Lawyers representing two men on trial for the murder of Sean Luke have accused homicide detectives in the case of conspiring together to implicate their clients for the heinous crime.
Defence attorneys for Richard Chatoo and Akeel Mitchell made the allegations yesterday, as they cross-examined former police officer Gobin Harrypersad during a virtual hearing of the case before Justice Lisa Ramsumair-Hinds.
During his questioning, Chatoo’s attorney Evans Welch alleged that Harrypersad and his colleagues came up with the plan after they interviewed the duo and several other children from Luke’s community, who he allegedly went on a fishing trip with when he went missing in March 2006.
Welch mainly focused his attention on Avinash Baboolal, who was the oldest of the children and organised the fishing expedition.
Welch claimed that after speaking with Baboolal, the officers sought to get Chatoo to confess to his alleged role in the crime under the guise that he would be made a State witness and set free.
“You hatched a plan to have the accused believe that he would be charged and the only way for him to get out is to give a statement based on what Avinash had said,” Welch said.
Harrypersad repeatedly denied any wrongdoing.
“There was no inducement on our part. The accused said what he said on his own volition,” Harrypersad, who is now an attorney, said.
Welch also alleged that similar techniques were used with Baboolal, who has testified in the trial already.
Welch pointed out that Baboolal had not implicated Chatoo in his first two statements, but chose to do so after being asked to restart his story after a break during the third.
“You did not like the version and you used inducement, seduction and improper techniques to get the witness to give a version where he was implicating Chatoo,” Welch said.
“That is your view and I disagree,” Harrypersad responded.
Welch also sought to quiz Harrypersad over his and his colleagues’ apparent failure to seek clarification from Chatoo, after he made contradictory claims in his various statements.
“It was his version. He knew why he was saying contradictory statements,” Harrypersad said.
While being questioned by Mitchell’s lawyer Mario Merritt, Harrypersad also accepted that he was aware that Mitchell and several persons in the community had claimed that they saw Luke walking with a tall man dressed in white before he went missing. He accepted that the description matched Luke’s father Daniel.
While Harrypersad could not answer questions over when last Luke’s father had visited the area or the alibi he provided, he admitted that he was aware that Mitchell, who is the nephew of Chatoo’s stepfather, had only moved into the area a short time before the incident.
Harrypersad could not say how Mitchell would have been able to give a description of Luke’s father.
Harrypersad also testified over being present during Luke’s autopsy at the Forensic ScienceComplex and collected anal swab samples for testing.
Harrypersad’s testimony was expected to be followed by that of the lead investigator in the case, who is now retired.
However, the officer could not testify during the hearing, as he expressed health and safety concerns about giving evidence in the virtual trial from special video conference facilities set up for witnesses to give evidence during the pandemic.
While Harrypersad was allowed to give evidence remotely from his office with a court marshall present, Ramsumair-Hinds and attorneys in the case expressed concerns over the officer giving evidence at his home.
Merritt questioned his concerns over testifying at the facility when he pointed out that the home testimony scenario was riskier, as the court marshall would have to go there.
They eventually agreed that the witness would have to make arrangements to testify at the court facility at a later date.
Harrypersad is the 23rd witness to testify since the trial commenced.
Luke went missing on the evening of March 26, 2006 and his body was found two days later.
An autopsy revealed that he died from internal injuries and bleeding arising out of being sodomised with a cane stalk.
Mitchell is also being represented by Randall Raphael and Kirby Joseph, while Kelston Pope and Gabriel Hernandez are also representing Chatoo.
Sabrina Dougdeen-Jaglal, Anju Bhola and Sophia Sandy-Smith are prosecuting.
The trial is expected to resume on Monday when the witnesses who dealt with the DNA evidence in the case are expected to testify.