Orange Walk murder…DPP’s review stalled by non-delivery of depositions

-suspect may have left country

The Director of Public Prosecution (DPP) has requested the depositions from the preliminary inquiry into the murder charge against cricketer Caryle Barton, who was recently freed, but after more than a week they have yet to be handed over.

Stabroek News was reliably informed that a letter from the DPP’s Chambers was hand delivered to the court superintendent at least a day after Barton, 23, a local cricketer, was discharged for the murder of Shawn Nelson by Magistrate Fabayo Azore. That was more than a week ago and there are reports that Barton has since left the country, which may be a roadblock if the DPP at some stage advises the police to reinstitute the murder charge.

Barton was freed on November 21 after the magistrate found that insufficient evidence was offered by the prosecution and as such a prima facie case could not be made out against him. This situation had occurred because witnesses, including the policeman who was in possession of the surveillance footage of the shooting, were not attending court. The matter was being prosecuted by Bharrat Mangru, a policeman who works out of the DPP’s chambers.

Based on what a source told this newspaper, when such high profile cases end abruptly despite there being evidence, the DPP’s chambers would request the depositions from the person in charge of the court in order to conduct a review. A deposition is the oral testimony taken under oath which in Guyana is recorded by the magistrate. Those depositions are kept in the custody of the court upon completion of matters.

Caryle Barton
Caryle Barton

The source pointed out that there is no excuse for the delay as the usual procedure is that the depositions are delivered by hand. The source added that the Georgetown Magistrates’ Court, where the documents are being held, is located a few streets away from the DPP’s chambers.

Crime Chief Seelall Persaud, when previously asked what would happen with the case, had said that the normal practice for the police would be to investigate and send the file to the DPP, who would normally advise on whether to re-charge. Persaud said advice is also given on the absence of police ranks and he had pointed out that the force had taken a “whole lot” of disciplinary actions against ranks. He indicated that this practice would be applied in this case.

When asked why Barton was not rearrested when he stepped out of the court as police had previously done with former beauty queen Carolan Lynch, the source said that while this seemed to be the usual practice, it is unlawful and should not be done. The source said that suspects should remain free until instructions are given to re-arrest and recharge them.

Persons close to the case had told Stabroek News that the police had more than enough evidence to not only ensure that the matter was properly prosecuted but also to ensure that Barton was committed to stand trial in the High Court.

The key evidence in the case was a clear video recording of the shooting, captured by a CCTV camera set up on a shop nearby. The recording showed Barton walking south along Orange Walk and Nelson, a family friend, heading north on May 26. As the two approached a parked car, the footage showed Barton pulling out a gun, aiming it at Nelson and then pulling the trigger.

He then opened the driver’s side door of the car, jumped in and drove off, with the front wheel of the vehicle barely missing Nelson’s head. At that point Nelson was still alive and his body was shaking from the shock of being shot.

Barton crashed the car twice. On the last occasion he abandoned the vehicle but later turned himself in to police. Nelson died the next day.

Shortly after the shooting, the video was shared online.

One source said that there was a similar outcome in a murder which occurred at Industry, East Coast Demerara. The source said that in that instance while the police could not find anyone to testify about seeing the shooting, the shooter was captured clearly on CCTV footage. Despite the presence of that recording, the accused had walked free.

Since Barton was freed the police have come under heavy criticism.

Absent witnesses

A source close to the case told Stabroek News recently that ten witnesses formed the police prosecution’s case; six policemen and four civilian witnesses. Two of the police witnesses were identified as Police Corporal Desmond Johnny and Jermaine Laundry, while the civilians were Terrence Brown, Sharon Robinson, Allan Browne and Neil Kumar. Stabroek News was unable to obtain the names of the other police ranks.

According to the source, the 10 witnesses were summoned and attended court to give their evidence. The preliminary inquiry began in August.

Out of the list of civilians, only Neil Kumar testified. The source explained that Kumar attended court once and testified that he heard one gunshot and later saw a man lying on the roadway. Because he did not actually see the shooting, the source said, the police did not follow up on his testimony.

The source added that Corporal Johnny was summoned to testify but failed to show up when required. Subsequently, a warning was sent to him that he had to attend court to give evidence and when he failed to heed that warning the court issued an arrest warrant for him.

It was pointed out that at the time the arrest warrant was issued, Johnny was on duty but he was never arrested. Stabroek News was told that Johnny went on vacation and when he resumed duty, he was still was not arrested. The reasons for this, the source said, are unknown.

The source said that Laundry was the rank who investigated the shooting and who had received the footage. According to the source, he testified to this fact but said that he could not uplift the footage in order to bring it to court because the officer-in-charge was not at the police station where it was being kept. The officer-in-charge, a sergeant, was the person who had the keys to the area where the footage was being stored.

According to the source, the magistrate told Laundry to bring the footage to the next hearing but he never returned. When the case was discharged, Laundry had not completed his evidence.

Asked if an arrest warrant had been issued for Laundry, the source said no, while adding that the police prosecutor did make an application to the court for that to be done. But the application was apparently not granted and the source indicated that this may have been because of what had happened with Johnny.

The source also indicated that the police attempted to get a statement from the businessman who provided the recording of the shooting but every time the ranks attempted to do so he made excuses and never showed up.

Stabroek News was reliably informed that without a statement from the businessman, the police may have found themselves in some difficulties in their attempt to tender the evidence. According to the source, even if the recording was brought before the court, evidence had to be given as to its origin. The source noted that there was nothing stopping the police from going to the man’s business or even his home to collect the statement so as to ensure they had a solid case.



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