Defence accused of interpreting witness' answers

Stabroek News
September 13, 2000

The car-chase cocaine trial came to an abrupt halt yesterday when Special Prosecutor, James Bovell-Drakes, claimed that defence lawyer, Vic Puran, was interpreting the witness' answers for the court.

Bovell-Drakes made the objection as Puran sought to describe to Joseph Leung, Customs Anti-Narcotics (CANU) officer on the stand at that time, what he thought had occurred at Industrial Site before Oral Stoby (another CANU officer) boarded CANU's mini-bus to begin chasing a Pathfinder that allegedly contained some ten pounds of cocaine.

CANU is contending that it unearthed 4.7508 kilogrammes of cocaine on August 11, after a stake-out of Lot 3 McDoom, East Bank Demerara and a car-chase through the city sprinkled with gunfire. Albert Vaughn, 47, Trenton Allicock, 37, both of Lot 2 Joseph Pollydore Street, Lodge, Georgetown, and Morris Darr were arrested in connection with that bust and are now facing a charge of trafficking in narcotics before Chief Magistrate, Paul Fung-A-Fat. Vaughn faces an additional charge of dangerous driving.

Before the interruption, Leung, the driver of the CANU bus had testified that he, Stoby and other officers went to Industrial Site and parked on the western carriageway facing north on the day of the bust. He said that he stayed in the vehicle and kept its engine running while his colleagues disembarked.

The officer claimed that about ten minutes later he saw his co-workers running back to the bus prompting him to look through the window. There he saw a dark green Pathfinder heading north along the access road.

Stating that there was a chase through several city streets, Leung said that it ended when the Pathfinder stopped in front of the East La Penitence Police station near a bridge that was under construction. He recalled that Stoby exited their vehicle and ran towards the pathfinder at that point. According to the witness, he heard two shots shortly after but he did not leave his vehicle.

He admitted under cross-examination that he did not know the exact speed the Pathfinder was going at but said he knew that he was going between 30 to 50 miles per hour. He stated that he never had the opportunity to overtake the Pathfinder and the average distance between the two vehicles that day was about 10 to 30 metres.

Prodded for specifics, Leung said that it was about 20 to 25 minutes into the chase when he heard the first gunshot. He swore that at the bridge, there were vehicles in front of the Pathfinder but they were all travelling very slowly. Adding that there were about six vehicles in front of the Pathfinder, he said Stoby ran faster than the speed of traffic and to his recollection, no vehicle tried to force CANU's bus off the road.

The prosecution's witness also said that no shots were fired at the bus. In fact, one of the shots fired came from CANU's vehicle.

He recounted seeing Stoby using communication equipment but declared that he could not say exactly how many times he used it because he was concentrating on the road. Pushed to say when was the last time he noticed Stoby using the equipment, Leung maintained that he did not know.

With reference to Jeremy Mbozi and Andrew Pierre (other CANU officers), he said he never saw them on the access road.

However, he admitted that vehicles were travelling in front of the Pathfinder as it passed CANU's bus.

Leung added though that because he was focused on driving he was not able to say whether there were any vehicles behind the Pathfinder.

CANU officer, Matthew Little, also continued his testimony yesterday. He stated that he never saw anyone pointing a toy gun at CANU's bus. But claimed that he heard Stoby saying that someone was pointing a gun at the vehicle.

He explained that in the vicinity of Savage Street there was no oncoming traffic and, moreso, no vehicle was in front of the Pathfinder while CANU was chasing it. Little said that at no time was the Pathfinder and CANU's bus side by side nor had CANU's vehicle overtaken it.

Expounding on that, he said that the closest CANU's bus got to the Pathfinder was about four feet and that was before the vehicle came to a stop. Asked about how fast CANU's vehicle could travel, he said he did not know the specifics but to his knowledge it could go faster than 30 miles per hour.

He said that nothing was stopping CANU's driver from overtaking the Pathfinder nor was anyone urging him to go faster. To him `hot pursuit' means travelling at about 30 miles per hour.

The CANU rank said that the first time he knew he was going to Industrial Site was on August 11, at about 11.00 hrs and he only learnt of the road block at Industrial Site when he got there.

He maintained that there was a conversation between Allicock and Stoby but denied making a conscious effort to ask Allicock to make a written confession. The trial continues on Friday.

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