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Kidnapping, $7-million ransom demand and nonchalant killers

BY PAUL HENRY Sunday Observer staff reporter henryp@jamaicaobserver.com

Sunday, January 24, 2010    

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AFTER two years of delays, 28-year-old Lennox Swaby and Calvin Powell, 27, finally went on trial on October 5 last year for the December 2006 murder of much-loved Mandeville couple Richard and Julia Lyn.

The Home Circuit Court trial, presided over by Justice Marva McIntosh, culminated on December 18 with the conviction of the men by a panel of 11 jurors. One of the jurors was earlier excused by McIntosh.

Swaby and Powell, who showed no remorse throughout the trial, were sentenced to death last week Wednesday.

Here is a recap of the trial of the convicts, who were arrested on December 16, 2006, a week after the Lyns went missing from their Battersea, Ingleside home between the 9th and 10th of that month.

Monday, October 5, 2009:

Court hears that Lyns' home was ransacked, burgled

Two long-time friends of the Lyns gave evidence. One of the witnesses testified that the home of the well-loved couple was ransacked and a number of items had been missing.

What appeared to be blood was also seen on a column inside the Lyns' home, said the witness.

The witness told the court that items of furniture and appliances, such as a television set, computer and a refrigerator were missing from the home upon her visit with the police on December 10, 2006.

Three witnesses completed evidence that day. Court was adjourned with Petrina Lewis, the mother of Swaby's child, on the stand. The prosecution alleged that some of the stolen items were taken to Lewis' house.

The prosecution said it was relying on circumstantial evidence to convict the men.

During opening statements, Lisa Palmer Hamilton, senior deputy director of public prosecutions, told jurors that the men had murdered the couple -- who operated a furniture store in Mandeville -- during the furtherance of a robbery. Palmer Hamilton said also that the accused later led the police to the Martin's Hill dump outside of Mandeville where the remains of the couple were recovered. The Lyns' two motor vehicles were also stolen, the court was told.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009:

Accused drove around in Lyns' RAV-4 days after kidnapping

A witness told the court that several days after the Lyns went missing, Swaby and Powell were still driving around with the Toyota RAV-4 they stole from the elderly couple's home.

According to the witness, Swaby at one point even came to her house with a police officer called 'Bowers', in the stolen vehicle.

The witness said that when she enquired about the ownership of the silver RAV-4, Swaby told her it belonged to a family member who was visiting Jamaica from abroad.

The witness said that Swaby first came to her Mandeville home driving the stolen vehicle around 3:00 am on Sunday, December 10, 2006. She said he and Powell unpacked some items -- including a 14-inch Panasonic television set, microwave, a toaster oven, sheet sets, bathroom scale and multi-coloured comforters -- which Swaby asked her to keep.

She testified that both men came back to her house the following Wednesday night in the said vehicle and that Swaby told her that he wanted her assistance in making a withdrawal from an ATM with a Keycard he had.

The witness said she accompanied the men to the National Commercial Bank in Mandeville in the RAV-4 and Swaby gave her a PIN for the card, but the transaction was declined. They then went to the Scotiabank in the town, she said, and tried using the card to withdraw cash, but again the transaction was declined.

At that point, the witness testified, Powell, who she called Kevin, took the card from her and attempted the transaction. The witness said that figures ranging from $5,000 to $10,000 came up on the screen and that Powell selected $5,000. Swaby, she said, protested against Powell withdrawing "so much money from the man account". The transaction, however, was declined and, according to the witness, Powell exclaimed, "A ginnal di bwoy ginnal wi."

The witness told the court that she did not know which man Powell was talking about.

According to the witness, Swaby visited her house briefly on the Thursday afternoon in the RAV-4, accompanied by the policeman called 'Bowers' from Mandeville, and returned with another person that evening in the said vehicle.

Swaby was held two days later, on December 16.

The police, the witness said, came to her house and removed from the kitchen and the living room the items that Swaby and Powell had brought there.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009:

Judge bars journalists, cites security of witness

Journalists were barred from covering the testimony of the female witness giving evidence in the trial.

Justice Marva McIntosh made the decision to bar the media out of security concerns for the witness. According to McIntosh, the witness's house was "stormed" by people from the accused men's community following the publication of her name.

Friday, October 9, 2009:

Jurors shown photos of truck in which Lyns were found

Jurors were shown pictures of the disabled pick-up truck at the Martin's Hill dump in which the decomposed bodies of the Lyns were found in December 2006.

Detective Sergeant Donavon Larmond, who is assigned to the constabulary's Area Three Scenes of Crime, had testified in the Home Circuit Court that the bodies were bound at the hands and feet with pieces of rope and covered in debris.

Jurors were also shown photographs of the Lyns' ransacked home. Pictures, with what appeared to be blood stains at the home, were also shown to jurors.

Evidence was also given that photographs were taken of a foot impression left in the Lyns' home by their killers. Impressions of the right shoe print taken from Swaby and Powell were made after the men's arrest, the court was told.

Monday, October 12, 2009:

Unaware cop drove with accused in Lyns' stolen RAV-4

A policeman testified that he had been driving around for three hours with murder accused Swaby in the vehicle that the latter and co-accused Powell allegedly stole from the home of the Lyns' on the same day (a Sunday) it was discovered that the two had been kidnapped and may have been harmed.

The timeline given by the cop placed him and Swaby in the stolen RAV-4 around the same time the police were combing the Lyns' Ingleside, Mandeville home for clues to their disappearance.

According to the cop, Swaby came to his home around 9:30 am on Sunday, December 10, 2006 driving a "silver-grey" Toyota RAV-4.

The cop said he asked Swaby where he had been the previous night as they had plans to go drinking. Swaby, according to the cop, said he was in Black River, St Elizabeth with a lady friend. The cop said he had been calling Swaby's cellphone, but the calls went straight to voicemail.

The witness said he had also asked Swaby about the ownership of the vehicle and was told that it was loaned to him by his lady friend in St Elizabeth.

The cop said he and Swaby had planned previously to buy parts for his (the cop's) car and Swaby asked him to drive because he had a headache.

According to the witness, the two drove around Mandeville and Knockpatrick in search of the parts. The witness said he also drove to Swaby's sister's home where they both helped to rearrange furniture, before he drove home.

The witness said he also saw Swaby one Thursday night driving the RAV-4 with five other people onboard. Swaby, according to the witness, was heading to a school barbecue.

The 25-year veteran of the Jamaica Constabulary Force said he knew Swaby since high school days, adding that he had also employed Swaby as a driver for a taxi he operated.

Friday, October 16, 2009:

Pathologist says Mandeville couple was strangled

The court heard that Julia Lyn suffered a broken neck as a result of being strangled.

Government Forensic Pathologist Dr Kadiyala Persaud told jurors that cords and pieces of rope were used to strangle Julia Lyn and her husband Richard to death, and that the hands of the two were bound behind them.

Dr Persaud had performed a post-mortem on the elderly couple's decomposed bodies at the Martin's Hill dump just outside Mandeville, Manchester on December 30, 2006.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009:

Accused led police to Lyns' bodies

Weighed down by a guilty conscience and sleepless nights, Calvin Powell led the police to the landfill where the couple's bodies were dumped, the court heard.

Detective Sergeant Dolphine Graveney of the Major Investigation Taskforce testified that Powell, after being picked up by the police, said he wanted to take investigators to the Martin's Hill dump where the couple's bodies were disposed.

Sergeant Graveney said Powell told him that he hadn't slept for three nights "because it rest on my mind", and that he would take the cop to where the bodies were.

Later on in the proceedings, Graveney said Powell, a garbage truck driver, offered to "tell everything" because he had nothing to do with the murder of the elderly couple.

Graveney testified that Powell took investigators to the dump on December 29, 2006.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009:

Accused kept photos of Lyns in wallet

Jurors heard that Calvin Powell kept photos of the Lyns in his wallet.

Powell had photos of the Lyns when he was held in Mandeville, Manchester on December 16, 2006, several days following the disappearance of the elderly couple from their home.

Detective Sergeant Colin McKenzie of the Major Investigation Taskforce told the trial that Powell was driving his garbage truck along the Kendal main road in Manchester when he was stopped by the police.

Powell was searched and two small, circular-shaped pictures of the Lyns along with his own identification cards, his driver's licence, in addition to several local and United States notes, among other things, were found, McKenzie told the court.

McKenzie said that when Powell was asked on the scene how he came by the pictures he did not respond. He was then taken to the Mandeville Police Station.

The photos were entered into evidence and shown to jurors.

McKenzie also said that Lennox Swaby -- Powell's co-accused -- gave a statement to investigators on December 16, 2006 in which he denied involvement in the disappearance of the Lyns.

Swaby also denied that he knew who owned the items of furniture and appliances that were found in his Hopefield, Manchester home, McKenzie testified.

McKenzie also told the court that Swaby told investigators that the Toyota RAV-4 in which he had been driving around belonged to a police officer to whom he rented a house.

Monday, October 26, 2009:

Accused killer also kept photo of Lyns' children

The court heard that Powell not only kept photos of the two victims in his wallet, but those of the couple's grown children.

The photos were taken from Powell when he was held in Mandeville on December 16, 2006.

In an interview with the police on December 29, 2006, Powell denied that the photos were taken from him, said McKenzie, who was continuing his evidence.

McKenzie told the court that Powell did not deny knowing the couple nor where the pair lived, but said he had never seen the photos before.

Friday, October 30, 2009:

Trial hits snag

The sitting of the trial was forced into cancellation due to the ill health of a juror and was set to continue at a later date.

The jurors also complained of the uncomfortable chairs and dusty air-conditioner, which they said was affecting their sinuses.

Justice McIntosh promised to bring the complaints to the attention of the "relevant person".

Monday, November 2, 2009:

Accused's sneakers appear to match impression left at murder scene

The pair of sneakers removed from the feet of Lennox Swaby at his arrest appeared to match a shoe impression left at the home of the Lyns, the court heard.

Detective Inspector George W Williams told jurors that he took the shoes from Swaby's feet on December 16, 2006, when the accused was brought to the Mandeville Police Station.

The logo at the bottom of Swaby's shoes was similar to that of the impression left at the Lyns' Battersea Avenue home. The impression was found at the home on December 10, 2006, when the Lyns were discovered missing.

The cop also denied a suggestion by defence attorney Dr Randolph Williams that the shoes were kicked off Swaby's feet while he was face down on the floor at the station and a police officer was standing on him.

Several items that were stolen from the Lyns' home were displayed for jurors.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009:

The shoe fits

Forensic scientist Dwayne Hilderbrand testified that a shoe print found in the home of the Lyns matched the right foot of a pair of shoes worn by accused Lennox Swaby at the time of his arrest.

Hilderbrand was called as a prosecution witness in the case.

"I compared the information and determined that the print was made by that shoe and no other shoe," Hilderbrand said.

Hilderbrand said he was sent 33 images of the shoe and imprints by electronic mail from Jamaican investigators who sought his expertise.

He told the court that the impressions from the shoe could have only come from footwear manufactured by the Lugz shoe company.

Thursday, November 12, 2009:

Recording of ransom demand played in court

Jurors heard the recording of accused Calvin Powell making a $7-million ransom demand on Dr Maurice Lyn for the safe return his parents.

The conversation between Dr Lyn and the accused was recorded by the police on December 15, 2006.

The person making the demand sounded cool and in control on the 15-plus-minute recording -- even as he casually stated his intention to kill the elderly couple if Dr Lyn did not come up with the money by a certain time.

Dr Lyn, 41, remained calm throughout the tape but his anxiety was revealed as he pleaded desperately, but unsuccessfully, for proof that his parents were alive.

"My mother nuh trouble nobody, all right. My mother and my father don't trouble nobody," Lyn could be heard saying.

"Dat's why dem don't dead as yet because dem working with us, dem co-operating," responded the person on the other end of the line.

Powell, the court heard previously, had made the ransom demand on instruction from co-accused Swaby.

Some jurors appeared repulsed by the recording, especially when Lyn was being assured that his mother was okay and that she was taking her medication. The jurors were taken aback when the person believed to be Powell said that the wrong Lyns were kidnapped.

Friday, November 13, 2009:

Judge unhappy with slow pace of trial

Senior Justice Norma McIntosh again expressed dissatisfaction with the slow pace at which the trial was proceeding after the prosecution informed the court that a police witness, who was scheduled to give evidence, was not present.

McIntosh complained about the constant late start of the trial and half-day sittings due to the no-show of witnesses, while expressing fear that "at this pace" the trial may run into the Christmas holidays.

The witness, Detective Inspector Devon Harris, eventually turned up, explaining that he was only informed on Friday morning that he would be needed.

Friday, November 27, 2009:

Swaby takes witness stand

Lennox Swaby took the stand and denied any involvement in the murder of the Lyns.

Swaby admitted that he and Powell went to an automated banking machine early on the morning of December 10, 2006, to withdraw money.

He said a man called Nicholas Stewart, and who was dressed in a blue suit like the police, gave him the bank card to make the withdrawal, but they did not get any money from the machine.

Swaby said he rented a room to Stewart in December 2006 but he did not know him before that.

He said Stewart gave him the bank card to withdraw money to pay Powell for using a garbage truck to transport electrical appliances from Black River to Manchester.

Swaby said he did not know the Lyns.

Powell later gave evidence and also denied any knowledge of the murder. He, however, said that he knew the Lyns.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009:

Trial stalls again

The trial did not sit today for a second consecutive day.

There was no sitting the previous day because of an issue with a juror. Today's sitting was cancelled due to the illness of a juror.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009:

Trial hurting jurors' pockets

The lengthy murder trial is now taking a financial toll on jurors, the court was informed.

The jury foreman complained on behalf of fellow jurors that the trial, currently running two months, had been dealing a blow to their finances.

According to the foreman, the tradesmen on the panel of jurors were unable to find time to ply their trade to make a living and asked that the trial commence at 9:00 in the morning, instead of 10:00 am, to allow for earlier adjournments.

The request was granted.

Jurors currently receive a daily stipend of $500.

Monday, December 14, 2009:

Summation continues

Justice Marva McIntosh started her summation of the evidence, with a warning to jurors to look at the facts presented and not to speculate. Jurors were told that they could draw inferences from facts.

The jurors were also told that the accused men are not required to prove their innocence, noting that it is the prosecution that has to prove its case beyond doubt.

Friday, December 18, 2009:

Swaby, Powell found guilty

Jurors deliberated for just over one hour before returning a guilty verdict against Swaby and Powell.

Justice McIntosh ordered psychiatric and social enquiry reports on the two killers before their sentencing on January 12, 2010. Justice McIntosh also requested statements from the head of the correctional facility where the men were being held.

The prosecution said it would be asking for the death penalty.

As the verdicts were being read, Swaby and Powell sat back with folded arms, their feet kicked up in the prisoners' dock, and showed no remorse.

The victims' son, Maurice Lyn, gave a nod of approval at the reading of the verdicts. Later he and his sister, Diane Wilson, expressed satisfaction that justice had been done.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010:

Sentence postponed

The sentencing of Swaby and Powell was on January 12 postponed until Wednesday, January 20. The defence said it had just received the reports requested by the court.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010:

Killers get death sentence

Swaby and Powell were sentenced to death in the Home Circuit Court.

Justice McIntosh, in passing sentence, knocked the men for their lack of remorse and said that they were beyond reform, based on the reports at the hearing and the evidence during trial.

Justice McIntosh lamented the fact that the men had maintained their innocence throughout, "even in the face of all the evidence elicited".

The defence had argued against the death penalty.

The men displayed the same nonchalant demeanour they did throughout the trial and subsequent conviction.

Defence lawyers Dr Randolph Williams and Robert Armstrong said appeals would be filed against the conviction and sentence.

The men, the court heard, had previously told the superintendent in charge of the Horizon Adult Correctional Facility in Kingston that they were confident of an acquittal.

Councillor Sally Porteous, the Jamaica Labour Party caretaker for the Central Manchester Constituency, who was on hand for the sentencing, said that it was her hope that the men would be hanged.

"I had to be here to hear the sentence of the most vile creatures who murdered two of the best people in Jamaica," Porteous told the Observer. "I'm happy to say that justice has been done and I hope that this time the death penalty will be executed because good Jamaicans can't take anymore."

Richard and Julia Lyn, who were abducted from their home in Mandeville in December 2006 and killed.

Police and a pathologist walk with undertakers as they remove the bodies of the Lyns at the Martin's Hill dump just outside Mandeville, Manchester on December 30, 2006.

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