After spending over a decade on remand, a 37-year-old man from Tunapuna has been freed of murdering a security guard during a casino robbery.
Anthony “Bussa” Contrera was found not guilty of the crime at the end of his virtual judge-alone trial before Justice Lisa Ramsumair-Hinds yesterday morning.
Referring to the fact that Contrera served a short stint in prison for robbery before he was charged with the crime in January 2010, Justice Ramsumair-Hinds warned him to stay away from a life of crime after he was released yesterday afternoon.
“There is only one person who can ensure that that takes place. For your sake and the sake of the rest of the society, good luck,” she said, as she encouraged him to become a productive and law-abiding member of society.
Contrera was accused of murdering estate constable Qiydaar Alexander at Jackpot Casino and Members Club, Southern Main Road, Curepe, on January 18, 2010.
During his trial, State prosecutors claimed that Contrera was among a group of men and women who pretended to be customers to rob the establishment.
They claimed that Contrera shot Alexander in his head and he and his alleged accomplices proceeded to rob patrons and employees of their personal items.
They also stole the casino’s CCTV camera system and $151,000 in cash.
While none of the stolen items was recovered, Contrera was charged as he was pointed out as Alexander’s attacker by the casino’s Malaysian manager Billy John and Alexander’s colleague Arthleen Thomas.
Contrera was solely charged for Alexander’s murder and was jointly charged with others for robbing the casino, its workers and patrons.
The robbery charges with the other accused persons were severed to allow Contrera to face one trial for all the offences arising out of the incident.
Both John and Thomas did not testify in the case and the statements, which they initially gave police, were used as evidence.
John returned to Malaysia after the incident and refused to testify after he was contacted by Interpol and a former colleague who is now a police officer. Thomas refused to testify because of fears over her and her family’s safety.
In analysing the evidence in the case, Justice Ramsumair-Hinds noted that she did not place much emphasis of Contrera’s alibi.
She noted that while Contrera claimed that he was shopping at Trincity Mall and in Port-of-Spain, Kevin Moraldo, the PH taxi driver he (Contrera) hired could not remember the exact date of the shopping trip.
Justice Ramsumair-Hinds also noted that prosecutors failed to disprove Contrera’s claims over John and Thomas’ identification parades.
Contrera had claimed that John was brought to the police station the day before the identification parade and was allowed to see him in a holding cell.
Justice Ramsumair-Hinds also noted that prosecutors could not address the fact that John claimed that he was told which number to point out during the parade.
“Only John can make sense of those words,” she said, as she noted that John’s failure to testify and be cross-examined affected the State’s case.
Justice Ramsumair-Hinds pointed out that while John claimed that the person, who shot Alexander, was wearing a long sleeved shirt, Thomas claimed that he was wearing a black T-shirt.
She also noted that while Thomas claimed that Alexander was shot at close range, the pathologist, who performed his autopsy, claimed that there was a distance of approximately two to three metres between Alexander and the shooter.
Contrera was represented by Whitney Franklin and Darryl Douglas, while Anju Bhola and Sophia Sandy-Smith prosecuted.