Margaret Sampson-Browne has stepped down as head of the T&T Police Service’s Victim and Witness Support Unit.
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Witness: Pool table was missing
When the murder trial of businesswoman Vindra Naipaul-Coolman began in March this year, the prosecution contended that she was held captive at a house at La Puerta, Diego Martin, for several days before being killed and dismembered on a pool table, three days after Christmas 2006. But yesterday a senior police investigator admitted that he did not notice anything suspicious about the pool table when he led a raid on the house early in the following January, which led to the arrest of three of the 12 men on trial.
Homicide detective Supt Anthony James made the admission while being cross-examined by defence attorneys, who spent yesterday’s hearing probing whether proper police procedure was followed during the raid. Although James claimed that when he and his colleagues raided the house at La Puerta Avenue, they were investigating the businesswoman’s kidnapping and not her eventual murder, he admitted he would have noticed if he had seen blood or anything strange on the pool table.
Defence attorney Mario Merritt took issue with his claim that investigators were not investigating Naipaul-Coolman’s murder when they did the search by asking why cadaver sniffer dogs were on the scene. James said he could not shed any light on the presence of the dogs as he was only in charge of searching the one-storey red-brick house. Asked by Merritt, who is representing three of the accused men, if he smelt any foul scent or that of bleach coming from the table, he said: “I detected nothing while I was conducting the search.”
Merritt: ”There was no indication that it was used as a meat board to cut up a human body?”
James: ”I cannot say.”
At the start of his testimony on Monday, James told the court that during a second raid at the same house several months later, in May, he noticed the pool table and other items were missing. James was also quizzed on an apparent discrepancy in the labelling of a police evidence bag used to store a roll of duct tape which was also allegedly found in the house.
Merritt, in his bid to raise the possibility that the tape was planted by police, pointed out that the officer who found it failed to sign and date the evidence bag, which only bore his identification number and initials. After examining the bag, James acknowledged that Merritt’s observation was correct. James is expected to continue his testimony before Justice Malcolm Holdip this morning.