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Official denies claims by man in Witness Protection Programme

BY KARYL WALKER Editor -- Crime/Court Desk walkerk@jamaicaobserver.com

Friday, December 27, 2013    

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A representative of the Witness Protection Programme has rubbished claims by a participant in the programme that his safety is being compromised.

The witness to two murders in St Catherine, who was removed from the community and placed in a safe house, visited the offices of the Jamaica Observer on Monday and complained that he was being forced out of the safe house and is worried that his life is in danger.

"I am very confused and afraid. I don't feel safe anymore. They have told me that nobody is looking for me anymore and I don't have to hide," the witness said.

However, Glen Jackson, who has been working with the programme for nine years, said the witness breached the rules and is not being forced out of the programme.

"[He] has been in the programme for a few years. He has been relocated about six times. However, he is not complying with the rules and regulations. He should not be in the Corporate Area as his life has been threatened. He has been given several chances. We don't want him to die," Jackson said.

The witness is due to appear in court in January to give evidence.

He told the Observer that he was standing beside the accused murderer when he pulled the trigger and killed two men, days apart, in September 2008.

"They were innocent, and when I begged for their lives the man ask me how me a go on like Jesus. He had a gun, so I didn't say anything else. I never liked what happen so I decided to give information to the police," the witness said.

He claimed that the electricity at the safe house has been disconnected and that he was being blamed for a fire at the safe house.

Jackson admitted that the electricity was in fact disconnected but denied that the programme had placed any blame at the witness's feet for causing the fire.

Instead, he said, the fire department had concluded that a pair of slippers that had been lit at the back of the house was the cause of the blaze.

"The electricity was in fact disconnected. We got a call Wednesday (December 18) that it was cut and we contacted JPS who went to reconnect it on Wednesday and he was not there. They went back Friday (December 20) and he was not there and they went back today (December 23) and he was not there," Jackson said.

Utility bills for witnesses are paid electronically through a system set up by the Ministry of National Security, which has portfolio responsibility for the programme.

Witnesses in the programme are advised not to leave the safe house and to avoid areas close to the scene of the crime, but according to Jackson, this witness does exactly the opposite.

His actions have caused witness protection staff to send his case to a tribunal to decide if he should be removed from the programme.

"We don't want him to die. The threat level against him is significant. His case is now before the tribunal and a decision will be made," Jackson said.

He explained that cases are brought before the tribunal after several warnings and meetings with supervisors to get the witness to comply with the rules.

"The man is a pain. We do not want this programme to be jeopardised because of [his] actions," Jackson said.

Persons in the programme are given a monthly stipend and all utility bills are paid by the State.

The witness also claimed that he has stopped receiving the $16,000 he collects to buy food.

But again, Jackson denied his claim.

"He is given a (ATM) card to withdraw the money every month. He has lost the card about six times. It is on our records that he is still being paid," he said.

The police have repeatedly pointed out that they have never lost a witness who has complied with the rules of the programme since it came on stream in 2001.

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