TAXI driver Michael Swaby and his sidekick Dwayne Edwards — the duo behind a horrific string of kidnappings, robberies and rapes across the capital city — were on Friday found guilty of 20 of the 21 charges they were slapped with in the Corporate Area Gun Court.
The two, said to be illegal taxi operators, were snagged by the testimonies of 17 witnesses, three of whom were complainants, and are to be sentenced on July 16 this year. Forensic evidence, video footage from surveillance cameras, call records analyses, as well as a discarded traffic ticket with Swaby's name formed part of the trail of clues that led to the criminals' downfall for the incidents which took place days apart, specifically October 31, November 18 and November 25 of 2017.
Swaby and Edwards had been on the police's radar for several years, Swaby as early as 2014. Both, following their arrest in 2018, were slapped with charges ranging including forcible abduction, rape, grievous sexual assault, assault occasioning bodily harm, assault at common-law, illegal possession of firearm, and robbery with aggravation after being pointed out in identification parades. Arrangements were made for the three cases to be joined in the one trial, given the circumstances.
In the trial, which started in May, the women — two members of the nursing profession and the other a beautician — still traumatised, gave their testimonies through tears, leaving the stand at times, too distressed to continue. At least two of the women the Jamaica Observer learnt, chose to keep their backs turned to the accused at all times to avoid having to look at them.
The women, in their testimonies, detailed the modus operandi of the two who typically struck at nights using the same white motor car. In one 2017 incident which took place on Trafalgar Road in St Andrew, the complainant recounted entering what she initially thought was a cab with Swaby as the driver and two men inside, one in the front passenger seat the other in the rear.
While inside the vehicle, which she was told was heading to Half-Way-Tree, the complainant — who said the men began acting suspiciously — told the court that she began screaming after she tried to open the door closest to her, only to realise it was locked.
At that point the other two males who had been posing as passengers went into action, one using his seat to lock her into position, training his gun at her and issuing threats while his crony seated in the back grabbed her bag telling her “Hey gyal, yuh nuh hear seh yuh fi hold dung yuh head gyal?” Swaby joined in with “Hey gyal, yuh nuh hear fi stop the noise? A kill man a go kill yuh if yuh nuh stop yuh noise!”
During the fray the male seated at the front climbed into the back where he joined the other in beating the trapped woman, whom they then blindfolded and interrogated regarding the contents of her bank account after discovering that her bag only contained $2,500, two health cards and her cellular phone.
The woman, in fear for her life, negotiated with the men to allow her to call a relative in order that she could access her card information to enable her to transfer money from her account online. That, however, was not successful.
According to the evidence unveiled before the court, the men then forced the complainant to an unidentified location where they compelled her to perform oral sex on them and intercourse without protection. They then took her to downtown Kingston where they released her, giving her $200 to pay her transportation fare. She was assisted to a police station by a female passer-by ending what was an over three-hour-long ordeal.
The second abduction, which also took place on Trafalgar Road in 2017, saw Edwards and Swaby again posing as passenger and driver, respectively. The victim, who said she sat in the front, realised something was amiss after the driver diverted from the route. She registered her discomfort only to find herself locked in a struggle with both men.
Swaby, she said, dropped her seat back while Edwards held his foot on her neck and butted her with a gun. He then proceeded to blindfold her and tie her hands. The men then drove to a location where they both forced her to perform oral sex.
Only Swaby raped the complainant vaginally, according to the evidence. Edwards did not do so as he did not have a condom. The men then robbed her of her cellular phone and cash before releasing her.
The woman, whose ordeal began about 7:20 pm, was assisted with getting medical attention and then taken to the Centre for the Investigation of Sexual Offences and Child Abuse about 4:30 am, where she made a report.
Defence attorneys Paul Gentles and Simone Robinson represented Edwards while Lloyd Sheckleford and Althea Freeman appeared for Swaby.
The Crown was represented by attorneys Orrett Brown and Hodine Williams.