Last update: 07-Dec-2013 3:12 am
Saturday, December 07, 2013
Trinidad & Tobago Guardian Online
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Cop walks free
Two and a half years after being charged with the murder of eight-year-old Daniel Guerra, PC Darwin Ghouralal walked out the San Fernando Magistrates Court a free man yesterday. During a sitting that lasted just under five minutes, Senior Magistrate Rajendra Rambachan upheld a no-case submission filed by Ghouralal’s attorneys Sophia Chote and Michelle Solomon last May.
The 55-paragraph submission referred the magistrate to several aspects of the State’s evidence which the attorneys claimed were circumstantial. They claimed that the evidence was asking a presiding magistrate to draw inferences to determine whether a prima facie case was made out against Ghouralal. Yesterday, Rambachan dismissed the charges on account that the State, led by Deputy Director of Public Prosecutions Joan Honore-Paul, had failed to make a prima facie case against Ghouralal.
But after the decision, Honore-Paul told the court that she would be applying for a judge’s warrant which allows the State to review the case documents before taking further action. Speaking outside the courtroom, Chote said she expects Director of Public Prosecutor Roger Gaspard to examine all the depositions and statements made during the case before considering further action against her client.
“There is a time period within which the DPP, after perusal of all of the depositions and filed statements, may choose to do so,” she said. “I expect the DPP will wait until he sees those depositions and statements before he makes a judgment call.” Commenting on the decision, Chote said justice had been served.
“It has been a long and weary preliminary inquiry and the State has produced almost three years of evidence which could not stand up to scrutiny, and it is in those circumstances that the court found that a prima facie case had not been made out against this accused,” she said. “I must say, now that the accused has been discharged, that it is clear from much of the evidence which came out during the course of the inquiry that the direction of the investigation clearly pointed in another direction.
“I hope that in the interest of justice, that proper inquiries are made in relation to this person.” Dressed in a black business suit and sporting a serious face, Ghouralal walked out the court showing a peace sign to photographers. It was only when he entered the car park, where some of his colleagues waited to embrace him, that he flashed a smile. The 45-year-old officer with 15 years’ service, however, avoided an interview with reporters as he left the building in a heavily-tinted vehicle.
On February 18, 2011, Guerra, a Standard Two pupil of the Gasparillo Primary School, left his Bedeau Street, Gasparillo, home to go to a nearby parlour for soft drinks and was last seen near a track leading to his home. His decomposing body was found two days later in a river along the Tarouba Link Road, San Fernando. On April 11, Ghouralal, then assigned to the San Fernando Robbery Squad, was arrested and charged with the murder. Guerra’s mother Rona Indarsingh and Ghouralal were friends.
When Ghouralal arrived at the San Fernando Magistrates Court then, colleagues shielded him from the glare of the media and large public gathering in front the court. The charge against him read that on a date unknown between February 17 and February 21, he murdered Daniel Guerra. Among those giving evidence were Indarsingh, Guerra’s grandparents Randolph and Shirley Indarsingh, neighbours, a forensic scientist, police officers and a shopkeeper.
Controversy surrounded the police investigation, as relatives were not satisfied with the results of the initial autopsy. Four pathologists, Dr James Gill, Dr Valery Alexandrov, Dr Estlyn McDonald-Burris and Dr Hubert Daisley, all performed autopsies on the child’s body. The first autopsy, performed at the Forensic Science Centre by McDonald-Burris and supervised by Alexandrov, concluded the cause of death was due to drowning.
A second autopsy by Daisley at the San Fernando mortuary found that Guerra died from asphyxia before his body entered the river, which suggested he was strangled. Gill, a US pathologist hired by Attorney General Anand Ramlogan, performed the last autopsy at the San Fernando mortuary, which stated that the cause of death was homicidal asphyxia. In preparing his report, Gill went to the site where the child’s body was dumped, where he took water and dirt samples.
However, Alexandrov later charged that the autopsies conducted by both Daisley and Gill had no legal ground as a second or third autopsy could only be ordered by a judge or the investigators. After Guerra’s death, Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar was brought to tears while describing Daniel as “an innocent eight-year-old.” Posting on her Facebook page, she said: “As a mother and a grandmother, I wept last night for Daniel. It is a situation that no parent should ever have to face.”
Persad-Bissessar subsequently promised to set up the Daniel Decree, which she said would be a social agenda involving government, NGOs, national security bodies and the private sector in a partnership to tackle issues of crime and child neglect and abuse.
She said the decree would also be an educational programme where children would learn how to protect themselves and their environments and would be implemented through committees led by Transport Minister Stephen Cadiz and People and Social Development Minister Dr Glenn Ramadharsingh.
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