The Vindra Naipaul-Coolman murder trial resumed yesterday with a verbal battle between lead prosecutor Israel Khan, SC, and the state's main witness Keon Gloster.
Since Gloster decided to recant his evidence at the start of testimony last month, Khan has spent a considerable amount of time quizzing him on a series of statements he allegedly gave police in 2007 which implicated the 12 accused men on trial.
Yesterday was no different, as Khan again focused on Gloster's claim that he was threatened by police and forced to sign the statements.
Khan: Did you sign the statement?
Gloster: The police force me. I was young and don't know how to read. My uncle tell me not to sign anything.
Khan: Did they put a gun to your head or a pen in your hand?
Gloster: No sir, a pen, but they still force me.
Khan: What the police force you to say?
Gloster: To swear I see them (the accused) with the woman.
Khan: Did you tell police you saw Vindra Naipaul-Coolman?
Gloster: I don't know Vindra Naipaul-Coolman. Why are you asking me these questions?
As Khan pressed Gloster further using specific quotes from the statements, Gloster refused to answer and kept repeating his allegations. "I would have never said anything about them men," Gloster said, as he pointed to the accused men who were seated in the prisoner enclosure of the Port-of-Spain Second Criminal Court. Although he said he could not remember the police officers, when Khan invited Insp Suzette Martin, the homicide detective who recorded his statements, into the court, Gloster identified her as one who had threatened him.
In the light of Gloster's claims against Martin and her colleagues, presiding Judge Malcolm Holdip has deemed him a hostile witness and has agreed to allow prosecutors to tender one of his statements into evidence.
The statement in which Gloster claimed to be present when Naipaul-Coolman was killed and dismembered in a house in Upper La Puerta, Diego Martin, and her body parts buried in a desolate area of the hillside community was read to the 12-member jury, yesterday. Khan is currently attempting to have the rest of Gloster's alleged statements entered into evidence.
Naipaul-Coolman was abducted from her Lange Park, Chaguanas, home, on December 19, 2006. Prosecutors are contending that she was held captive in a house shared by three of the accused men before she was eventually killed.
Her body has never been recovered by police.
Gloster's testimony will resume this morning.
Who's in court
The 12 men before the jury and Justice Malcolm Holdip are Allan "Scanny" Martin, twin brothers Shervon and Devon Peters and their older brother Anthony Dwayne Gloster, siblings Keida and Jamille Garcia, brothers Marlon and Earl Trimmingham, Ronald Armstrong, Antonio Charles, Joel Fraser and Lyndon James. A 13th man, Raphael Williams, was charged with the crime but died in prison in 2011 of complications arising from sickle cell anaemia.
Their legal team includes Ulric Skerritt, Joseph Pantor, Selwyn Mohammed, Lennox Sankersingh, Ian Brooks, Wayne Sturge, Mario Merritt, Richard Valere, Kwesi Bekoe, Colin Selvon, Vince Charles, Christian Chandler, Delicia Helwig and Alexia Romero. The prosecution team includes Senior Counsel Israel Khan and Gilbert Peterson who are being assisted by senior state prosecutors Joy Balkaran and Kelly Thompson.?