(Trinidad Express) – Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar has announced that the reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of those involved in the murder of Senior Counsel Dana Seetahal, has been increased to $2.5 million.
Persad-Bissessar made the disclosure after emerging from a meeting of the National Security Council held at the Teaching Hospital at Chancery Lane, San Fernando yesterday afternoon.
On the day of Seetahal’s killing, Crime Stoppers had issued a $1 million reward.
Persad-Bissessar also said that should the police need foreign help in cracking the case, it would be provided.
Persad-Bissessar convened a meeting of the National Security Council (NSC) at around 5 pm.
People’s Partnership members Prakash Ramadhar, Vasant Bharath, Gary Griffith, Gerard Hadeed, Kevin Ramnarine, Suruj Rambachan, Ganga Singh, Roodal Moonilal, Emmanuel George, Chairman of the UDeCOTT Jerlean John, DCP Mervyn Richardson, Acting CoP Stephen Willaims, and Chief of Defence Staff Major General, Kenrick Maharaj, attended.
Minister of National Security Gary Griffith said he intended to recommend to the NSC an increase in the National Alert State from green to amber. He said the increase in alert means heightening of operational preparedness and visibility of all law enforcement agencies.
The NSC comprises the Chief of Defence Staff, Commissioner of Police, Director of Strategic Services Agencies and various heads of the protective services.
Earlier yesterday, the Vindra Naipaul-Coolman murder trial was adjourned to next week, after a member of the prosecution team broke down and cried, and the judge decided it would be too difficult to immediately continue in the light of the murder of Seetahal.
Senior State attorney Joy Balkaran sobbed as she rose to announce the name of the attorneys comprising the prosecution team in the trial. “Miss Seetahal is no longer with us,” she said.
Defence attorneys were also emotional during yesterday’s hearing in the Hall of Justice, Port of Spain, where 12 men are on trial.
The trial began in March and was expected to continue yesterday with testimony from two members of the Police Anti-Kidnapping Unit.
However, Justice Malcolm Holdip told the jury of twelve and six alternates that the matter would not be able to continue, given the incident that took place. He was referring to Sunday’s murder of Seetahal, who was a member of the prosecution team, along with Balkaran, Kelly Thompson and senior counsel Israel Khan and Gilbert Peterson.
Justice Holdip said the prosecution would need to time reconstitute its position and strategy “legally and otherwise”.
The judge said he didn’t think anyone in the matter had the “Spartan attitude” of continuing yesterday, in the light of what had happened.
Justice Holdip said he had heard that Seetahal’s funeral may be held on Thursday and as a result, he adjourned the matter to next Monday.
At about 12.05 am on Sunday, the senior counsel was in her Volkswagen SUV proceeding north along Hamilton-Holder street, Woodbrook when two vehicles pulled up alongside her causing her to come to a stop. One of the vehicles, a Nissan Wingroad, then drove ahead a short distance and pulled across the road, blocking it.
The other vehicle which was described as a panel van pulled alongside and the occupants of that vehicle pulled out their firearms and opened fire on the SUV. The two vehicles then sped off and made good their escape.
Residents of the area, on hearing the gunshots contacted the police and emergency health services.
However, despite their swift response, when they arrived the senior counsel and Express columnist was found dead—slumped in the driver’s seat.
Crime scene investigators recovered several 5.62 shells at the scene. Police suspect that because of the nature of the incident it was a “hit” arising out of the senior counsel’s involvement in the Vindra Naipaul-Coolman case.
Ag Commissioner of Police Stephen Williams said: “It’s shocking. Crime is a concern especially violent crime. It’s a shocking incident, one you least expect. “I had a conversation with her at around 12.45 pm on Saturday and everything was fine. We need to work as a country together.”