THE family of murdered Chaguanas businesswoman Vindra Naipaul-Coolman had the final say on if a ransom should have been paid for her release even though they were advised by police that no payment should be made until they had proof she was still alive.
Even though the police may not agree with such a decision being taken by the family of a kidnap victim, it was ultimately up to them to make that decision if they believed it was in the best interest and safety of their loved one.
These statements formed part of the testimony given by PC Mahadeo Singh during the resumption of the murder trial at the Hall of Justice in Port of Spain yesterday before Justice Malcolm Holdip and a 12-member jury and six alternates.
Singh, who is attached to the Anti-Kidnapping Unit (AKU), testified that on the night of December 19, 2006, when Naipaul-Coolman was kidnapped from her driveway, he went to her home at Radix Road, Lange Park, where he met with her brother, Ryan.
Upon reaching there, Singh said he was taken into the house and introduced to Naipaul-Coolman’s husband, Rennie Coolman.
The officer said he had a conversation with both men and gave them certain advice before leaving with Ryan to go to Naipaul’s Xtra Foods Supermarket in Grand Bazaar, Valsayn, where Naipaul-Coolman was employed as chief executive officer.
At that location, Singh said he met Naipaul-Coolman’s other brother, Anand Naipaul. About an hour after arriving there, Singh said a telephone call came through to Anand’s cellphone from the abductors.
Singh said he was able to hear what was being said by the caller as Anand had turned on the speaker on his phone.
He said the male voice enquired from Anand: “How much money do you have?” Anand, he said, responded by saying: “I have $122,000.” Then the caller hung up, Singh said.
Some time after, Singh said the caller again made contact with Anand and asked: “How far you coming from?” Anand replied: “From the mall,” followed by the caller saying: “OK, I will call you back.”
When contact was again made, the caller ordered: “Leave with the money now and give me a cellphone number for the person leaving with the money, the make, colour and registration number of the vehicle (to be used in dropping off the ransom).”
He said Anand complied, adding that the caller demanded that the person dropping off the money “drive up the highway by UWI (University of the West Indies).”
Following this, Singh said Anand called two employees of the supermarket, Abid and Farouk Nabbie, who were the ones selected to make the drop-off.
He said the $122,000 was placed in a black garbage bag and handed over to the employees to deliver. They then left. Around 5.45 a.m., Singh said both men came back to the supermarket and he was informed that the money had been dropped off close to a traffic light in Mausica.
During cross-examination, Singh was questioned by attorneys representing the 12 men accused of the murder on some of the actions he took including his failure to make notes in his diary of what had taken place that night as the events unfolded.
Singh told defence attorney Mario Merritt that at the time, he was not in possession of his pocket diary, but did not believe such entries had to be made as he was relaying the information of what was taking place to his seniors at the Port of Spain office.
As these pieces of information were passed on, Singh said notes would have been made at the office.
He was also pressed for answers on if he advised Naipaul-Coolman’s relatives that the payment should not be made until proof of life was established.
The officer said he gave advice informing them of the risks involved in making the payment before knowing if Naipaul-Coolman was alive, but the police had no authority to prevent them from doing so if they chose to.
Singh was asked if he took the serial numbers of the notes, to which he said he did not. Questioned on this issue, the officer said he was not part of the investigating team, but was selected by his seniors to advise the family.
He said he made no decision on what action was to be taken that night, pointing out that he was following instructions given to him. Singh also stated he was unaware of if any other officer was assigned to carry out surveillance during the dropping off of the ransom.
“Is it the practice of the Anti-Kidnapping Unit to not carry out surveillance when a ransom is being dropped off?” asked Merritt.
The attorney also asked if it was customary for the AKU to place citizens in such a dangerous position as making a ransom payment, to which Singh said: “We in the AKU have a duty to perform and that is to protect the victim and the family members of the victims.”
Singh said he was unaware if $50,000 of the ransom money was “photocopied” when asked by defence attorney Joseph Pantor.
Attorney Ulric Skerritt questioned Singh, asking: “So you made very little decision that night?”
“I made none,” Singh said.
The matter will resume tomorrow.
Israel Khan SC
Gilbert Peterson SC
Anthony Dwayne Gloster