The retrial of a police officer accused of murdering a man from Laventille in 2007 kicked off yesterday with the evidence of the victim’s relative, who allegedly witnessed his shooting.
Testifying during PC Anthony Sylvester’s virtual judge-alone trial before Justice Hayden St Clair-Douglas, yesterday, Natasha Jessop claimed that she was present when her husband’s cousin Sheldon Des Vignes was shot on November 9, 2007.
Jessop claimed that before midday she, Des Vignes and other relatives were liming and playing cards under a shed in their home at St Barb’s Road in Laventille, when they heard loud noises coming from a track that bounds their property. Jessop, who said that she had her two-week-old child in her arms, claimed that she left the group to look into the track from a better vantage point in their property.
She claimed that she saw two police officers chasing a neighbour. Jessop said that she saw one of the officers, who she identified as Sylvester during the hearing, fire two gunshots from his service pistol at the man they were chasing. She claimed that she saw Des Vignes touching his head before collapsing.
She said that Sylvester went to Des Vignes and checked if he was still alive by checking his pulse at his neck. She claimed that when she and other relatives surrounded the officers, Sylvester fired two shots in the air to make them disperse. He and his colleague then placed Des Vignes in a police vehicle and took him for medical attention.
While cross-examining Jessop, Sylvester’s attorney Ulric Skerritt suggested that while his client and his colleague were chasing the man through the track, he (Sylvester) fell. Skerritt claimed that when Sylvester got up, he saw Des Vignes pointing a gun in his direction. He alleged that Sylvester demanded that Des Vignes drop the firearm and shot him when he (Des Vignes) refused to comply.
Jessop repeatedly denied Skerritt’s suggestions over Sylvester’s version of the events.
“That is a lie,” Jessop said repeatedly after Skerritt presented the allegations. Questioned why she initially told police that Sylvester shot at relatives, who gathered around Des Vignes, Jessop denied doing so.
“If he had shot at the crowd more people would have died that day,” Jessop said.
Jessop, who started to cry several times during her testimony, also denied not being on the scene.
“I was there and whatever I said is the truth,” Jessop said.
During the hearing, prosecutors presented the formal admissions of several witnesses, whose evidence is being contested.
Two of the witnesses were police officers, who took photographs and created a map of the crime scene.
The evidence of Des Vignes common-law wife, who identified his body, and his cousin who was at home but did not witness the actual shooting were also admitted.
The trial before St Clair-Douglas is Sylvester’s second as his first in early 2019 ended in a hung jury, with jurors failing to come to a unanimous verdict.
Sylvester was being prosecuted under the legal principle of transferred malice whereby a person is held responsible when their intention to harm one person inadvertently causes a second person to be hurt instead. Sylvester is claiming that he acted in self defence.
The case is being prosecuted by Indira Chinebas and Ambay Ramkellawan. Senior Counsel Israel Khan is appearing alongside Skerritt for Sylvester.
The trial will continue this morning.