Trio on trial for torching man to death

Three people went on trial on Wednesday for the murder of a man who was set alight during an attack in 2008, in San Fernando.

Doubles vendor Nizam Mohammed, his wife, Putitia Mohammed, and Daniel Sammy are accused of murdering Stephen “Jumbo” Joshua at Friendship Village.

They are on trial before Justice Maria Wilson in Third Criminal Court.

However, in an unusual move, the state attorney Trevor Jones gave an opening address to a 12-member jury and alternates before leading evidence in the trial. It is common practice for the State to give a brief summary of the case before evidence is led in a criminal trial in the High Court.

Witness Kenneth Saroop recalled that in November 2007, the three accused moved into the downstairs apartment of his house, along with Sammy’s girlfriend and another person. Saroop lived upstairs with his son, wife and four step-daughters. He said he was selling his property for $1.1 million and the group moved in after Nizam agreed to pay a 10 per cent down payment for the property and the balance in a year.

He said Nizam paid $40,000 and then $70,000. On the day of the incident on May 3, 2008, he left home to work his private car for hire and was returning around “minutes to five” in the evening when one of his stepdaughters ran up to his car and he spoke to her. Saroop testified that when he got home he saw people at the front of his house and the gate was wide open.

“I run down to the yard and to the right side of the building. I watch I see a man who I know on fire and trying to out himself. His entire body was on fire. The neighbour’s daughter was trying to out him with a hose but where she was they were separated by a galvanise fence,” said Saroop.

He said he took the hose from her, sprayed down Joshua and out the fire.

“He was bawling in pain. I tried to lift him out of the drain. I tried pulling him up by the hand, all his skin and flesh and thing was coming out in my hand,” said Saroop. With the help of a man named Martin, Saroop said they got Joshua out of the drain and put him in the back seat of his (Saroop) car. He said he got permission from a police officer to take him to the hospital, but they met the ambulance on the way and the ambulance took Joshua to the hospital.

He said about a week or two after the accused moved downstairs his home they began preparing doubles around 1 or 2 am and selling the food on his property. He said the smoke was affecting him and his family and strange people were coming into his property to buy the doubles.

Under cross-examination by defence attorney Israel Khan SC, who is representing the Mohammeds, Saroop denied that he wanted to cancel the agreement with Nizam. Saroop further denied that he enlisted Joshua to evict them from that premises.

Source: (Sascha Wilson)

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