Thursday, February 22, 2018

Cops tell of bloodstains on victim’s car

THREE of the 74 State witnesses expected to testify in the Vindra Naipaul-Coolman murder trail at the Hall of Justice in Port of Spain, were led into evidence yesterday, bringing the prosecution’s case to a running start following months of delays.

Yesterday’s proceedings before Justice Malcolm Holdip in the Second Criminal Court, saw PCs Brenton Mack, Simeon Guelmo and Dolan Olivier stepping into the witness box, describing the actions they took and the observations they made following the businesswoman’s kidnapping on the night of December 19, 2006. 

They were some of the officers who first arrived at Naipaul-Coolman’s Radix Road, Lange Park, Chaguanas, home, after receiving reports of her abduction at the hands of three armed men earlier that night.

Special State prosecutor Dana Seetahal SC, led the officers into evidence before the 12-member main panel of jurors and six alternates. 

Mack, who is now retired, testified that in December 2006, he was assigned to the police service’s photography department in Couva and was responsible for taking photographs of the crime scene.

He said, upon his arrival at Radix Road “early in the night”, another officer pointed out Naipaul-Coolman’s home to him.

Mack said in total, he took 12 photographs of the scene which included Naipaul-Coolman’s Sport Utility Vehicle (SUV)  parked in the driveway of her home.

The driver side door of the vehicle was open and there was shattered glass in the SUV, he said. Mack said he also noticed the vehicle had what appeared to be bullet holes and that there were bloodstains on the ground.

Photographs of bullet casings, together with (spectacles) and a plastic tie strap which were observed at the scene were also captured on film and processed, he said.

Following the tendering of the 12 photographs into evidence, defence attorney Joseph Pantor, who is representing Anthony Dwayne Gloster, proceeded to cross-examine Mack.

The attorney asked the former officer if he was able to recall the exact time he arrived at the scene, to which he responded: “It was early in the night.”

Mack said he did not make a note of the exact time he arrived at the scene or when he left, as his duty there that night was solely to take the photographs.

Pantor continued his cross-examination, questioning Mack on the placing and removal of the police caution tape that was used to secure the crime scene.

Those lines of questioning prompted the judge to question its relevance to the case, reminding Pantor that none of the men accused of the Xtra Foods chief executive officer’s murder were charged with her kidnapping.

Pantor resumed for a short moment before bringing the cross-examination to an end.

PC Guelmo, testified that he was the officer who secured the crime scene, barring it off with police evidence tape.

He said, around 8.25 p.m., on December 19, he was on duty at Chaguanas Police Station before receiving a wireless transmission. As a result of that transmission, he went to Naipaul-Coolman’s home and on his arrival there, he spoke with the woman’s daughter, Rishma Ali, and her (Naipaul-Coolman’s) husband Rennie Coolman.

Guelmo said he observed the blue Kia SUV in the driveway and observed what appeared to be bloodstains and a pair of dentures on the ground.

This, he said, resulted in him securing the area, before Mack and officers from the Anti-Kidnapping Squad and Anti Crime Unit arrived on the scene.

Following this, Guelmo said, he had a conversation with Insp Ramsubhag, before leaving the scene and going in search of a gold-coloured Nissan Almera car with three male occupants which was said to be used in Naipaul-Coolman’s kidnapping.

During a brief cross-examination, Guelmo said he spoke to Ali for approximately two or three minutes and made records of the interview in his desk diary, but has since lost the diary.

Olivier said he accompanied Guelmo to the crime scene and assisted him in securing the area with the police caution tape, but departed after the arrival of crime scene investigators. He was also briefly cross-examined by defence attorneys. 

None of the three witnesses were re-examined by State counsel. Also prosecuting the case are senior counsel Israel Khan and Gilbert Peterson together with Senior State attorney with the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) Joy Balkaran and Kelly Thompson.

When the matter resumes this morning, Naipaul-Coolman’s daughter and her live-in housekeeper Rasheedan Yacoob, who were both at home during the abduction are expected to testify. 

Rennie Coolman is expected to begin his testimony tomorrow.