Lawyers for two men, accused of brutally murdering six-year-old Sean Luke when they were teenagers, have questioned the police’s handling of another of Luke’s teenage neighbours, who was initially questioned over the crime and not charged.
Akeel Mitchell and Richard Chatoo’s lawyers raised the questions over then 17-year-old Avinash Baboolal while cross-examining a homicide detective as their virtual judge-alone trial before Justice Lisa Ramsumair-Hinds, continued yesterday.
As he took a witness stand at the San Fernando, High Court Cpl Khemraj Ragoonath was repeatedly quizzed over why Baboolal was not treated as a suspect and why blood samples were not requested from him like what was done with Mitchell and Chatoo.
Ragoonath claimed that he could not say how Baboolal was excluded as a suspect as he suggested that it was possibly based on evidence gathered by his more senior colleagues, which was not shared with him.
“It depends on the information we had on hand,” Ragoonath said.
Ragoonath also could not reveal why blood samples for DNA testing were not requested from Baboolal.
He claimed that he received instructions to request samples from 13-year-old Mitchell and 16-year-old Chatoo and he complied.
Ragoonath revealed that Chatoo and his mother consented for his sample but Mitchell and his mother refused.
He claimed that he then asked Mitchell for items of clothing for testing and he (Mitchell) provided a cap and a pair of sneakers.
Ragoonath, who took notes during an interview with Baboolal, admitted that he (Baboolal) appeared to give inconsistent statements over Chatoo’s alleged involvement.
According to Ragoonath, Baboolal initially claimed that he did not see Chatoo enter an abandoned cane field with Luke on the day of his disappearance and later changed his story to put Chatoo at the location.
Ragoonath admitted that he did not hear his colleagues question Baboolal over the alleged inconsistency.
Ragoonath also admitted that he was present when Baboolal and his father were taken to the area to point out locations days after Luke’s decomposing body was found in the field.
He denied that Baboolal pointed out the exact location, where the body had been found days earlier.
Quizzed over how Luke’s body appeared when it was found, Ragoonath claimed that he was lying naked on his back with one of his hands on his chest. There was blood emanating from his eyes and nose, Ragoonath said.
He said he did not see a sugarcane stalk protruding from Luke’s body.
Also testifying yesterday was retired Cpl Ivan Nichols, a former crime scene investigator and a fingerprint analysis expert.
Nichols was summoned to the area around Luke’s home on March 27, 2006, after his mother Pauline Lumfai reported him missing.
He claimed that while searching the cane field a colleague found a pair of underwear and shorts that were later identified by Lumfai as her son’s.
Nichols packaged both items to be sent for forensic analysis. The package was opened and tendered into evidence yesterday.
Nichols also admitted that while he and his colleagues mounted the search for Luke, they had no idea what he looked like or what he was wearing, as a photograph and such information was not provided.
Nichols claimed that when he returned to the scene after Luke’s body had been found the following day, it was already in an advanced stage of decomposition.
“It was infested with maggots. There were maggots on the face,” Nichols said.
Like Ragoonath, Nichols claimed that he did not see a cane stalk protruding from Luke’s body.
“It was possible I did not see it,” Nichols said, as he noted that he collected soil and vegetation samples from around the area where the body was found.
Sgt Dane James, another officer who was part of the search party, testified that while interviewing Luke’s neighbours he recorded a statement from Chatoo.
James confirmed that Chatoo had allegedly provided information about a man going into the sugarcane field around when Luke went missing but claimed that his colleagues followed up on that lead.
Asked for information on the other persons he interviewed, James said he could not remember their names as he was instructed to focus his testimony on his interactions with Chatoo. He also could not locate the diary in which he claimed he made notes about his interviews.
Luke went missing on the evening of March 26, 2006 and his body was found two days later. An autopsy revealed that he died from internal injuries arising out of being sodomized with a cane stalk.
Mitchell is being represented by Mario Merritt, Kirby Joseph, and Randall Raphael, while Evans Welch, Kelston Pope, and Gabriel Hernandez are representing Chatoo.
Sabrina Dougdeen-Jaglal, Anju Bhola and Sophia Sandy-Smith are prosecuting.
The trial is expected to resume tomorrow.