Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Questions over $$, phones found at ‘Diego’ house

IT is so far unknown if a quantity of money seized from the red-brick house in La Puer­ta, Diego Martin, in 2007, was part of the ransom payment made by the family of murdered Chaguanas businesswoman Vindra Naipaul-Coolman, jurors in the murder trial heard yesterd­ay.

Also, there is no evidential value in the seizure of four cellular phones from that house that could strengthen the prosecution’s case against the 12 men accused of murdering Naipaul-Coolman.

These two statements formed part of the testimony of former homicide detective Supt John Frederick while under cross-examination by defence attorney Mario Merritt before Justice Malcolm Holdip at the Hall of Justice in Port of Spain.

Questioned by Merritt, Frederick, who is now attached to the Anti-Corruption Bureau, said he was unaware if the $467 formed part of the ransom payment. He said after finding and packaging the money on January 6, 2007, it was handed over to crime-scene investigator Michael Molding of the Special Anti-Crime Unit of Trinidad and Tobago (SAUTT) for testing.

However, Frederick said he was unaware if there were any positive findings, nor did he enquire from Molding if there were.

When asked by the attorney, Frederick further pointed out he was also unaware of a method used by police to trace money by grease, which is visible under ultraviolet light being placed on it.

When told by Merritt $32,000 had been handed over to the Special Anti-Crime Unit of Trinidad and Tobago (SAUTT) by Naipaul-Coolman’s brother, Ryan Naipaul, “for greasing” before the ransom was paid, Frede­rick said he did not have such knowledge.

Asked about the cellular phones and their evidential value to the case, Frederick said there was no such value, yet he never returned the phones to their owners.

Earlier in his evidence-in-chief, Frederick said following a briefing at Police Headquarters on January 6, he went to Upper La Puerta with PC Che Da Silva, where he met with other officers.

Frederick said he later noticed the red-brick house and had a conversation with police photographer WPC Sambury before she proceeded to take several photographs of the house and a small wooden structure nearby. Under that wooden structure was a cutlass, Frederick said. 

Around 6 a.m., Frederick said he entered the red-brick house while the search was being carried out, during which the phones, money and a Trinidad and Tobago passport was found. The items were photographed by Sambury before they were placed in police evidence bags. The officer said he also pointed out a bedsheet stained with blood before it too was photographed.

In the house, Frederick said he saw three of the men who were later charged with the murder seated on the floor and wearing white sterile suits usually worn by crime-scene detectives. Those men, he said, were Raphael Williams, Devon Peters and Anthony Dwayne Gloster. Williams died in prison from complications of sickle cell anemia while awaiting trial. 

Later that morning, Frederick said he met with Supt Anthony James, who was in the company of Earl Trimmingham, another accused. The officer said while in the company of Sgt James, Trimmingham and other officers, he went to a hilly and forested area where two cigarette butts, a blue and white glove and a ski mask were found. Those items were also collected and packaged, said the officer. 

Also testifying during yesterday’s hearing was PC Andy Nanhoo who stated that on May 9 and 12, 2007, he was the officer who recorded two statements given to Sgt Eric Park by accused Joel Fraser at the homicide office located at the Arouca Police Station.

The trial will resume this morning when defence attorneys will continue their cross-examination of Supt Frederick.