Despite inconsistencies in her testimony, the prosecution’s star witness, Samantha Sabbat, yesterday maintained that accused Abiola Jacobs was present at Donna Taylor’s house on the night the woman was murdered.
Leading her defence moments after Sabbbat’s testimony, however, Jacobs denied ever being at Taylor’s house when she was killed and stressed that she had nothing to do with the crime.
Sabbat testified via Skype from London, UK at Jacobs’ trial before Justice James Bovell-Drakes and a 12-member jury at the High Court in Georgetown.
Jacobs, called “Abby,” is alleged to have murdered Taylor, the mother of her ex-boyfriend, at the woman’s Lot 16-17 Agricola Public Road, East Bank Demerara home on the night of January 31st, 2014.
The former soldier has pleaded not guilty to the capital indictment.
Sabbat told the court that at the time of the killing, she was a guest at Taylor’s house, having travelled from London to attend her father’s funeral.
According to her, on the night of the murder, she was asleep in a room on the second-storey of the house but was awakened around 11 pm by noises. She said she thereafter realised that lights that were usually off at nights had been switched on.
The woman said that in the midst of hearing thumping sounds, which also emanated from Taylor’s room, she heard a male voice demanding that the door of the bedroom in which she was staying be opened.
She then related seeing a tall, slender shadowy figure outside her bedroom window, “which I thought to be Abby.”
The witness who had moments earlier told the court of seeing the accused through lattice-work above her bedroom door, later agreed with defence counsel Adrian Thompson’s assertion that that architectural design carries small X-shapes.
Counsel then suggested to her that she would resultantly have been unable to ascertain who the persons may have been outside her door but the witness remained resolute that it was the accused that she had seen.
Stating that at the time she saw the person the lights in the house were off, Sabbat said that she was able to make out the identity of the person from the glare of the street lights.
When asked, the witness told the court that she had met the accused on several occasions during her first two weeks in Guyana before Taylor’s death.
When asked, Sabbat confirmed that the windows of the room in which she was staying, were painted and therefore no one could see in or out, but she maintained that the outline of the person she saw after lights in her bedroom had been switched on was that of Jacobs.
‘I believe it was her’
But under further questioning by Thompson as to the person she claims to have seen, the witness said she could not be certain. “I did not know whose shadow it was at the window. I believe it was her [Jacobs],” the woman declared.
Much to the shock of many in the courtroom, who voiced their surprise and had to be reprimanded by the judge, the witness went on to explain, “The body shapes look exactly the same when you see the tall, slender shadowy figure.”
Sabbat said that after hearing the sounds and the lights being switched on, she remained still and quiet and during this time her bedroom door was opened by a man with whom she came face-to-face. She said that the silently stared at each other for about 10 seconds.
The witness said that realising that she was in danger at that point, she made the decision to jump from the verandah. She listed her resulting injuries as a broken cheekbone, wrist and bruises about her body.
Responding to questions from Prosecutor Mandel Moore, Sabbat said that on the night in question she and Taylor were the only ones at home, and at no time was she involved in any fight with the deceased prior to her death.
She said that the woman was always kind and caring towards her.
Asked if she and Taylor’s son, Bertram Taylor Jr, were in a relationship, and whether it was intimate, the woman responded in the affirmative. She added that she knew of no issues the deceased had with her being with Bertram.
According to the witness, the relationship, which began on her visit to Guyana, started after he had already broken up with the accused. She also said she had no reason to lie about Jacobs being at the scene and that she never told Bertram to sever his relationship with the accused so that they could be together.
Under cross-examination, Sabbat told Thompson that she remembered previously saying that her “memory was not good,” but quickly said that it was for the period she was unconscious after jumping from the balcony.
She told counsel, when asked, that she was fearful for her life after being confronted by the man and the accused but made no attempt at raising an alarm “because I was in shock.”
Asked if she ever told the magistrate during the preliminary inquiry of hearing a female voice on the night in question, the witness said no. She, however, confirmed that such an account was recorded in her deposition, which she signed and which was read over to her as being a true and correct copy of her testimony.
She said she did not hear the magistrate read anything about her hearing the voice of a woman but admitted to seeing the discrepancy after receiving a scanned copy of the record.
Asked why she did not immediately point out the error, Sabbat’s response was “because everything was over, and it was late in London and I was tired.”
She disagreed with Thompson’s suggestion that her entire testimony was a fabricated story. “I saw Abiola Jacobs,” the witness maintained.
The witness also disagreed with counsel that her account of seeing his client varied at least thrice—from being certain of seeing the accused, then seeing only the outline she believed to be her, to being uncertain of who she really saw. “I did see her face over the door,” the woman nonetheless said. Though Sabbat maintained seeing the accused at the scene, she never testified to witnessing who it was that killed Taylor. She said that after making the leap from the veranda, she lost consciousness. She later woke up the following day in hospital.
When asked, she confirmed to Thompson that the police had held a confrontation between her and the accused, at which Jacobs told her, “Girlfriend, you ain’t see me.”
Nothing to do with murder
Meanwhile, in her own defence, which she led in unsworn testimony from the prisoner’s dock, the accused said told the court that not only was she not at Taylor’s house at the time of the killing, but that she had nothing to do with the woman’s death.
She said she shared a good relationship with the deceased, with whom she remained friends, even after breaking up with her son.
Jacobs said the last time she saw Taylor alive was on January 29th, 2014, after visiting the woman’s home at her invitation. She said she went to her home thereafter, and would later learn on February 1st, 2014, that the woman had been killed. She said police later informed her that she would be charged, and that Sabbat had said that she saw her at the scene on the night in question.
After her address to the court, Thompson said that was the case for the defence, as it had no witnesses to call.
Crime scene photographer/fingerprinting technician Detective Lance Corporal Desmond Johnny had previously testified to removing latent prints from the scene, but noted that nothing useful had been found.
The trial continues on Monday morning, when the judge will sum up the case to the jury and hand it over for deliberation and the possible return of a verdict.
The state’s case is being presented by Moore in association with Prosecutor Lisa Cave.