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Wednesday 21 February 2018
Crime and Court

Handwriting taken from man, wife

Retired Cpl Eusebio Cooper leaves the San Fernando High Court after giving evidence yesterday.

A jury in San Fernando yesterday heard that police investigators into a murder in Petit Cafe, near Princes Town 18 years ago requested handwriting specimens from two relatives and the victim’s original will.

On January 15, 2000, Balo Seurattan, 60, was found dead with a broken neck. The day before, he had made a will in which he bequeathed his property to a nephew, Matthew Seurattan.

Before Justice Hayden St Clair Douglas and a 12-member jury in the San Fernando High Court is Matthew’s common-law wife Ira Mitchell, 39. The State is contending that Mitchell told police that Seurattan fell from his bed twice at his home on that fateful day. He had a cut across the forehead.

The case was presented to the judge and jury last Friday, when state attorney Sabrina Dougdeen-Jaglal said the accused woman lived in the same house as Matthew and the deceased, whom they took care of because he was ill.

The State intends to call pathologist Dr Hughvon Des Vignes, who will testify that Seurattan died from a fractured cervical spine. He was last seen alive in bed, Dougdeen said, and although the case is 18 years old there are aspects which are unshaken, such as the execution of the will and the cause of Seurattan’s death.

Attorney Rekha Ramjit, instructed by Jared Philip Ali, is representing Mitchell.

Yesterday, Dougdeen called retired Cpl Eusebio Cooper, who testified that he and PC Flaveney of the Princes Town Police Station went to the house with a search warrant. A receipt was found bearing Matthew’s name.

Nothing further was found, he said, but Flaveny requested writing specimens from Matthew and Mitchell. Yesterday Cooper was shown both specimens, which he identified for the judge and jury.

Ramjit cross-examined Cooper and asked if he had cautioned Mitchell on her right to an attorney before he took a statement from her. He said no. Neither was she told her constitutional rights, the witness said. He said there was no suspicion that a crime had been committed, even when the medical report on the autopsy was obtained by police investigators.

Cooper, in answer to Ramjit, said he knew a crime had been committed from the coroner’s findings after an inquest into the death of Seurattan 2005 in the Princes Town Magistrates’ court, and Mitchell was indicted for murder the following year. She has been in custody since. But before the outcome of the inquest, the police witness said, he had no evidence that suggested that Mitchell was responsible for Seurattan’s murder.

The trial continues today.

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