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Thursday, July 31, 2014
Trinidad & Tobago Guardian Online
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Questions over hole near house
A defence attorney in the Vindra Naipaul-Coolman murder trial has argued that a four-foot-deep hole near the house where the businesswoman was reportedly killed was an incompleted outhouse, not a temporary grave site, as the State claims. Colin Selvon made the suggestion while questioning the State’s 12th witness, Cpl Nigel Stephens, the police officer who videotaped three raids in La Puerta Avenue, Diego Martin, months after Naipaul-Coolman was abducted.
Stephens was asked to replay the video he recorded during the last raid on May 12, 2007. Selvon claimed the recording failed to completely show the area surrounding the hole, where he said there was also an abandoned house. Denying the claim, Stephens immediately replayed the recording, in which he walked in a circle with the camera to show the surrounding area. But Selvon said: “I am suggesting to you that the hole you showed was the remains of an unfinished outhouse.”
“I cannot say. It is a hole,” Stephens said. In his opening address in late March, lead prosecutor Israel Khan, SC, said although her body was never recovered it was the State’s case that after Naipaul-Coolman was killed, she was cut into pieces and buried in the hole before her remains were exhumed and disposed of.
Naipaul-Coolman, 52, former chief executive of her fmaily’s supermarket chain Naipaul’s Xtra Foods was abducted on December 19, 2006. Several months later the 12 men currently on trial were charged with her murder. Most of the group lived in the community in Diego Martin where the raids were conducted. Another major point of contention was a roll of tape which investigators found in an oven in the incomplete house where Naipaul-Coolman was allegedly kept before she was killed.
In his evidence last week Stephens identified the roll as duct tape. Under cross-examination yesterday, he admitted he could not say with certainty whether the tape was in fact duct tape or a tar-based adhesive tape (flashband), as alleged by defence attorneys. Selvon produced rolls of each type of tape and gave them to Stephens to examine before asking him if he wanted to reconsider his earlier response. Even with the assistance of the rolls of tape, Stephens said he still could not identify the object in his recording.
“I did not have the opportunity, as I just did, to physically examine what I saw to ascertain if it was flashband or duct tape,” Stephens said. During the extensive cross-examination before the 12-member jury and Justice Malcolm Holdip, defence attorneys also indirectly suggested that other pieces of evidence found at the house and at various locations in the area could have been planted there by police. Stephens admitted he was not present when a gun was found in the house of one of the accused.
“You are not in a position to say if the gun was actually found in that home?” attorney Ian Brooks asked. Stephens responded that he did not know if it was. Attorney Wayne Sturge, who is representing two of the accused men, also challenged the State’s evidence while questioning Stephens on where a latex glove was found in a forested area on a hill overlooking the area Stephens admitted the glove he filmed was white and blue and was similar to ones used by police.
Sturge further suggested that the glove appeared to be new and unused but Stephens said he was not able to confirm that. Stephens’ cross-examination continues this morning.