A Roman Catholic priest and two retired policemen are expected to testify for the State to repudiate ‘new evidence’ given by the former main prosecution witness against ten men who were convicted of the 1997 murder of Thackoor Boodram.
Special prosecutor Travers Sinanan yesterday applied to have the evidence of Fr Allan Ventour, retired ACP David Nedd and Snr Supt Fitzroy Frederick admitted into evidence. Although castigated for making the application when the evidential stage had passed, Sinanan’s application was allowed and the three witnesses are expected to testify when hearing resumes on November 6.
Sinanan said the witnesses were being called to repudiate a statutory declaration by Junior Grandison, who testified at the 2001 Thackoor Boodram murder trial. The ten accused were found guilty, sentenced to hang and are now serving life sentences. In his statutory declaration, dated June 1, 2011, Grandison swore that the evidence he gave at trial, was false.
Grandison also admitted confessing to an RC priest on April 30, 2011 that he gave false evidence against the ten men. Grandison was expected to testify when the President sent back the case for the court to hear the new admission, but has so far failed to show. A summons was served but Grandison cannot be found.
Sinanan said Grandison should have been present to testify and argued that in his absence, the statutory declaration and telephone conversations in which he admitted to one of the accused men that he lied, are hearsay. “The State has been denied the opportunity to put forward evidence of repudiation,” Sinanan argued, adding that the statements of the priest and two retired police officers concerns Grandison’s recanting of his testimony.
Sinanan was also ordered to provide copies of the statements of the three as well as statements by two police officers who listened to the audio recordings of the telephone conversations and who said they could not verify that the voice was that of Grandison. Presiding over the appeal are Justices of Appeal Alice Yorke-Soo Hon, Rajendra Narine and Prakash Moosai.
Michael “Rat” Maharaj, Samuel Maharaj, Damien “Tommy” Ramiah, Bobby Ramiah, Seenath “Farmer” Ramiah, Daniel “Fella” Gopaul, Richard Huggins, Leslie Huggins, Mark “Bico” Jaikaran and Junior “Heads” Phillip are before the Court of Appeal after their case was sent back to consider Grandison’s new admission that he lied at their trial.
The ten were convicted on August 7, 2001, after a trial which lasted 33 days. They lost their appeals but escaped the hangman’s noose because of the delay in hearing appeals at the Privy Council in London, which is this country’s final appellate court. Their sentences were commuted to life imprisonment.
In 2015, three years after Grandison swore a statement saying he lied at the trial, President Carmona agreed to have the case remitted to the Court of Appeal to consider this new evidence.