Lead detective struggles to recall location statement was recorded
A detective sergeant who led police investigations into the July 20, 2020 murder of Tonia McDonald in Portland seemingly got caught in a state of confusion during the trial on Tuesday in the Home Circuit Court, downtown Kingston, while under cross-examination from attorney-at-law John Jacobs.
Tonia’s partially burnt body was found on the main road in Sherwood Forest in Portland with multiple stab wounds. She was found beside the razed Toyota Axio motor car she was driving.
Facing questions from Jacobs on Tuesday, the lead detective appealed for many chances to be able to recall certain occurrences during the investigations, particularly in relation to the recording of at least two statements from a witness in the case. The policeman had difficulty recalling where one statement was recorded and had to overcome the challenge of settling on the dates when he said the statements had been taken.
At first he told the court that he was present during the recording of at least one of the statements by the witness who had given evidence in relation to liquid substance in a glass bottle that turned out to be acid after tests were done at a government lab. The cop said a statement was taken from the witness at a police station. However, checks made by Jacobs revealed that the statement was taken at the home of the witness.
“A statement was recorded. It is on the file. It is possible my notebook could help me with the events,” the policeman said before he was given an opportunity to consult his notebook.
After checking the notebook, the detective sergeant said, “There is no notation in respect of the statement.”
Jacobs pressed the policeman to explain whether he had signed any certificate to say he observed the taking of the statement from the witness.
“I remember signing one certificate. I cannot speak to the date. The statement that was taken that I observed could have been at one of the police stations in Portland,” the cop said.
Jacobs, however, told the policeman that no statement from that particular witness was recorded in his presence at any police station.
The lawyer then asked for the statement to be shown to the witness and asked him to tell the court where the statement was recorded.
The policeman said, The statement was recorded on August 18, 2020. It was done at the home of the witness. I observed the taking of that particular statement. I went to the home, Sir, on at least one occasion and not at a police station. It was an error when I said police station.
“I was there at the start of the statement but not at the finish. I signed the certificate because I did observe it. I was there for the signing. When it was completed I was called and it was read back to me. The witness signed it and I was witness to it.”
Regarding the other statement the witness gave, the detective sergeant said he only observed a portion of the writing of the statement.
He told the court that he did not observe the writing of that statement for long because he had to tend to something else in relation to the case.
“What I attended to was important to the case,” he said, saying that he did not remember if he made any mention of that in his statements.
The lawyer later asked the detective why he searched Beachy Stout’s supermarket in Portland without the businessman being present. The cop claimed that it was too high a risk to do so, even though it was in very close proximity to a police station.
“I searched two premises for him. One is located in Dolphin Bay, Portland. When I searched it he was not in custody. While he was in custody I searched 8 William Street. It is good practice to search in the presence of the owner but not in all situations. The investigator would determine this. It was my decision to search 8 William Street. It would have been a risk to have Mr McDonald present.
“The business is close to a police station but the risk was still very high,” he said.
Jacobs is one of five attorneys representing Beachy Stout, who is one of two accused in the matter. The other person facing trial for the murder of Tonia is Oscar Barnes.
The trial continues on January 9, 2024.