Reggae Girl’s accused killer claims self-defence
Twenty-three-year-old Rushelle Foster — who is on trial for the murder of national senior women’s footballer Tarania “Plum Plum” Clarke four years ago — on Monday claimed she acted in self-defence as she would have been the one to die if the enraged footballer, who was fuming over the fact that she had called it quits on their “toxic” seven-month sexual relationship, had got hold of the weapon used to stab her.
“The night when she start fight mi and a fling mi all bout, and a wrestle wid mi, mi go inna di bag fi di knife; mi think seh if Tarania si di knife she a go walk weh. Mi know if mi did let it go Tarania woulda kill mi di night. Mi tek out di knife fi defend misself, mi teck out di knife because she a fight mi and mi think she would jus’ back off,” Foster said in an unsworn statement from the dock of Courtroom Number One in the Home Circuit Division of the Supreme Court in downtown Kingston.
An unsworn statement is a testimonial by an accused, setting out their version of the event, but which is not on oath and not subject to cross-examination by the prosecutor or questions by the judge.
Clarke, a rising star in the sporting arena, was stabbed to death during a reported dispute over a cellular phone about 8:50 pm on October 31, 2019 at Limelight Plaza in Half-Way-Tree, St Andrew.
The sole eyewitness, who was the first to take the stand in the Home Circuit Division of the Supreme Court when the trial began on January 8, 2023, had told the court that on the evening in question there was an argument between the Reggae Girl and the defendant. In that argument, the witness said Foster accused Clarke of deliberately ignoring her calls. The witness said Clarke responded by saying her phone was acting up and that other individuals were also experiencing difficulties contacting her.
The witness said Foster lunged forward and tried to grab the phone from Clarke, who pushed her hand away. She said Foster then brandished a knife and stabbed the footballer in her side.
The court was told that when Clarke gasped, “Yuh stab mi,” Foster reportedly said, “Mi wi do it again,” and stabbed her a second time. The witness then described for the court the frantic efforts to get help for the footballer, who was pronounced dead at hospital.
But on Monday Clarke, who introduced herself as a quality analyst, in sharing “what really happened on October 31, 2019” said the relationship with the footballer had soured because they had different “values”.
“I met her four years before, but got into an intimate relationship seven months prior [to the incident]. Me and Tarania were in an intimate relationship. Growing up, my sexuality was always a concern. I wanted to experience how being with a female felt; I was on the experimental side. When I met Tarania she expressed to me that she liked me. I told her I’d never been with a female before so I wasn’t sure I would be able to be committed,” Foster told a deafeningly silent courtroom.
“After a while I decide that if I was going to be with a female, my first time would be with Tarania. We decided we would start dating. It started to develop, we started to spend more time together, started doing things together, but we realised that we had different values and because of that we started not to get along so well,” Foster said.
“Tarania wanted more of a committed relationship while I was more on the experimental side of things. Because of this, she was always wanting an argument,” Foster said.
She told the court that things came to a head following an encounter with an old flame at an eating spot in Kingston where she and the footballer had frequently gone on dates.
“She start toe to toe wid mi how much mi an her siddung yasso and yuh a teck talk from man — styling ting dat. Mi laugh and seh ‘Plum, yuh siddung yasso and hear everyting di bwoy seh? It nuh dat serious. Mi nah go do dis wid yuh right yasso because a inna public place wi deh.’ We got our food, and we ate, and we eventually left,” she said.
The accused woman said they again quarrelled when they got to her house, leading to her telling the footballer that she wanted out of the relationship. That’s when she said things got physical.
“She start talk bout how much mi nuh rate har; the argument got heated till she shot mi two box. Mi can’t fight Tarania, she bigger than mi; she play fi Jamaica, she go gym. Mi end up jus’ run har go har yard,” Foster told the court.
The next time they met, Foster said, was on the fateful night.
She told the court that Clarke, in three weeks after that quarrel, had complained that the phone Foster had gifted her was not working properly. Foster claimed that although she had told Clarke that the relationship was over, she was still her friend and so arranged to meet her to take the phone and have the problem addressed since the warranty was still valid.
She said that in getting to the meeting spot and sometime later seeing Clarke, the footballer “hug mi up and start miss mi and seh, ‘Yuh really a go lef mi because a dat?’ and ‘Mi really sorry’ “.
Foster said when she did not return her affections Clarke got mad. “She seh from mi si di bwoy a Lucky Crab yuh nuh waan talk to mi…the bwoy a [expletive] yuh know — a styling ting”.
According to Foster, she denied Clarke’s claim and cursed at her, telling her she could keep the phone. She said it was while walking away that she felt a tug on her top and realised the footballer had held on to her.
“Tarania grab on pon mi two hand and seh, ‘Who yuh a cuss badword pon my girl?’ Mi laugh an seh, ‘Tarania, leggo affa mi hand’… Tarania buck mi inna mi forrid… when she buck mi, mi chuck har. She buck mi an girt (drape) mi up inna mi clothes,” Foster claimed.
She said she pushed Clarke, who then boxed her and said, “A mi yuh a ramp wid likkle gal?”
Foster said Clarke then grabbed her hair and a wrestling match ensued.
“Wi start fight, because mi never did a go let her buck mi again. We start fight and she a beat mi up, scratch mi inna mi face, lick mi inna mi head, and mi sehy ‘Tarania, let go affa mi nuh,’ and mi start go inna mi bag,” the accused murderer said.
She said Clarke, at that time, asked “Weh yuh a go inna yuh bag fa?”
“Mi can’t fight Tarania… she buck mi and she seh, ‘Yuh want mi kill yuh out yah so gal? Come in like yuh want mi kill yuh out yah so’. She come back inna mi face and use har knee and kick mi,” Foster claimed. She said the footballer was, by this time, attempting to take the knife from her hand.
“But mi can’t leggo di knife; to the ignorance (anger) weh she did have over the incident [three weeks prior] I know if mi leggo di knife mi woulda dead,” Foster claimed.
She said she was then pushed and the unthinkable happened.
“She push mi and mi drop. When mi drop she get up and seh, ‘Di knife stab mi.’ She lift up her shirt and mi si di blood. When mi si di blood mi start scream, and mi drop di knife and start hold har up. Nobody nah help so mi a walk wid her,” she told the court.
Last week the investigator who probed the murder said Foster had claimed ownership of the murder weapon but said she only had it on her person for “protection, based on where she lived”, and had not meant to stab and kill her “close friend”.
Last Friday a consultant forensic pathologist who had examined Clarke’s body said the then 20-year-old died from “haemorrhage and shock” from a stab wound to the chest which punctured a lung. The stab was one of two wounds the footballer received. The first, which was inflicted to the left upper anterior chest, penetrated the underlying tissues and perforated the upper lobe of the left lung. The expert said the second stab to the left mid-anterior abdomen penetrated underlying tissues and ended in the muscles of the lateral abdominal wall. The consultant forensic pathologist said haemorrhaging was seen in the tissue of the stab wound.
On Monday, Foster said when her frantic attempts to get help failed she laid down her dying friend and rushed to Half-Way-Tree Police Station to get help but was ignored. She said in rushing back to the plaza she was collared by a cop just as she was entering the premises. A police witness, however, told the court when he took the stand last week that he had grabbed on to her just as she was fleeing the station yard. All police witnesses called by the Crown last week denied being told by Foster that she and Clarke were intimately involved.
The defence is expected to continue making its case today when the matter resumes at 10:00 am before Supreme Court judge Justice Leighton Pusey and a seven-member jury.