After deliberating for almost two hours, the mixed jury in the Berbice Assizes returned a unanimous verdict of not guilty in favour of Rooplall Abrahim, called Vijay, who was on trial for the murder of a 13-year-old girl three years ago when he was just sixteen-years-old.
The youth showed signs of relief as he glanced backwards to his relatives who were seated in the courtroom and had attended the hearings regularly.
Discharging him, Justice Dawn Gregory-Barnes said: “You have heard the verdict. I don’t know if you have anything to say but you are free to go.”
But before exiting the courtroom and being hugged by his anxious relatives, Abrahim responded softly: “Thanks Madam” before leaving the prison officer behind who had earlier escorted him from the New Amsterdam Penitentiary.
Prior to the judge’s summation, Abrahim in an unsworn statement from the dock last Thursday had denied seeing the victim Kavita Panday or her mother Claudette David on September 8, 2008 when the girl’s body was seen afloat in a canal aback Bath Settlement, West Coast Berbice.
Abrahim, who was sixteen-years-old at the time of the incident had denied the nickname ‘Ajay’ which he was referred to during the trial, but said he was known only as Vijay.
During the two-week trial the prosecution’s main witness Claudette David, mother of the now dead girl, had testified to seeing her daughter and the accused riding together towards her parents’ farm on the canal embankment.
The girl had gone into the area to chase cows that had managed to get onto the farm, which is located some distance from where the houses are sited.
After she failed to return home a frantic search was launched to find her and within minutes her battered body, with tights, underwear and skirt below the knee, was discovered floating in a trench.
Meanwhile, Detective Sergeant Gilbert Ross who tendered crime scene photographs said under cross-examination that following a discussion with the parents of the deceased Kavita Panday, a relative of the accused was arrested and taken into custody at Fort Wellington Police Station.
The relative, he said, was the prime suspect as he had responded to the call name of the accused.
Government Pathologist Dr Vivekanand Bridgemohan in his evidence-in-chief cited the cause of death as asphyxia and drowning along with multiple injuries.
In a rare legal move, Justice Gregory-Barnes accompanied by the lawyers and the mixed jury visited an abandoned cultivation plot at Bath Settlement, West Coast Berbice, where in a nearby canal the lifeless body of thirteen-year-old Kavita Panday was seen afloat on September 8, 2008.
At the scene Claudette David identified her home and where she was positioned when she had seen her daughter in company of a male companion while her reputed husband Radesh Panday pointed out an area where they once farmed, and where he had found the slippers and cap, previously worn by his daughter.
Another witness Seelall Jaipersaud showed the legal party where he had seen the body afloat.