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Friday 13 December 2019
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Rape accused held after 23 years

A man accused of rape, who absconded from justice for 23 years, was arrested last week.

Facing a High Court judge in San Fernando on Thursday morning, he admitted to legally changing his name.

Suresh Birju, 53, of Perry Young Road, Princes Town, is facing charges of rape, buggery and robbery with aggravation.

A relative charged with him 32 years ago in 1987 for the offences committed against a woman in her 20s, has since died.

But the victim, now 52, has stood her ground and on Thursday, state prosecutors told Justice Lisa Ramsumair-Hinds in the San Fernando High Court that she was available to testify.

However, PC Whittaker, who laid the charges has retired. Another police officer has been substituted, state attorney Stacy Lallo-Chong told the judge. The other state witnesses are available to testify, she added.

Charged under the name "Suresh Birju," the man was committed, along with his relative, in the Siparia magistrates' court to stand trial in the High Court. They were released on $50,000 bail. The office of the Director of Public Prosecutions filed the indictment in 1996 so the case could be set down for trial.

The case came up in the High Court Cause List but because Birju did not appear, the case hung in abeyance.

There was a summons for the bailor to show to cause. However, the obligation of a bailor upon indictment expires after a year and must be renewed.

For 23 years, Birju evaded justice despite several warrants and violating his bail conditions. One involved a change of address. In 2015, he changed his name.

The substituted police complainant, Sgt Vinhod Sobie, has been searching for Birju and last week he arrested him at a garage.

When Birju appeared before Ramsumair-Hinds on Thursday, attorney Jeevan Rampersad, who represented him, said in 2015, Birju changed his name by deed poll, to Ricky Bridgelal. He asked the judge to grant Bridgelal bail.

Lallo-Chong objected on the ground that he was arrested on a bench warrant and the name-change raised a suspicion.

Ramsumair-Hinds said she would not question Birju's reason for changing his name, as some people do it for sentimental reasons, such as wishing to adopt the name of a grandfather "who may have built a temple."

But, the judge added, the name-change suggested someone whom the court could not trust when all the circumstances – of the case languishing in abeyance – were taken into consideration.

Referred to by his new name, Bridgelal was remanded into custody to reappear on November 29.

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