, 1996, Rose was put on an identification parade but eyewitnesses failed to identify him as one of the murderers. The following day, Hopeton Robinson was pointed out by one of the eyewitnesses.

No identification parade was held for Clarke or Donovan Starrad.

The statement by Rose was admitted in evidence and read to the jury, but not before Wildman, in his opening, told the jury that Rose, his main witness, had a criminal past — a 1991 conviction for unlawful possession of a gun, for which he had received a three-year suspended sentence.

It turned out that Rose, a cousin of Kenneth Clarke, had actually given two statements to the police under caution.

He had stated that he had accompanied the three accused to Roehampton Circle; had waited in the car while the three accused left; he heard six shots, then he saw them running back to the car. He was told by Clarke to drive and he did so.

According to the statement, Clarke told him he had just killed the cableman. The following day, Clarke also told him he was going to collect money for the aforesaid killing.

Following a two-week trial before the late Justice Langrin and a jury, Clarke was convicted of capital murder and sentenced to death.

The two co-accused, Starrad and Robinson were convicted of non-capital murder and sentenced to life imprisonment.

All three accused appealed to the Court of Appeal. The appeals were dismissed.

Subsequently, leave was granted to the appellant, Clarke, to take his case to the United Kingdom Privy Council. Clarke was seeking leave to call fresh evidence — the fresh evidence being new and contradictory statements given by prosecution witness, Kirk Rose.

Rose, by then an inmate awaiting trial in the St Catherine District Prison, (the same penal institution in which the three convicted men were being held) was claiming that the evidence he had given at the trial before judge and jury was false.

He was now claiming further that he was beaten by the police and forced by officers, whom he named, to say "the things he said in his signed statements".

The Privy Council dismissed Clarke's appeal against conviction by a 2-1 majority. His appeal against the death sentence was, by consent, adjourned to a date to be fixed. Attorney Carol DaCosta appeared for Clarke. Starrad was defended by Ronald Koathes while Dennis Maragh appeared for Robinson.

Earlier during the trial, the contents of Rose's first cautioned statement was read to the court. The statement revealed that on the day of the murder, Starrad, who Rose knew as 'Danny' went to 19 Myrie Avenue in a white Corolla motor car.

'Danny' spoke to Rose's cousin, Kenneth Clarke, o/c 'Paul' who was living in a house opposite 19 Myrie Avenue with his girlfriend.

Danny asked Rose to accompany him and Paul to the car and they drove to the Chinese Cemetery on Waltham Park Road. There, according to the statement, Danny and Paul got out, leaving Rose in the back seat. He saw Danny and Paul speaking to a "plaited hair" man who was wearing a black jacket. Then all three of them returned to the car.

Danny drove off with the "plaited hair" man sitting with him in the front seat. Paul and Rose were sitting in the back of the car.

They stopped at one Mr Chin's bar at Hagley Park Road and had drinks. When Danny drove up Waltham Park Road, Rose told the police, he thought they were looking for a woman. They drove past a "fridge repair shop" and parked outside a pink house.

Rose described for the police the chrome 9mm automatic he saw Danny "take out" at that point and the "plaited hair" man took out a ".38 with a long mouth".

They got out of the car but Danny told Rose to stay. He sat in the driver's seat listening to music while the others went around a corner.

Soon thereafter, according to Rose's recorded statement, he heard six shots. He saw the men running towards the car. The "plaited hair" man got into the front passenger seat. The others got into the back. Then Danny shouted to Rose: "Drive the car, country man."

Although he had no licence, Rose recalled that he obeyed because he knew how to drive; he was accustomed to doing mechanic work. He drove to the Esso Gas Station at Waltham and Hagley Park Road where Danny took over. Danny drove to Myrie Avenue where they stopped at "Plowie's bar" and got out of the car.

Rose told the police that at that point, Paul told him that he must not "tek Danny and the 'plaited hair' man simple, because is a man dem jus' shot and drop". Then the three men drove off, leaving him (Rose) to walk home.

Paul returned home at 11 o'clock that night. The following morning Danny came back with the car and he and Paul drove away.

The narrative disclosed that after giving his statement to the police, Rose got into a police car and pointed out the street where the shooting took place. He was responsible for giving the police information as to the whereabouts of Clarke and Robinson. He later testified at the trial that both men had been in hiding.

Rose testified that after they drove past the men on Roehampton Circle on the day of the murder, Danny said: "Si di bwoy deh" referring to Darby. After the shooting, he said he drove the car at Danny's request because "dem force me to do it, so I has to do it".

When they stopped outside the bar at Spanish Town Road, Rose told the Court he had asked Clarke, o/c Paul, whom they had shot and the response was "a cable man". Paul also told him that Danny had received $90,000 for "hitman work" from "a Indian man who fix bicycle on Waltham Park Road".

The following morning Paul asked Rose to accompany him to collect something. The two of them travelled on one bicycle to a "chiney man who fix radio and TV by the gas station". Paul and the "coolie man like chiney man" talked inside while Rose looked through the glass.

After Paul emerged, Rose told the judge and jury, they went on a shopping spree, during which he, got jeans and a shirt.

According to Rose, Paul also told him that Danny, Hopeton and himself would share the money equally. Paul promised to give Rose "a change" but that never happened. He told of being warned by Danny the following day to keep his mouth shut about the murder or else Danny and Hopeton would kill him.

Cross-examined by DaCosta for Kenneth Clarke, o/c Paul, the witness denied he had only arrived in Kingston the second week of March, 1996. He told the Court he had been living at Myrie Avenue three months before the murder.

Rose denied being beaten by the police. It was suggested to the witness that he and Paul never went anywhere in a car; that he had said nothing about $90,000 and that all his evidence was a lie, but Rose maintained that he was speaking the truth.

In cross-examination by Koathes for Starrad, o/c "Danny," Rose denied that he had been offered money and release from custody by the police in exchange for his evidence.

It was suggested to the witness by Maragh for Robinson that he had made the statement to save his skin, to which his response was: "Anyone would try to get out of jail."

Part II next week: Jailed prosecution witness faces convicts he testified against

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 the leading detectives of his time. Send comments to



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