Lead investigator pressed to say why he pulled Crown witness from crime sceneTuesday, December 07, 2021
BY ALICUIA DUNKLEY-WILLIS
THE detective who marshalled investigations into the operations of the St Catherine-based Klansman gang yesterday came under pressure to explain why he whisked Witness Number One, a former gang member-turned-Crown witness, away from a crime scene where two of his former cronies had died following a gun battle with police after a dramatic car chase through the old capital, before officials from the Independent Commission of Investigations (INDECOM) arrived.
The sleuth, who said he charged 52 of the 53 suspects originally arrested as part of investigations of the gang — 33 of whom are now on trial in the Home Circuit Court in downtown Kingston — had given evidence last month about a January 25, 2019 car chase in the old capital to intercept armed gangsters aboard a motor vehicle.
The police, he said, were acting on intelligence provided by Witness Number One through an open telephone line.
The two alleged members of the criminal organisation died following the reported shoot-out at Garbally Drive in Spanish Town, St Catherine. The detective, during his evidence, had testified that he arrived at the scene shortly after the incident and removed Witness Number One, who was the driver of the motor vehicle carrying the two alleged gangsters, from the location. He told the court that he took the witness, who was unharmed but badly “shaken”, from the scene and placed him at a safe house following that incident.
Attorney Denise Hinson, appearing for accused Brian Morris, in cross-examining the detective about his account of his actions on the night, charged that he had “removed him out of the reach of INDECOM”.
The investigator, who admitted that INDECOM had not yet arrived at the scene when he left with the witness, said that other police personnel were there. In addition he insisted, “I don't agree, I don't know that INDECOM ever made any attempt to reach him.”
Asked by trial judge Chief Justice Bryan Sykes whether he had told investigators about the witness and his role in the incident, the detective said, “No, M'lord.”
Asked by Hinson if he had thought it necessary to even take the witness to the investigators so they could have taken a statement from him about the incident, the detective maintained, “What I said to you was that there was an investigation carried out in respect of the incident. At any point, had I been asked for Mr [name withheld], he would have been made available.”
Asked by Hinson whether he had, at any point, even provided the name of the witness to investigators, he said “I doubt that would have been my responsibility. It would have been for the investigating officer [into the shooting] to do.”
Under further questioning from Chief Justice Sykes as to whether he came to know who the investigating officer was eventually and if he had made the officer aware that he was in touch with the driver of the vehicle, he said he had not.
In the meantime, the witness, who was taking the stand for the last time since he started testifying at the end of November, rebuffed Hinson's suggestion that the vehicle he was aboard was aptly placed to intercept the vehicle carrying the alleged gangsters, instead of the other police team with which he had been in contact during the car chase. According to the detective, to do so would have been “suicidal”. He said the other police personnel involved in that operation were equipped to intercept the vehicle. Under further questioning it emerged that a statement of the events of that night had not been recorded until eight months after.
Meanwhile, prosecutors yesterday indicated that the impasse over the Crown obtaining call data records from the island's two major telecoms providers has been resolved in part, with one company turning over the requested information to the cyber forensic division of the police force. The prosecutors, however, indicated that they may have to invoke the powers of the court to have the other provider fulfil the request.
The issue surfaced last week during the testimony of the investigator who disclosed that the police had faced “challenges” from the two mobile service providers in obtaining call data records integral to the ongoing trial.
The call data records in question were specific to the car chase. According to the investigator, he and another police team had been able to ascertain the travel path of the vehicle because of the phone which was in the possession of the witness.