Crimes that Rocked the Nation: Murder at Jamintel

Security guard said it was him or Spanglers gang member

Sybil E Hibbert

Sunday, January 20, 2013

THE Jamaica International Telecommunications building at the intersection of North and Duke Streets, (commonly known as Jamintel) in 1972 was the scene of a murder arising out of an argument between a security guard and a member of what was described as the 'Spanglers' gang.

17-year-old labourer, Donovan Allen, o/c 'Danny Stitch" of an Upper Regent Street address in Kingston 14, lost his life after he was shot in the mouth by 21-year-old security guard Franklin "Dick" DaCosta of Aqualita Vale Avenue, Pembroke Hall, St. Andrew.

The incident took place on the afternoon of February 24, 1972 and Allen died the following day in the Kingston Public Hospital.

At a trial later in the No 1 Home Circuit Court before the late Chief Justice, the Hon Kenneth G. Smith, and a mixed jury, the main witness for the prosecution -- Roy McDonald of a Spanish Town Road address -- testified that he was at the site at Jamintel on the day of the shooting. He had known the accused before and he had seen Allen visit the site before that day.

On the afternoon of February 24, the witness recalled that Allen, accompanied by two men, visited the site. He heard DaCosta ask Allen: "What are you doing here?" And Allen responded:" Red bwoy, ah you me come look fah." Then the accused asked: "Who you are calling red bwoy?" and Allen retorted: "Ah you me calling red bwoy."

The next thing he knew, DaCosta had pulled out his .38 magnum revolver and shot Allen in his mouth.

Allen started to spit blood and fell to the ground. Some men on the site picked him up, put him on a bicycle and rushed off to the Kingston Public Hospital.

The Government pathologist, Dr Louis Dawson, who performed the post-mortem examination gave evidence that death was due to haemorrhage as a result of a gunshot wound to the mouth.

The arresting officer, Detective Sergeant Isadore 'Dick' Hibbert (later ACP i/c Crime retired.) stationed at Half-Way-Tree CID, told of taking a police party to DaCosta's home in Aqualita Vale Avenue in Pembroke Hall on Saturday, April 1, 1972 and of finding a .38 revolver in a toilet tank there. Confronted with the find, Hibbert told the court, DaCosta had said to him: 'If it was not him, it would be me."

He was arrested and charged with the murder of Donovan Allen.

The following day, Hibbert told of taking the weapon and the bullet recovered from Allen's body to the Forensic Laboratory at Kingston Gardens for tests.

Detective Superintendent Dan Wray (later ACP ret'd) gave evidence of carrying out tests on the bullet recovered from the body of Donovan Allen and had come to the conclusion that the bullet was fired from the weapon recovered from the toilet tank at DaCosta's home.

Another witness -- Egbert Daley -- who had been a prisoner at the Half-Way-Tree lock-up during DaCosta's stay there pending trial, told the court before taking the oath, that the evidence he had given at the preliminary enquiry was not the truth but the evidence he was about to give would be, and it was also entirely different from that given at the preliminary enquiry.

Questioned by the Chief Justice, the witness explained that at the preliminary enquiry, he was threatened by the brother, sister and other relatives of the accused and became afraid.

Asked if he was not afraid at the material time, he pointed to the number of policemen around the courthouse. His Lordship advised that security would remain in place for his safety and ordered him to proceed.

Daley then proceeded to tell the court how DaCosta had confessed to him about the Jamintel shooting and that he had hidden the gun after he shot Allen.

After cross-examination of this witness, the luncheon adjournment was taken.

On the resumption after lunch, it was time for the defence to give its side of the story.

But before defence counsel, Enoch Blake could utter a word, DaCosta advised the court that he no longer desired any assistance from his attorney; he said he would take the case from there. And despite warnings from His Lordship as to possible consequences that might result, he nevertheless insisted.

Chief Justice: "Go ahead!"

DaCosta, in an unsworn statement from the dock: "Milord, members of the jury -- I shot and killed Donovan Allen, but if it was not him, it would be me".

"The deceased man and I had a feud before that afternoon and he had threatened me. On the day in question, he came to the site with two other men, and while using some abusive words strictly intended for me, he made a gesture to his waist as if to draw a weapon and I drew and fired first.

The jury listened intently to the learned trial judge's summing up, then retired for 20 minutes and returned with a verdict of Not Guilty of Murder but Guilty of Manslaughter.

DaCosta received a sentence of 10 years imprisonment at hard labour.

The Crown's case was presented by Crown Counsel, the late U D Gordon (later Judge of Appeal).

From the Journal of Isadore 'Dick' Hibbert, (A.C.P. i/c Crime, ret'd.)

'I had just returned from a course at Scotland Yard when I received information from a confidential source which led me to start investigations into the murder at Jamintel.

"As a result of information received, I took a team of policemen to premises at Aqualita Vale Avenue in Pembroke Hall, where Franklin DaCosta resided with his mother and sister. He was not at home. I presented a search warrant and in the presence of the accused man's sister, carried out a search at the premises. Inside the house, in her presence, I found a .38 magnum revolver in a toilet tank in one of the bathrooms.

"The team of policemen and I, left the premises and proceeded to the Oasis Club on Washington Boulevard where I saw DaCosta, whom I knew before, sitting on a stool outside. I approached him, identified myself and told him I was investigating the murder of Donovan Allen, committed on February 24, 1972 at Jamintel building.

"I also told DaCosta that the police party and I were just coming from his house where we found this .38 magnum revolver( showing him the revolver) in a toilet tank, whereupon DaCosta said: "if it wasn't him, it would be me." The accused went on to say he was not prepared to give me anything in writing.

"I took DaCosta to the Half-Way-Tree Police Station CID Office. I cautioned him and charged him with the murder of Donovan Allen.

"He was taken before the Sutton Street RM. Court, presided over by Resident Magistrate, Alvin Lambert and he was represented by attorneys Churchill Neita (later Q C) and Peter Milligen.

"During the course of the inquiry, almost all the prosecution witnesses changed their testimony from what was given in their statements to the police. One of them named Daley, a prisoner awaiting trial at the Half-Way-Tree lock-up, as soon as he left the witness box and was passing me, whispered that he wished to speak to me. I advised him in open court that whatever he had to say, he should say it before the Clerk of Courts and Defence Counsel.

"Pointing to the entrance to the courtroom, the witness identified the brother, sister and friends of the accused whom, he said, had issued threats to him as he entered the court to give evidence; that was why he had changed his testimony.

"When this was brought to the magistrate's attention by me, he advised me to take statements and submit them to the Director of Public Prosecutions. By that time, all the offenders had disappeared from the entrance to the courtroom.

"The preliminary enquiry continued the following day. I believe Mr Neita was so confident of victory due to the witnesses' reversal of their previous statements, that he failed to turn up that day and left the remainder of the work to his junior counsel -- Peter Milligen.

"On that day, the main witness testified and junior counsel Milligen cross-examined the witness to the extent that he ended up helping the Crown's case more than anything else. The Magistrate thereafter committed DaCosta for trial in the next session of the Home Circuit Court.

"At the trial in the Home Circuit Court, after the prosecution had closed its case, court adjourned for lunch and the defence was to begin on the resumption. I received a message during that interval that DaCosta wished to see me. I proceeded to the cell block at the Supreme Court. There, DaCosta asked me to tell him how the case against him looked.

"I told him that I could not answer that question because he was ably represented and it would be a breach of professional etiquette. However, he insisted I should tell him and I told him that if he continued to deny that he did not fire any shot, he would have a date with the hangman. But if he rode alongside the Crown's case, "that if it wasn't him, the deceased; it would be him, the accused', he might have a chance for a manslaughter verdict. DaCosta thanked me very much.

"On the resumption, to everyone's bewilderment, DaCosta told the court he no longer needed the services of his attorney, Enoch Blake.

Despite repeated warnings from the learned Chief Justice, DaCosta went ahead and in an unsworn statement from the dock, admitted that he shot and killed Allen but said he did so only after he saw what he described as I drew and fired first."

"Upon his release from prison in the early 1980's, DaCosta was shot and killed by the police in Christiana, Manchester, in the course of a robbery".

Sybil E Hibbert is a veteran journalist and retired court reporting specialist. She is also the wife of Retired ACP Isadore 'Dick' Hibbert, rated among the top Jamaican detectives of his time.

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