Jury frees accused in Cool Square hotel murder

Accused Leon Duncan was yesterday afternoon found not guilty of the murder of Imtiaz Roopnarine at the Cool Square Hotel.

“The jury has found you not guilty and you are free to go,” Justice Priya Sewnarine-Beharry told the visibly-relieved Duncan.

The 12-member jury returned a unanimous verdict after about two hours of deliberations.

Leon Duncan
Leon Duncan

Some of Duncan’s relatives were moved to tears of joy when the foreman announced the verdict. They anxiously awaited Duncan’s exit from the courtroom, welcoming him with open arms, hugs and kisses. They ran down the street and congregated outside the courthouse, where they expressed gratitude and satisfaction to his defence attorney, Mark Waldron.

The charge against Duncan, called ‘Leon James’ and ‘Whistle,’ was that on January 24, 2013, at the Cool Square Hotel, West Ruimveldt, Georgetown, he murdered Roopnarine, called ‘Bobby.’

He had pleaded not guilty to the offence.

It was the state’s case that Roopnarine left his home for Cool Square on January 23 with a quantity of cash and jewellery.

Prosecutor Tuanna Hardy had told the court in her opening address that while Roopnarine was about to leave the following morning, he was chased by Duncan into the yard, cornered and shot.

Hardy had said that when Roopnarine’s body was found, his cash and most of his jewellery were missing.

Police witnesses had testified that Tiana Cumberbatch had told investigators that Duncan had spent the night before the murder with her at the hotel and that when she left the hotel on the morning of the murder, the accused was still there.

Imtiaz Roopnarine
Imtiaz Roopnarine

The court heard from Detective Sergeant Rodwell Sarrabo that Cumberbatch told investigators she and Duncan, her ex-boyfriend spent the night before the murder, at the Cool Square Hotel. The court had been told that the following morning about 4:15, she called her friend Tameshia Tiffany Glasgow to come with a taxi to pick her up from Cool Square, which she said Glasgow did.

Unlike what the former accused had told investigators, however, Sarrabo said that Cumberbatch related that she and Duncan did not leave the hotel together. Sarrabo said the woman told police that while she left in the taxi with Glasgow, Duncan remained at the hotel’s premises.

The witness had said that Cumberbatch told police that when she left, Duncan was speaking to security guard Linden Shirley at the hotel.

The depositions of both Cumberbatch and Shirley, who had reportedly identified Duncan as the shooter, had to be read into evidence in the trial as neither could be located to testify.

Sarrabo had told the court that Cumberbatch also told investigators during a confrontation, in the presence of Duncan, that after learning from the news that someone had been shot at the same hotel that morning, she later contacted Duncan, who told her that he wanted to turn himself over to the police.

Sarrabo said that according to Cumberbatch, she asked Duncan why he wanted to turn himself in and he told her, it was because he heard that his name had been calling in “some murder.”

Sarrabo said Cumberbatch further told police that Duncan had told her that if the police should question her, she must tell them that she and he had left the hotel together.

Detective Assistant Superintendent of Police Mitchel Caesar had testified that during an interview, Duncan told him that after he and Cumberbatch spent the night together at Cool Square, they both left in a taxi early the next morning.

Sarrabo had said that after Cumberbatch related her story, Detective Suraj Singh cautioned Duncan who remained silent.

Leading his defence through unsworn testimony, Duncan had told the court that he had nothing to do with the crime. His story was that he had no knowledge of the charge leveled against him.

The state’s case was led by prosecutor Stacy Goodings, in association with Hardy and Orinthia Schmidt.

The case was heard at the High Court in Georgetown.