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Thursday 22 February 2018

Jury shown bullets taken from Sumairsingh’s body

The bloodstained clothing he wore, a blue bed sheet, samples of blood taken from the beach house, and the two lead bullets recovered from the body of Hansraj Sumairsingh were displayed for the jury yesterday as the murder trial of former local government minister, Dhanraj Singh, continued  in the San Fernando First Criminal Court before Justice Melville Baird.

The items were put into evidence during the testimony of Sgt Fitzgerald George, the police officer who investigated the murder and charged Singh. After hearing George’s evidence in chief, legal arguments followed after which it was subsequently agreed to have the judge’s ruling on the arguments, and also, to accommodate lead counsel for the defence, Karl Hudson-Phillips QC, further hearing of the trial was adjourned to Monday morning. Hudson-Phillips was due in last evening from The Hague via London. It would also give him time to ‘catch up’ and be prepared to cross-examine witnesses from Monday. Dhanraj Singh is accused of the murder of Hansraj Sumairsingh, then chairman of the Mayaro/Rio Claro Regional Corporation, at Sumairsingh’s beach house in Mayaro on the evening of December 31, 1999. Sgt George was the only witness to testify yesterday. He told the court he was currently attached to the Homicide Bureau of Investigation, based at the Police Administration building in San Fernando.

In December, 1999 he was based at the Rio Claro Police Station. In his evidence in chief Sgt George told the court that on December 31, 1999, he was on duty at the Rio Claro Police Station. Sometime around 4 pm that day he received a report by telephone from Police constable Kirk Jackson from the Mayaro Police Station. As a result of the report George told the court, “I went to Eccles Road, Gran Lagoon, Mayaro, where I met PC Jackson and accompanied him to the beach house of Hansraj Sumairsingh. “I had a conversation with Jackson and entered the premises. I observed blood on a blue Mazda car which was parked on the western side of the house. I entered the downstairs of the apartment through a door on the western side of the house. “I first entered the kitchen area, and among the things I saw were a pair of spectacles and slippers on the floor. “I entered the living room area and observed the body of the deceased, Hansraj Sumairsingh in a seated position in what appeared to be a pool of blood. The pair of rubber slippers was on the floor. There was a fridge with the door open; water was splashed on the ground, and there were signs of blood on the walls of the kitchen area.” Witness recalled seeing Sumairsingh’s body seated with its back to the wall. He was dressed in a somewhat white T-shirt and coloured shorts. He was motionless and appeared to be dead.

George said he then carried out a check in the house. In a bedroom on the eastern side he saw stains resembling blood on the floor and walls of the bedroom. “I also saw what resembled bloodstains on a clear piece of plastic in the said bedroom.  I also observed a handprint from what appeared to be bloodstains on the door leading to the said bedroom.”
George continued; “I then spoke to Sgt Alexander, the official police photographer, and on my instructions he took a number of photographs. I then spoke with the medical officer, Dr Mohammed who examined the body and pronounced him dead and ordered its removal.”
George said he later took scrapings of the stains resembling blood in the bedroom and placed them in a box which he marked. Around that time, he said, it was about 7 pm. George said he also took scrapings of stains resembling blood from the kitchen area and also placed them in a box which he also marked. He then took a cotton swab sample of stains resembling blood and placed them in a transparent plastic bag and marked it. He took the swab sample from the floor of the bedroom. He also took a cotton swab sample of the stain resembling blood from under where the deceased was sitting, and placed it in another clear plastic bag and marked it.

George said he then took three transparent plastic bags on which he placed markings, and continued his inquiries into the report. Witness said he interviewed persons and recorded statements. He also spoke to a police corporal, a fingerprint expert, who checked the blue car for prints. On Sunday January 2, 2000, he accompanied one Motilal Rookmin to the office of the Rio Claro Regional Corporation, where he went to the office of the deceased Hansraj Sumairsingh and checked the drawers of Sumairsingh’s desk in that office. George told the court: “I took possession of a number of documents. Among those documents was a letter addressed to the then honourable prime minister, Basdeo Panday. It was dated December 8, 1999. The letterhead read Councillor Hansraj Sumairsingh, Mayaro Regional Corporation.

“I continued inquiries on Monday, January 3, 2000. I went to the Sangre Grande hospital mortuary where I met Sgt Alexander, and he handed over the body of the deceased to me. The body was taken, and I escorted it to the Forensic Sciences Centre. There I met Dr Hughvon des Vignes. I had a conversation with him. I then introduced him to Visham Singh and another relative, one Roopnarine. Both men identified the body to the pathologist.
“The doctor performed a post mortem on the body in my presence. During the post mortem I saw the doctor remove two lead particles from the body and placed markings to the base of those particles. He then placed them in a clear plastic container which he sealed. Dr des Vignes also removed samples of blood from the body and placed them in a clear plastic container which he also labelled and sealed.
“He also took the white T-shirt which the deceased was wearing, placed it in a black plastic bag and marked it.

“I later went to the receiving counter of the Forensic Sciences Centre where I met Mr Emanuel Walker. I handed him the containers of blood samples. I then met Mr Neil clapperton, a scientific officer and handed him the two lead particles in the marked container.
“I then met Miss Allette Lewis, another scientific officer and handed her the black plastic bag with the T-shirt and she numbered it. I also gave Mr Emanuel Walker the clear plastic bags with the scrapings of stains taken from the house, as well as two cotton swabs of the stains resembling blood taken from Hansraj Sumairsingh’s body, which I had marked. Mr Walker numbered these exhibits.
“Sometime during my inquiries I also removed stains resembling blood from a handprint on the door of the kitchen at the beach house. I placed the scrapings in four pill boxes and marked them.

“I returned to the Forensic Sciences Centre and handed them to Mr Emanuel Walker, and he numbered it. I also met Miss Lewis and handed her three plastic boxes containing soil samples taken from the beach house, and she marked them.
“Sometime later I returned to the Forensic Sciences Centre where I received certificates of analysis on the various exhibits.
“I continued my inquiries, and on Friday, January 7, 2000 I had a conversation with Senior Supt Randolph James, and he gave me a black Startac Motorola cellphone, and told me something. I examined the cellphone and saw it carried a serial number. Having seen the number I formed an opinion and went to the Mayaro Regional Corporation where I met and spoke to the Chief Executive Officer, David Gene. He examined the cellphone and he told me something in respect of it.
“I later interviewed Terry Chaitan and he told me something, and he took me to a river bridge. He pointed out the area to me and showed me a boat. Sgt Alexander took photographs of the area and the boat.
“Later, I visited the office of Mr Chandresh Sharma and there I met Mr Dhanraj Singh. I identified myself to him. I also told him I was investigating the circumstances of the death of Mr Sumairsingh.”

PROSECUTING COUNSEL, DEVAN RAMPERSAD: You told him you were investigating the circumstances surrounding the death of Mr Sumairsingh ? — Yes.
And that his body was recovered on December 31, 1999? — Yes.
RAMPERSAD: Did you caution the accused ?
GEORGE: Yes sir. I told him ‘you are not obliged to say anything, but whatever you say may be taken down in writing and given in evidence’. I also informed him of his constitutional rights and privileges. He was in company at the time with three attorneys.

Justice Melville Baird, through Counsel Rampersad, asked that the witness speak at a slower pace for the benefit of the jury.
RAMPERSAD: Having cautioned him and advised him of his rights what did he say ?
GEORGE: After posing a few questions to the accused of the letter read to me, he asked for a private conversation with his attorneys.  After the conversation he indicated he was advised not to answer any questions. Questions were still posed to the accused and he made no reply. I then informed the accused that there was a search warrant to search his premises for firearms and ammunition, and I would like him to accompany the police on this search. He said he would not accompany the police.
Witness said he then spoke to Sgt Victor who was in possession of the search warrant. “He later spoke to me in respect of the search of the accused premises.”
George continued: “ I continued inquiries into this report, and on February 17, 2001 I had a conversation with Inspector Nedd of the Homicide Bureau in Port-of-Spain.”
RAMPERSAD: During the course of your inquiries you said you spoke to Terry Chaitan ? — Yes.
GEORGE: On February 17, I had a conversation with Mr Nedd who gave me a statement he had recorded from Elliot Hypolite at the Golden Grove Prison on February 16, 2001.
“As a result of  my conversation with Mr Nedd, and having read the statement on Monday, February 19, 2001, I swore to information and obtained a warrant to search the accused’s premises at Williamsville.
“Around 6.20 am that day I went to the home of the accused accompanied by other officers. I called the accused and he came to the gate. Other police officers were present, and like me they identified themselves in similar manner.
“I told the accused I was in possession of a warrant to search his premises for firearms and ammunition. I showed him the warrant and read it aloud to him. The accused invited me to search his premises. I further told the accused....”
RAMPERSAD: During the search you informed the accused you had further evidence, and told him he was a suspect and cautioned him ?
GEORGE: Yes, and I also told him of his rights and privileges. He requested that he speak with his attorney, Mr Shastri Parsad. He spoke on the telephone to someone, and then told me he was not answering any question. I took the accused to Homicide Office in Port-of-Spain.
“Sometime later, I conducted an interview with the accused after cautioning him, and again indicated to him of his rights.  The accused denied any involvement in the death of Hansraj Sumairsingh.  I continued inquiries in relation to instructions, and I charged the accused with this offence.
RAMPERSAD: How would you be able to recognise these certificates of the exhibits ?
GEORGE: They were signed by the scientific officers, and I placed my initials to the back of those certificates.

At this juncture, defence counsel, Ravi Rajcoomar indicated to the judge that the defence had no objections to the admission of the certificates. The witness was then shown the certificates of the analyses, and he identified each one. The exhibits included the blood samples, the lead particles, the shirt recovered from the body of Sumairsingh, the blue sheet found on the bed at the beach house, and other items. The witness also identified the black Startac Motorola cellphone which had the serial number - EAF51677 handed over to him by Senior Supt Randolph James. At the request of Counsel Rampersad, the morning break which was scheduled from 10 am to 10.30 am, with the jury out of court. the time was taken up with legal arguments by lead prosecuting counsel, Sir Timothy Cassel.

Defence counsel Rajcoomar had also indicated that they intended to reserve the cross-examination of the complainant, Sgt George, for lead defence counsel, Karl Hudson-Phillips.
Later, the jury was brought back into the courtroom and advised that the trial had been adjourned to 9 am Monday. Like the other exhibits the search warrants were also identified and admitted into evidence.


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