PAULINE Bharat, mother of murdered six-year-old Sean Luke, on Friday began her testimony at the trial of the two men accused of killing him, identifying one of them.
Bharat – she said she was divorced and no longer used the name Lumfai – testified virtually from the San Fernando High Court.
She identified Akeel Mitchell from a screen set up in the courtroom which shows the participants in the virtual trial using the Microsoft Teams platform.
Mitchell and Richard Chatoo are before Justice Lisa Ramsumair-Hinds at a judge-only trial. They are charged with Luke’s murder on a date unknown between March 25 and 29, 2006. Luke’s body was found on March 28, in a bushy area in the cane field close to his home.
Mitchell and Chatoo, who were teenagers when they were arrested and charged, are appearing virtually from the Maximum Security prison’s virtual court facility.
Bharat spoke of the last time she saw Luke. At about 2 pm on March 27, she said she and Sean took a nap. She described what he was wearing at the time – blue underwear.
She said when she woke up, she looked for Sean and he was not there. She then went outside and sat by a shed in front the house. She lived at Henry Street West, Orange Valley, Couva, with her mother, her other son Damion, two grandchildren and Sean, who was born in the United States.
Bharat said Akeel was there, about a foot away, from where she sat.
“He was sitting on the ground.”
He wore a cap, a Digicel jersey, shorts and slippers. Neither of them spoke for a while. Her cousin Avita Binda visited and she spoke to Bharat and Akeel, and stayed for about 20 minutes before leaving.
“I didn’t see Sean at that time.”
Bharat said she was not looking for, or searching for him at that point, since the corner where she lived was a “safe corner” where only family members lived. “It wasn’t, for me, any sort of danger.”
Bharat said after Binda left, she asked Akeel, “Akeel, have you seen Sean?”
Bharat, the prosecution’s fourth civilian witness called on Friday to testify, did not complete her evidence and is expected to return on Monday.
Minutes earlier, she said she had known Akeel for a few months before. He did not live there but stayed with Chatoo’s family.
She also knew Chatoo, who was a neighbour.
As she was led into evidence by senior prosecutor Sabrina Dougdeen-Jaglal, Bharat said Sean was born on August 17, 1999. His father, Daniel Luke, who lived at Aripo Heights, would take the boy to his home on weekends. She said it was an agreement they had.
Testifying earlier were Bharath’s uncle and sister, both of whom identified Luke’s body at the Forensic Science Centre.
The uncle Sankar Moonilal was grilled by Mitchell’s attorney, Mario Merritt, about the boys in the neighbourhood. Merritt’s questioning focuses particularly on two boys, Avinash Baboolal and Avis Pradeep. Moonilal said it was normal seeing Sean, who was like a son to him, with the boys, and while he didn’t see him with Baboolal regularly, because the boy was about 18, he wouldn’t stop them from interacting, but he wouldn’t leave him with Baboolal or Pradeep.
He was also questioned about one of the boys' sexual orientation, but said he didn’t know. He also said he didn’t know anyone in the area who “liked little boys.”
On the evening Sean went missing – March 27 – Moonilal said the boy’s mother came about 6 pm to ask if he had seen him. He also said he did not have fear of the children in the area. He also knew Mitchell, who was “somebody concerning my ex-brother in law.”
Bharat’s sister Marilyn Barath-Persad testified that when she went on March 28 to identify Luke’s body, “at first glance” she did not recognise it. She too was questioned about the boys in the area and said the children would play together, but she didn’t see him playing with the older boys.
“Sean like to play with whoever was there.”
Genevive Ramtahal, a relative of Bharat’s, said she saw all the boys –Luke, Mitchell, Chatoo, Keshon, Rishon, Avi and his brother – earlier in the afternoon, in front of her house on the road. They were making a kite. They left, but she couldn’t say where they went.
She also said around 6 pm, when Bharat was looking for Luke, she didn’t see any of the boys, nor did she see them when the child’s clothing was found.
Merritt also asked Ramtahal if she knew whether there were any homosexuals in the area, but she said she was not aware of any.
Also returning to complete his evidence on Friday was retired police crime scene investigator Ivan Nicholls. who said all protocols were carried out when he found Luke’s clothing and sent it to the FSC for analysis.
Mitchell and Chatoo are represented by attorneys Mario Merritt, Evans Welch, Kirby Joseph, Randall Raphael, Kelston Pope and Gabriel Hernandez. State attorneys Anju Bhola and Sophia Sandy-Smith are also prosecuting.