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All 3 exhibits in Arima murder trial, missing
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BYLINE: Onika James

Arima, Trinidad

All of three exhibits taken from a 2003 murder scene, in Temple Street, Arima, have gone missing from the Arima Police Station.

The information was revealed yesterday during Ag Sgt Keith Mohammed’s evidence-in-chief in the Fabian La Roche murder trial.

The case is being heard by Justice Andre Mon Desir, in the Port-of-Spain Fifth Assizes.

La Roche, of Cumuto, is alleged to have fatally stabbed 37 year-old Gary Irish “five times” in the back during the early hours of July 25, 2003.

Mohammed said, he had “packaged and tagged a shirt, jersey, and towel which were removed from the murder scene.” He said he placed the items in separate brown paper bags on July 28, 2005, prepared relevant forms, and took the exhibits to the Forensic Science Centre for analysis.

Sgt Mohammed also claimed that, he “returned to the Forensic Science Centre on October 11, 2004, and retrieved the items.”

Subsequently, he placed the items in storage at the Arima Police Station’s Property Room.

However, when he went to collect the items on Thursday, he was told they “could not be found.”

Under cross-examination defence attorney Larry Williams asked Mohammed if he “did not think it strange that the exhibits went missing?”

“This was supposed to be under lock and key. How is it that exhibits in a murder trial could just go missing? Did you complain to anyone about the missing exhibits?” Williams enquired.

“I only enquired about the exhibits yesterday (Thursday). I have not complained about the matter. Not as yet,” replied Mohammed.

Checks with senior officers at the Arima Police Station yesterday revealed that, “the property keeper who initially logged the exhibits was no longer in the Police Service.”

Newsday was also told that, “since the officer’s retirement, several officers would have acted in that capacity, so one could not say who was responsible for the missing exhibits.” Trial judge Mon Desir did not enquire or comment on the missing exhibits.

Pauline Irish, the sister of the victim, also testified yesterday. She told the court she identified her brother’s body at the Forensic Science Centre.

La Roche’s case is based on self defence.

In outlining the case yesterday, State prosecutor Subrina Doughdeen said, the accused told police that he “caught him (Irish) unawares, and stabbed him in the back about four or five times.”

“La Roche stabbed Irish in the upper left arm, left side of the back, (which penetrated the lung), right shoulder, middle back, and left buttocks (which penetrated soft tissue),” Doughdeen told the panel. “Irish was rushed to hospital but succumbed to his injuries after six days.”

Following the victim’s death, La Roche gave a statement to the police. He admitted by his own hand that, he was at Temple Street at the time of the murder. He said, he had gone there to peddle his marijuana when Irish and his friends took his stash. He wrote that, he asked them to give it back but they did not. He then said, “I caught him (Irish) unawares, and stabbed him four or five times in the back.”

Additionally Doughdeen told the jury, “you, members of the jury, are here to listen to the evidence, and decide whether or not, La Roche was acting in self defence. The post-mortem report will be presented to you, plus La Roche’s statement written by his own hand will be put before you. In this case you will hear words like stash, marijuana, etc. You may have your own prejudices but I ask you to leave that behind, in fairness to the accused.”

The case continues on Monday.

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