Crime scene examiner says murdered hotelier’s room had to be forced open

-account contradicts previous witnesses

Joseph Jagdeo

Contrary to the account given by previous state witnesses, Police Lance Corporal Dwayne McPherson yesterday said that the room in which the body of hotelier Joseph Jagdeo was found “had to be forced-open.”

McPherson was at the time testifying before Justice Sandil Kissoon and a jury, at the trial of Bryan Leitch, who has been indicted for the murder of Jagdeo, who was found at his (Jagdeo’s) South Central Hotel in 2014.

Leitch, called ‘Big Foot,’ is alleged to have murdered the man between November 13th and November 14th, 2013, at the Lot 218 South Road, Georgetown hotel. He has pleaded not guilty to the charge.

Bryan Leitch

It was during McPherson’s response to a re-examination question by Prosecutor Mandel Moore that the contradiction came to the fore of how access was gained to the room.

Moore’s question was prompted by a series of questions posed to the witness under cross-examination by defence attorney Hewley Griffith, who among other things, asked whether he had looked at any of the other rooms in the hotel to ascertain their state.

The witness responded in the negative.

By way of re-examination, however, Moore then asked McPherson his reason for not checking any of those rooms.

It was then that the witness stated that based on the information he had received after arriving at the scene, “Room 10 had to be forced-open to see what was inside.”

“That would have made Room 10 the prime crime scene,” McPherson said.

Jagdeo’s body was found in Room 10.

Former employees of the hotel, Wendell Eastman and Patrick Billison, had previously testified that while the key for the room could not initially be found, it was later located and used to open the door.

In his testimony on Wednesday, Eastman said that the strange behaviour from his boss’ pet cat alerted him that something may have been amiss. He told the court that the cat was consistently crying and scratching its paws against the door to Room 10.

This, he said, prompted him to climb onto an outer shed, from where he peeked through the window of the room and saw the key on the bed which he retrieved after attaching a hook to a long piece of PVC pipe.

He said he then handed the key to Billison, who used it to open the door to Room 10, at which point Jagdeo’s lifeless body was discovered under the bed.

Billison corroborated this account by Eastman.

In his testimony, McPherson, also a Crime Scene Examiner, recounted processing the scene, from which he retrieved a mattress covered with suspected blood stains.

He said he took the mattress back to the crime lab for analysis.

He said that because Jagdeo’s body was under the bed, he lifted the mattress to remove it in an effort to get a closer examination when he noticed the stains on the under-side.

He said the scene was photographed by Police Sergeant Charles, who accompanied him there.

The bloodied covering, which was tendered into evidence, was shown to the court.

McPherson said no marks of violence were seen on the deceased’s body.

Asked under cross-examination whether he had spoken to any of the occupants of the hotel, McPherson said he did not. His response was the same when asked if he had examined the door or window of Room 10.

On Wednesday, Eastman had told the court that Leitch had been a guest of the hotel, having checked into Room 9 with a female companion.

Owing to an argument with the woman, however, Eastman said he was instructed by Jagdeo to give Leitch the keys to Room 10, as the woman no longer wanted him staying with her.

The argument, he said, stemmed from the woman accusing Leitch of stealing Jagdeo’s cell phone.

According to Eastman, his boss was last seen alive on the morning of November 13th.

The witness had told the court that sometime during the course of that morning, the accused left the hotel without checking-out and never returned.

On his way out, Eastman said Leitch told him that he had knocked on Jagdeo’s door but got no answer.

The witness had also testified to another employee, whom he identified as ‘Trevor,’ going to the upper flat on that morning. He said the man returned about 10 minutes later, but could not say where exactly he went nor what he did.

Former bartender Paula Hollingsworth had testified to making several calls to her boss’ cell phone after reporting for duty on the afternoon of November 13th but initially getting no response.

After persisting, however, the woman said she heard a voice on the other end ask, “Are you a spy?”

This, she said, was after she had earlier that said day gotten a brief “hello,” from a male voice which she said did not sound like that of Jagdeo’s.

Police Lance Corporal Marlyn Rodney has testified to receiving certain information as a result of which she visited a

residence at Lot 185 Pike Street, Kitty.

There, she said, she contacted 16-year-old Felicia Williams, who related that she had gotten a cell phone containing SIM# 677-5348 from the accused.

Fay Carter had earlier testified that she had bought the cell phone for Jagdeo on November 11th and it was assigned that very number.

The woman had told the court that her now deceased husband, who also worked for Jagdeo, had asked her to purchase the phone on Jagdeo’s behalf as they did not have their identification cards.

The trial continues on Monday morning at 9 at the Georgetown High Court.

The state’s case is being led by Moore, in association with Lisa Cave.

Meanwhile, the accused is being represented by Griffith, in association with attorney Lawrence Harris.

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