News

Keith Clarke never presented a threat, says widow

Soldiers charged with murder of accountant offered bail

BY PAUL HENRY Crime/Court Desk coordinator henryp@jamaicaobserever.com

Tuesday, July 31, 2012    

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CLAUDETTE Clarke, the widow of accountant Keith Clarke, told investigators in a statement that her husband never presented a threat to soldiers when he was shot at their Kirkland Heights, St Andrew, home in May 2010.

According to Mrs Clarke, her husband, armed with his licensed firearm, went on the cupboard while she and her daughter hid in the bathroom as they were of the view that their home was being invaded by gunmen.

Mrs Clarke said that she and her daughter tried calling the police 119 emergency number when she heard what appeared to be a power saw cutting through the master bedroom door. They both then shouted, “Help, Help! If it’s the police please help!” Their distress was brought on by what she said were loud explosions outside the house that awoke them from their sleep.

The content of Mrs Clarke’s statement was outlined in the Home Circuit Court before the three soldiers charged with Clarke’s murder were each offered $2-million bail and ordered confined to the Jamaica Defence Force headquarters in Kingston.

Mrs Clarke said in her statement that about five or six soldiers in masks entered the house and kept asking for guns and gunmen. She said she identified herself and told the soldiers that neither gunmen nor illegal weapons were in the house. According to her statement, Mrs Clarke told them that she lived with her husband who she identified as Keith Clarke.

“Weh him deh,” she said a soldier asked, and she pointed to the cupboard. Mrs Clarke said further in her statement that her husband was climbing down from the cupboard when he was fired upon. She said it was only then that the soldiers turned on the light in the room.

According to the case outlined by the prosecution, Clarke had left his gun on top of the cupboard. And the post-mortem report read in court said Clarke’s body had 21 entrance gunshot wounds, 16 of which were to the back.

The soldiers were linked to the scene by statements given to investigators and following the ballistic testing of their weapons.

The men were led to the premises based on intelligence that then fugitive Christopher ‘Dudus’ Coke was at the home, Director of Public Prosecutions Paula Llewellyn told the court.

During the bail application on behalf of the men, defence attorney Linton Gordon told Justice Jennifer Straw that before the soldiers entered the house someone started firing from inside, injuring four members of the joint police/military team.

The bullets, he said, were linked to Clarke’s gun. He outlined that investigators have found that shots were being fired from the house.

Gordon told the court that it could not be said that the men went to the premises with malice as they did not know Clarke. The soldiers, he said, had conducted searches of other houses on that night without incident.

The attorney reiterated that the men went to the premises based on intelligence and that they were conducting their lawful duty. “It’s not that they were being reckless,” Gordon told the court.

The lawyer also told the court that before entering the house, the soldiers shouted: “Police and soldiers. Open up!”, but to no avail. It was after shots started coming from the house that the team decided to forcefully enter. Force was a last resort after all else failed.”

In offering the men bail, Justice Straw ordered that they also surrender their travel documents. Stop orders were also ordered placed on them.

The accused men — Lance Corporals Greg Tinglin and Odel Buckley and Private Arnold Henry — are to return to court on September 28, when a trial date is expected to be set.

Along with Gordon, the legal team so far consists of Howard Hamilton, QC, Patrick Cole and Chester Crooks.

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