THERE was a surprise adjournment yesterday to the preliminary enquiry in the Princes Town Magistrates' Court where six police officers are charged with the murders of three Moruga residents last year.
The matter was set to begin last month, when 15 State witnesses were called to court ready to testify.
However, presiding senior magistrate Debra Quintyne called in sick, and the case was adjourned to yesterday and the enquiry set to begin.
But when Quintyne called the matter yesterday, she disclosed she would be taking leave at the end of the month and the case would be left part-heard if she began hearing evidence.
There was no objection from defence attorney Israel Khan SC, or Director of Public Prosecutions Roger Gaspard SC, who came to court yesterday, for the first time, with a police escort.
Woman Police Constable Nicole Clement who was jointly charged with the killings before turning State's witness against her six co-accused colleagues, will be one of the prosecution witnesses to be cross examined in the enquiry, said Khan.
Clement was initially charged along with Acting Sgt Khemraj Sahadeo and constables Renaldo Riviero, Glenn Singh, Roger Nicholas, Safraz Juman and Antonio Ramadin.
They were charged with the shooting deaths of Moruga residents Abigail Johnson, Allana Duncan and Kerron Eccles at Rochard Douglas Road, Barrackpore, on July 22, 2011.
But after her last court appearance, Clement turned State's witness.
Gaspard discontinued the murder charge and instead Clement was charged with conspiring to pervert the course of justice. She was placed on $100,000 bail.
She is now in the Justice Protection Programme and being kept at a safe house.
The matter is proceeding by way of paper committal but Gaspard said yesterday that statements are yet to be filed. In the meantime, he said, the witnesses, who were summoned to court yesterday, would be taking the stand to give their evidence orally.
Gaspard told the court that, at this time, the State intended to call 25 witnesses in the case.
"I anticipate given the materiality of what they are going to say, (defence attorney Israel) Khan would be minded to cross examine at some length," he said.
Khan said Clement will be one he wanted to question.
"There are four witnesses I hope to cross examine. Nicole Clement, the investigator and other formal witnesses," he said.
However, Quintyne said she (the magistrate) would be away from court from July to mid September and had reservations about starting the matter.
She said "If we start today, with the number of witnesses you have, it will not finish any time soon ... It will be part-heard for six weeks and then resume. With six accused and 25 witnesses, we will not finish in three weeks".
Khan asked if the court would transfer the matter to Port of Spain or San Fernando, but Quintyne said a magistrate would be available in the Princes Town Court during her time away.
She adjourned the matter to July 30.
Should the matter fail to start before the sitting magistrate on that day, Quityne set September 11 as a projected start-date, when she is expected to be back.
Khan said earlier, "The last time we had an adjournment, we lost one of the accused (Clement). With another adjournment, we might lose another accused".
Some of the six accused had books in hand to take notes for the start of yesterday's proceedings.
They were remanded in custody until July 30.
At the end of the proceedings, Gaspard was seen leaving the court escorted by two armed, plain clothes police officers. He was also in the company of the officer who charged with accused, Assistant Commissioner Raymond Craig, who was followed by armed police officer.
Gaspard entered a vehicle escorted by two unmarked, police vehicles. This was the first time Gaspard was seen leaving the court with police escorts.