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Sean Luke

Derek Achong

The results of DNA testing on samples collected by homicide detectives in the brutal murder of Sean Luke, over a decade ago, are still not available.

The situation was revealed by State prosecutor Sabrina Dougdeen-Jaglal, yesterday, as the case came up for a virtual hearing before Justice Lisa Ramsumair-Hinds.

While addressing pre-trial issues before Ramsumair-Hinds, Dougdeen-Jaglal said that the samples were submitted to the Forensic Science Centre in 2006 and the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) has yet to receive the results.

Dougdeen-Jaglal expressed hope that the process would be completed soon so the reports could be used when the trial of the case commences later this year.

She pointed to a legal notice signed by National Security Minister Stuart Young on January 11, in which Caribbean Forensic Services was approved to conduct DNA testing on behalf of the State pursuant to the Administration of Justice (Deoxyribonucleic Acid) Act.

During the hearing, Dougdeen-Jaglal and defence attorneys held discussions on preliminary challenges to statements the accused men allegedly gave to police before being charged.

The parties also discussed the witnesses in the case, who would be required to testify in-person at a courthouse as opposed to remotely from a location established by the Judiciary to facilitate virtual hearings during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

Luke’s body was found in a sugar cane field near his home at Orange Valley Road in Couva in March 2006.

The six-year-old had been sodomized with a sugar cane stalk that ruptured his intestines and internal organs.

Akeel Mitchell, now 28, and 30-year-old Richard Chatoo were charged with the crime as teenagers.

Luke’s murder sparked public outrage and is still considered to be one of the most gruesome killings in recent history.

On Monday, Ramsumair-Hinds dismissed an application for a permanent stay of the case, which was based on the fact that the assigned prosecutor had represented one of the accused men briefly before joining the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP).

“There is no evidence of a real risk of direct/inadvertent disclosure of confidential information and therefore no basis upon which it can be said that a fair trial is an impossibility,” Ramsumair-Hinds said.

While Ramsumair-Hinds strongly criticised prosecutor Maria Lyons-Edwards’ conduct in failing to disclose her conflict of interest at a preliminary stage, she stated that there was no evidence that it had the potential to taint the work of the prosecution team that was eventually assigned to replace her, as they all attested that they did not discuss the case with her.

Ramsumair-Hinds has referred her ruling on Lyons-Edwards’ conduct to the Judicial and Legal Service Commission (JLSC) for an investigation.

Mitchell is being represented by Mario Merritt, Randall Raphael and Kirby Joseph while Evans Welch, Kelston Pope and Gabriel Hernandez are representing Chatoo.