(Trinidad Express) Special arrangements were made yesterday at the Remand Section of the Golden Grove Prison in Arouca to house seven police officers who have been charged with the murders of three Moruga residents.
Prisons Commissioner Martin Martinez said keeping the officers among other prisoners would be an unwise decision, taking into consideration the safety and well-being of the officers.
“They are our brothers, and they are innocent until proven guilty,” he said.
The Express was reliably informed by other prisons officials that four cells at Building 1 of the prison, where other servicemen are kept, are being used to accommodate the officers. Each cell is said to be furnished with toilet and bath facilities and is designed to hold up to three prisoners at a time.
Curious onlookers yesterday gathered outside the Port of Spain Magistrates’ Court to see the accused on their way to court—Acting Sgt Kemraj Sahadeo, PCs Roger Nicholas, Glenn Singh, Antonio Ramdhin, Ronaldo Rivero, Safraz Juman and WPC Nicole Clement.
Officers of the Court and Process Branch Task Force stopped traffic along St Vincent Street, outside the courthouse, moments before the arrival of their colleagues.
Members of the public were made to stop and wait on the opposite side of the roadway from the court. Promptly at 9 a.m., a police van, accompanied by other police vehicles with blaring sirens, arrived.
Media personnel focused their cameras but were unable to capture the images of the officers, with the van quickly reversing into the prisoners’ entrance of the building before the officers were whisked away into the courthouse.
Not long after, a team of attorneys, including Senior Counsel Israel Khan, Ulric Skerrit, Rajiv Persad and Subhas Panday, among others, entered the packed-to-capacity Eighth Court before Chief Magistrate Marcia Ayers-Caesar.
Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) Roger Gaspard soon arrived and informed the court he would be prosecuting the matters himself.
After the charges were read, the officers, who are members of the San Fernando Robbery Squad and CID, stood in the prisoners dock and listened.
They are accused of murdering Abigail Johnson, Allana Duncan and Kerron “Fingers” Eccles at Poui Trace and Rochard Road, on July 22. All three, who were occupants of a vehicle, were shot dead.
Their killings had sparked outrage by Moruga residents, who staged days of fiery protests, burning debris and blocking the roadway during stand-offs with police officers.
Inside the court yesterday, Khan asked that the matters be expedited. “This is the first time in the history of Trinidad and Tobago that seven police officers are facing 21 murder charges. These matters should be given precedence over all other murder enquiries. These officers are serving members of the Police Service, and this happened when they were protecting and serving members of the public,” said Khan.
Gaspard, in response, challenged Khan’s submissions, stating the officers were not facing 21 charges of murder. “I do not know where you got that information, but they are facing three murder charges. They were all jointly charged with murdering three people,” Gaspard said.
Khan also asked that the defence team in the matters be given full disclosure of the evidence, including the station diary extracts, all original photographs, the forensic analysis of the guns used by the officers and the criminal background trace of the three deceased.
He further sought to have Gaspard advise the media on the reporting of the matters, stating the public had already tried and found the officers guilty of murder.
“When you listen to these radio stations and talk shows, and look at Facebook, people are already saying they would not be satisfied until the death penalty is imposed. I would ask that the press not sensationalise its reporting and, therefore, prejudice the matters against these officers,” Khan said.
Gaspard said should the media go beyond their borders in the reporting of the enquiries, he would issue the necessary advice to ensure that the accused officers are not prejudiced.
“I am the lead prosecutor in the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions, and I am here to ensure that these accused are given a fair enquiry,” he said.
Ayers-Caesar then proceeded to adjourn the matters to November 15 and transferred them to the Princes Town Magistrates’ Court.
ASP Raymond Craig, the officer selected to lead the investigations, laid the charges.
Following the hearing, the officers were led back down to the holding cells of the court. A small group of Moruga residents had gathered outside, hoping to catch a glimpse of their faces.
“We prayed too much. Now, let God do the rest,” said one woman.
Family members of the officers were later allowed to visit them in the holding cells of the court.
The officers were fed a meal of KFC before being placed in a vehicle and taken away to prison.