Accused deny attempted murder of City Mall businesswoman

-in unsworn testimony

Marissa George and John Caesar are likely to know their fate tomorrow after a jury deliberates on the case against them for the attempted murder of former City Mall businesswoman, Dhanwantie Phulchand.

The two are on trial before Justice Sandil Kissoon and a 12-member all-male jury for attempting to kill the woman on Saturday July 4th, 2009 during a brutal attack at her boutique which was then located in the City Mall.

In the alternative, they have been charged with wounding the woman with the intention of causing her grievous bodily harm or to maim, disfigure or disable her.

Additionally, they have been slapped with charges of robbing the woman of $527,000, a purse and a shirt and being violent to her during the alleged robbery.

Called upon to lead their respective defences at the close of the prosecution’s case yesterday, both accused opted to give unsworn testimony from the prisoners’ docks, from which they denied their involvement.

For George, while admitting to witnessing the attack on Phulchand, her explanation was one of innocently being at the store to make a purchase when the complainant’s attacker, whom she identified as “a boy,” began beating the woman.

As was previously indicated in her caution statement which was admitted in evidence, George said that on the day in question she had gone to the woman’s store to purchase a pair of jeans.

She told the court that while in the dressing room fitting the jeans, she heard the woman screaming which prompted her to run out, only to find a man in the store repeatedly hitting Phulchand to her head.

According to George, after the person saw her in the store, he instructed her not to move, while adding that she complied out of fear.

She said she heard the man telling the woman he would kill her, before dropping her on the floor.

The woman then said that before exiting the store, the boy threatened that he would look for, and kill her if he heard anything about the incident. Stating that she was in shock and fear, George said she too left the store a few minutes after, subsequently meeting up with friends to whom she related what she had witnessed.

The accused said that she thereafter travelled to her Sophia home, leaving sometime later that very day for the downtown America Street bus park area where she was picked up by police, arrested and charged.

Crying at this point, George alleged that the police beat, cranked, and pointed a gun at her after they repeatedly demanded that she reveal to them where the boy was, even though she told them she did not know what they were talking about.

When they testified, however, the police officers who George accused of beating her, all denied that they ever did. They also denied her claims of being denied a phone call or food when requested.

When asked, George indicated through her attorney that she had no witnesses she could call in her defence.

Meanwhile, professing his innocence—making no reference to the day in question, Caesar said in July of 2010, he went to the police station on his own, regarding a “cellphone story,” for which the lawmen took a statement from him.

He said the statement was then read back to him and he was asked to sign the document. According to Caesar, since he could not read or write he suggested to the police that he affix his thumbprint to the document instead.

He said the lawmen then enquired from him whether he knew how to sign his name and he answered in the affirmative. He told the court that the police then further enquired from him how it was that he knew to sign his name, but could not read and write.

He said he told them that “it was by art,” that he knew how to sign his name.

Caesar’s story is that days after, while at the Magistrate’s Court, he learnt that he was being charged with attempted murder.

“I listen to this whole trial and I know nothing about it,” he told the court, while stating before he closed his case, that he was “sorry for what happen to Ms. Phulchand.” 

He too, had no witnesses to call in his defence.

Caesar is being represented by attorney Brandon De Santos, while George is represented by Damian DaSilva. The state’s case meanwhile, is being led by Prosecutor Abigail Gibbs.                                                                                                        The trial is being heard at the High Court in Georgetown.

Testifying shortly after the trial commenced, Phulchand had identified both Caesar and George, whom she said she previously knew, as being the persons who had beaten her unconscious.

Caesar, she said, worked as a cook in one of the stores in the Mall, while George was a dancer of a then popular “passa passa” dance group that performed at the City Mall on Saturdays. 

In her testimony, Phulchand had told the court that during the brutal beating, the two had kicked out two of her teeth.

The complainant said that earlier on the day she was attacked, she had done a foreign currency exchange transaction before making her way to open her store for business that morning.

According to a caution statement which was admitted in evidence which police said Caesar had given them, the accused detailed being approached by one of George’s friends who said there was a man who wanted Phulchand beaten, as he did not like her husband. 

According to the statement read to the court which detailed Caesar’s role in the beating unleashed on the woman, he encouraged George and the friend to accede to the request of beating Phulchand.

Caesar, the statement said, related that he was then shown a lady in the mall into whose store he and George went.

The court had heard from the document that Caesar entered the store armed with a piece of wood with which they began hitting the woman about her body for about three minutes before leaving her on the floor—after which they carted of cash, a purse and a piece of clothing.

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