Detective tells court how he helped witness oust gangstersThursday, November 25, 2021
BY ALICIA DUNKLEY-WILLIS
THE police investigator regarded as a linchpin witness in the prosecution's case against 33 alleged members of the notorious St Catherine-based Klansman gang now on trial, yesterday listed 13 scene of crime locations where detectives had been taken by a former gang member, now turned Crown witness, as the case against the defendants was being built.
The detective, an official of the Counter-Terrorism and Organised Crime Investigation Branch (C-TOCH) and the investigating officer in the case, according to the former gang member Witness Number One — who finished testifying this month — had accompanied him into the gang's territory posing as his “uncle”, even collecting a firearm and ammunition from the very hands of two accused in the course of the investigations.
The detective who took the stand yesterday afternoon after what was a tumultuous morning for the Crown, itemised for the court the locations which were mostly in St Catherine, namely the communities of Jones Avenue, Top Banks, Lauriston, Central Village, Thompson Pen, Rivoli, Waterloo Lane, Greendale, and Chancery Street in St Andrew. He said Witness Number One, in the company of several detectives in 2019, travelled to the different areas where “he pointed out [sites where] several of the gang's activities and crimes were committed”.
Among the scenes visited, the investigator said, was the area in Rivoli where two men from Denham Town, who had allegedly been kidnapped by the gang, were murdered before going on to Waterloo Lane where the bodies had been buried. Witness Number One's testimony in regard to that incident has been hotly disputed by defence attorneys for the accused named in that crime.
In the meantime, the detective yesterday confirmed that he had been the one to provide Witness Number One with at least one smartphone with which the witness, while still pretending to be a member of the gang, recorded conversations between the accused criminals.
He said the witness, who he first met in November of 2018, was introduced to him by top brass members of the Jamaica Constabulary whom the witness had approached to speak to about the gang and their activities.
Witness Number One had testified that he gave the police three phones with recordings of conversations between himself and members of the gang, including leader Andre “Blackman” Bryan. He said he downloaded a call recording app to automatically tape multiple cell phone conversations which were also saved. He forwarded the recordings to cops when the memory became full.
Yesterday the investigator told the court that the device, an Alcatel smartphone, was indeed given to the witness by him in January of 2019 after he received a call from him. The investigator said he handed the phone to the witness “to record conversations with the gang members”.
He said the decision was taken to do this based on what the witness had told him. The investigator told the court that he retrieved the phone from the witness several times during the course of the investigations.
He said the witness, who told him he was operating under an assumed name out of fear for his life, showed him documentation to confirm his identity and told him that he was willing to provide statements to the police. He told the prosecutor leading the evidence that no offer or inducement was made to the witness in respect of the statements. Those statements, the court heard, were made between November of 2018 and January of 2019 on some 30 occasions, clocking hours of recordings. He told the court that the statements were read over to the witness in the presence of an attorney before they were signed.
The investigator's testimony was heard in almost pin-drop silence yesterday, interrupted only by the rustle of paper and the voice of the prosecutor leading the evidence. The defendants on one occasion broke out into nervous laughter when the investigator yawned in mid-answer to a question posed by the trial judge, but were mostly still throughout in contrast to their posture on other days.
Further, the prosecutors were forced to restrategise and call forward four police witnesses, of which the investigator was one, in a bid to establish the chain of custody for the transcripts of the recordings, which are a critical aspect of the prosecution's case, after attempts to have the transcripts entered into evidence on Tuesday afternoon were blocked.
The Crown on Tuesday had called two police witnesses in an attempt to have those transcripts entered into evidence. Following protests from defence attorneys and a ruling by trial judge Chief Justice Bryan Sykes, the transcripts were only marked for identification.
In addition, the Crown's case faltered on Monday, after it was disclosed that, other than a scene of crime photograph and the evidence of the Crown's witness, there was nothing else available from the police in respect of evidence relating to a murder which is count 15 on the 25-count indictment.
Yesterday's sitting adjourned several minutes ahead of the normal time, halting further testimony from the investigator when one of the defendants, Stephanie Christie, otherwise called Mumma, complained of not feeling well.