Friday, 03 June 2011 02:30
By Colin Sampson
Antigua St John's - Relatives of British honeymooners Benjamin and Catherine Mullany shared the courtroom on Thursday with the two young men accused of killing the couple in 2008.
Kaniel Martin, 23, and Avie Howell, 19, sat impassively in the prisoners’ dock during most of the proceedings, although a brief smile crossed Martin's face occasionally as he reacted to verbal exchanges between the prosecution and defense.
Brinsley Barrie, one of three security guards on duty at the Cocos hotel on July 26, 2008, testified first. He identified the other security guards on duty that night as Ian Newell and Anthony Martin.
Barrie had been overseeing the pool area, restaurant, and front desk. His duties were to patrol and monitor the front access to the property, and to open the gate for late-returning guests. Newell’s station was at the top of the hill, while Martin was positioned halfway between them. Their shift was scheduled to run from 7 pm to 7 am.
At 5:25 am, Barrie answered the front desk telephone and spoke to a police officer inquiring about a shooting at the hotel. He said up to that point, he had been unaware of any shooting, and had not heard any gunshots. He then heard footsteps coming down the hill, and Newell, “frightened and stammering,” reported that two guests had been shot in room number 15.
When both guards went to the room, Barrie said there was a Caucasian man sitting on the floor and “crouching” over the bed, with blood coming from the back of his head. He was not moving. A Caucasian woman, dressed in white, lay face up on the floor, also unmoving. Her eyes and mouth were open, and there was blood on her face. She appeared to be dead.
Barrie went back to the front desk, and called the Bolans Police Station.
Under cross examination by Maureen Payne-Hyman, representing defendant Howell, Barrie said there was no front security barrier, and anyone could drive onto the property without being seen from the restaurant area. He said he had secured the small wooden gate at the main entrance with a bolt and a piece of iron at 11 pm, after the staff left. There was no padlock on the gate, which was about 7 ft high and could be climbed. He said he did not open the gate for the police, but was not surprised to find they had entered the property without his knowledge or assistance. The gate was essentially unsecured, he said, and could have been opened with a firm push, although if he were at the front desk or pool deck, he would have heard it being opened.
Questioning by Marcus Foster, defense counsel for Martin, Barrie said he sometimes heard the owner's dogs barking from his room at the top of the hill, but had not heard them that night.
Another witness, Kirk Browne, a taxi driver and proprietor of Biggs Car Rental in English Harbour, testified that on Saturday July 20, 2008 he rented a gold Suzuki Vitara, R872 to a woman he knew as “Georgette”. Foster and the DPP argued over what the defense said was an improper attempt to have the witness report on a conversation with a third party. Justice Floyd then briefed the jury on the “Hearsay Rule”. However, the prosecution proved that the witness was only indicating the reason behind his action, to which he could testify.
Browne said "Georgette" rented the jeep for seven days, and it was returned at about 9:20 am on Sunday July 27, by the renter and a man Browne could not identify. The jeep was dirty, and low on gas. Browne, after cleaning it, noticed that the front bumper had been scuffed, but this had been hidden by dirt.
When shown the rental contract, the witness could identify the name Georgette, but not her surname. He did however have the renter’s cell and landline numbers, and an address at Cook’s Hill.
Catherine Mullany's brother, Richard Bowen, took the stand after a court recess. He testified to going with his mother and father and his brother-in-law’s parents to Holberton Hospital to identify his sister’s body, and to visiting Benjamin, who was on life support.
While slightly unsure of the date, Bowen said Catherine and Benjamin had been married on or around July 12, 2008. Benjamin Mullany, Bowen said, was among his closest friends. He had owned a Nokia 5310 cellphone on which he stored music, took photos, sent texts, and kept a daily diary of reminders.
A further procedural debate ensued between the defense and prosecution, and culminated in Justice Floyd’s ruling that a document, to be marked as Richard Bowen Exhibit “A” for simplicity, would be shown to the witness, but not to the jury, and entered into evidence later. Bowen identified the document as a picture of his brother-in-law.
The final witness, Ronnie “Ken” Christopher, testified about a .380-caliber Glock that he reported stolen from his home during a break-in on the morning of Monday May 26, 2008. This issue churned up further debate among the lawyers, and led to a lengthy adjournment while the defense and prosecution worked out procedural matters.
When the court re-convened, Christopher, despite strong challenges from Foster, stuck to his earlier position that a visit to his home on November 12, 2008 by a team of Scotland Yard detectives pertained to a spent cartridge from his stolen Glock automatic. A second visit by the same team on November 14, 2008 was related to his identification of photos of a holster for the weapon that had also been stolen.
Friday, June 3, will be a short day, since there are other matters on the court calendar that have to be dealt with.
See related stories:
Mullany/Anderson Murder Trial Begins- Update day 1