Jury finds boy not guilty of killing 13-year-old Bath Settlement girl

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.

Kavita Panday

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.

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