“When you arrive we will have a lovely fruit salad waiting for you.” These were the words that marked the end of my first conversation with Nicole Joseph-Chin, social entrepreneur and founder of Ms
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Family disputes drug link theory
One day after a senior US official linked the murder of Special State Prosecutor Dana Seetahal to the international drug trade, her family remain skeptical that it was a hit ordered from outside of T&T. Speaking from Washington, DC, in a teleconference with Caribbean journalists on Tuesday, US Assistant Secretary of State William Brownfield linked the killing to a trans-national drug organisation with links in T&T, saying:
“I stand by what I say. This was quite clearly not a crime of passion. This was not a crime of opportunity. People did not just happen by and believe that they could steal her pocket book and then find that they had to open fire in order to accomplish this. “This was a carefully planned operation. And it is only one kind of entity that does contract murders of this sort of degree of sensitivity and that is organised crime.
“And am I saying that it was an international organisation that ordered it? No! I am saying that it was a criminal organisation that clearly had a presence in Trinidad and Tobago.” Brownfield, who has responsibility for international narcotics and law enforcement, said he visited the country two months ago and left two days before Seetahal was killed on May 4. He described the murder as a “repulsive and repugnant act.”
He added that Seetahal had partnered with the US government on several issues, had been the beneficiary of a Fulbright scholarship from the US government and was, in his words, “a star, a woman of tremendous courage.” In a statement to CNC3 yesterday, however, Seetahal’s niece, Danielle Francois, the spokesperson for the family, said they found it hard to believe her aunt was professionally killed on the order of some international drug lord.
She said: “That would be the generic profile based on the crime scene evidence. It was my initial assimilation of what had occurred as well. However, the profiles are based on studies conducted in the US and the UK and there are cultural differences in the way crime is conducted on our tiny island as opposed to first world countries.
“I was not present to hear what was actually said but I have read two accounts in two different newspapers that differ slightly. In the main I would be skeptical of the statement that the hit was ordered from outside the country but again I am unclear as to whether he actually said that.” Seetahal was shot dead just outside the Woodbrook Youth Facility on Hamilton Holder Street as she was on her way to her One Woodbrook Place apartment after leaving the Ma Pau casino on Ariapita Avenue, Port-of-Spain.
Residents reported hearing a volley of gunshots followed by screeching tyres. By the time they contacted police and ran outside to check, they found Seetahal slumped over the steering wheel of her Volkswagen Touareg. She was pronounced dead at the scene. Senior police sources close to the investigation have disputed claims that there is a foreign link to the murder of Seetahal.
Acting Commissioner of Police Stephen Williams has made no comment on Brownfield’s statement, while National Security Minister Gary Griffith said he would not be able comment until he hears first hand what was said.