Sunday, December 17, 2017

All eyes on Rennie Coolman

WHEN the name Rennie Coolman was called in the Second Criminal Court of the Hall of Justice, Port of Spain, on Thursday, all eyes in the courtroom were fixed on the slim, middle-aged man as he made his way into the witness box.

Swearing on the Qur’an, Coolman took an oath to give a true account of what took place on the night of December 19, 2006, when his wife, Vindra Naipaul-Coolman, was abducted from their Lange Park, Chaguanas, home and subsequently murdered.

He was the sixth State witness to be called to testify in the trial of several men charged in the death of the Xtra Foods chief executive officer before Justice Malcolm Holdip and a 12-member jury and six alternates.

Coolman appeared sincere when he revealed to the court he never attempted to assist his wife when she was confronted by kidnappers.

Under cross-examination by defence attorney Kwesi Bekoe, Coolman said he was “very, very scared” after he approached the front door of his and Naipaul-Coolman’s Radix Road home, on December 19—seconds after she arrived home around 8.25 p.m.—and noticed a person standing in the driveway wearing a ski mask and gun in hand close to Vindra’s vehicle.

Seeing this, Coolman said he immediately moved away from the doorway, went into the living room area and stayed there before he heard gunshots and his wife’s scream. Then came the sound of a vehicle driving off, he said.

After this, Coolman said he went into the kitchen where he proceeded to look out of the window into the driveway, but neither Naipaul-Coolman nor her abductor was anywhere in sight.

It was only then he called Naipaul-Coolman’s daughter, Rishma Ali, who was in the upstairs portion of the house, and asked her for the contact number of one of her friends who was a police officer.

Coolman said he called the man and then contacted members of the Anti-Kidnapping Squad (AKS). He never attempted to call 999 during his wife’s ordeal which, he said, lasted for about five to seven minutes. Officers arrived on the scene within ten to 15 minutes after the call, he said.

The day prior to his testimony, Ali and the family’s former live-in housekeeper, Rasheedan Yacoob, gave evidence in the matter.

Ali said when her mother pulled up in the driveway, she was in her bedroom trying to put two of her children to sleep before hearing a crashing sound.

She said at first she was not suspicious of the sound and assumed her mother had probably run over one of the children’s bicycles.

This time, however, the sound was followed by an argument, which caused Ali to look out of her window “because that is not something normal at our home”.

Ali said she saw the person with the ski mask holding a gun measuring approximately three feet in length.

Then she heard the sound of gunfire before her eldest son, who was three years old at the time, woke up and started to cry.

Ali said she took up her son and when she looked out of the window again, she saw the person hit Naipaul-Coolman on the left side of her face with the butt of the gun.

At this point, Ali said she ran into her mother’s bedroom and attempted to call 999, but there was a constant busy tone on the line. She then called her boyfriend and had a conversation with him.

Ali said she remained standing in a corner of her mother’s bedroom, holding her child, because she was afraid the gunman may have entered the house and harmed her and her children. She said she left the room only after Rennie Coolman entered and told her: “You can leave now. They left with her.”

Yacoob gave a brief evidence-in-chief, saying she was in the company of Rennie Coolman when Naipaul-Coolman arrived home.

She said she had gone to the front door upon Naipaul-Coolman’s arrival home, to open it for her, but she too saw the abductor in the driveway before starting to scream.

Yacoob said she ran from the doorway and hid behind a couch, where she continued to scream and cry.

The first three witnesses to be called in the matter on Tuesday were PCs Brenton Mack, Simeon Guelmo and Dolan Olivier.

They were among the first officers who arrived on the scene following Naipaul-Coolman’s kidnapping.

Mack testified he was the officer responsible for taking photographs of the crime scene, while Olivier said he assisted Guelmo to secure the scene after they saw bullet holes in Naipaul-Coolman’s vehicle and blood stains on the ground, as well as a pair of glasses.

Rennie Coolman will again be called into the witness box tomorrow for further cross-examination by attorneys representing the 12 men accused of murdering Naipaul-Coolman.

Charged are: Allan Martin, Shervon Peters, Keida Garcia, brothers Marlon and Earl Trimmingham, Ronald Armstrong, Antonio Charles, Joel Fraser, Lyndon James, Devon Peters, Anthony Dwayne Gloster and Jamille Garcia.