Trial for the murder of Rupert Berney Appasamy |25 May 2022
State witness testifies before the court
- Defence highlights several discrepancies in evidence
Under extra security yesterday, the court listened to evidence from a state witness in the ongoing trial for the murder of Rupert Berney Appasamy whose completely decomposed body was found shallowly buried at Bougainville, Takamaka on September 23, 2021.
However, the defence managed to identify several discrepancies in the evidences provided, precisely in the police statements provided by the witness, pointing out several inconsistencies.
The witness in question was a former accused in the case who was granted conditional offer by the Attorney General under Section 61 (A) of the Criminal Procedure Code in March this year.
The offer is based on the belief of the Attorney General that the witness is directly, or indirectly concerned, or involved in or privy to the commission of the offences of Murder and/ or Aiding and Abetting in the offence of Murder (hereinafter the “offences”), that happened on, or around September 11, 2021, and that the witness with the intention to assist the Republic in prosecuting the offences, want to make a true and honest disclosure of facts known to him in relation to the commission of the said offences.
The two accused in the case, which is being presided over by Justice Mohan Niranjit Burhan, are Sindu Parekh and Ken Jean-Charles who are sharing three counts, including precisely murder, counselling or procuring another to commit the offence of murder, and also conspiring with another to commit the offence of murder.
As part of the conditions of acceptance, the witness has had the charge previously levelled against him withdrawn, under section 65 (a) of the Criminal Procedure Code, while he will not be charged with, or tried for any offence in any case relating to and arising out of the facts involved in the police docket.
The witness should however make full and true disclosure of the whole of the circumstances and give true and honest statements that are within his knowledge and outlining all his activities relating to and in connection with any offence arising out of the facts involved, and also related activities of the above-mentioned person in the commission of the offence.
Lawyers Tony Juliette and Olivier Chang-Leng are defending Parekh and Jean-Charles respectively, while Corrine Rose and Georges Thachet are the prosecution lawyers.
To begin his testimony, the 45-year-old witness confirmed that he witnessed everything that happened on the day Appasamy was murdered.
He said he knew Jean-Charles during his army days, but they were not friends, until June last year when he was approached by his companion who told him that someone was at Anse Aux Pins recruiting people to do odd jobs, including construction and land clearing work .
He said he approached Jean-Charles who offered him a job for a daily amount of R500, where he worked on various sites including Au Cap, La Louise, Quincy Village, Anse Royale and Pointe Larue.
He said in August 2021, Jean-Charles asked him if he knew a certain Berney Appasamy, to which he replied yes.
The witness told the court that he made the acquaintance of Appasamy while in prison, serving a sentence for drug possession.
He told the court that Jean-Charles informed him that Appasamy was harassing one of his sisters who worked on Eden Island.
It was in September that Jean-Charles asked him to look for Appasamy since he needed him for a job as he was a good worker.
He said on September 10, 2021 Jean-Charles took him to Roche Caïman in a white pick-up truck to look for Appasamy.
The witness told the court that on that particular day, he did not see Appasamy, but saw another witness in the case to which he enquired about the residence of the victim, and the person guided him.
Once at the residence, he said he was received by the victim’s mother who told him that her son was not at home.
He said he then left and proceeded to Anse Royale with Jean-Charles in the white pick-up truck to work on a site contracted to the latter for fencing work.
The same day at around 5pm, the witness went back to Roche Caïman, and once again saw the mother in the company of her younger son who informed him that her son was not at home.
This time, he said he left his phone number and told the mother that he was looking for Appasamy for a particular job at Pointe Larue.
He said at around 8pm, he received a call from Appasamy and he informed the latter about the job which he said will earn him R1500, before arranging the pickup time for 6.30am the following day at the Roche Caïman (Kosovo) market.
He said the following morning Jean-Charles picked him up at Anse Aux Pins and together they headed to Roche Caïman via the highway.
The witness told the court that upon arriving at Roche Caïman, he did not see Appasamy and since he knew the victim was a drug user, he searched for him in areas he knew drugs were being sold, but again, to no avail.
He said he went to the victim’s residence and found him sweeping outside the house, and the victim started complaining about him being late that morning.
He said Jean-Charles told them that he was at Eden Island and instruct them to walk all the way down the highway, where he picked them up next to the ex-Airtel building.
On the way, the witness informed Jean-Charles that Appasamy needed a fix – a term used to describe the act of a drug addict taking the drug they are addicted to as the result of a physical or psychological addiction – before going to work.
He said Jean-Charles agreed and took them to Anse Aux Pins, precisely at the Chetty Flats and gave them R500 each to buy heroin.
The witness also told the court that Appasamy asked him where he can get a syringe.
He also asked the victim if he knew Jean-Charles to which he replied yes, he was in the National Drugs Enforcement Agency (NDEA).
He added that instead of going back towards Pointe Larue, Jean-Charles told them that they need to go up to Anse Royale to check out a job, and while on the way up, they stopped at Au Cap to buy cigarettes.
He said they kept going, with him in the passenger seat and Appasamy sitting at the back of the pick-up truck. They took a road leading up to Bougainville until they reached a gate.
The witness explained that he knew the place well since he had been doing some cleaning work there.
He said Jean-Charles instructed him to open the gate, before parking the pick-up truck and stepping out, entering the abandoned house on the property through a side door.
He said Jean-Charles then opened the front door from the inside of the house.
He said the two of them – him and Appasamy – entered the house and latter told him that he was going to take his drugs.
The witness told the court that he also agreed to take his, and headed out to get it from his bag in the pick-up.
He said while on his way out of the house, Jean-Charles entered, wearing a black pair of gloves, with a crowbar in his hand.
He said he panicked and ran into the toilet of the house, and could still hear the beating going on.
The witness told the court that he then heard a dragging sound, similar to that of a corrugated iron sheet, before Jean-Charles called him out, asking him to come and help him to carry the body, saying “sorti vin ed mwan, nou a fini ek li enn fwa”.
Once in the room, the witness described it as bloody, with Appasamy lying face down on a corrugated iron sheet.
He said they dragged the corrugated iron sheet outside, but got stuck along the way due to a narrow passage.
The witness told the court that at that point, Jean-Charles instructed him to go back to the pick-up truck, and dragged the victim by the feet.
He said while sitting in the pick-up, in a panic state, Jean-Charles removed a shovel and pick-axe from the back and headed towards the back of the house.
He told the court that a while later, Jean-Charles came back and using a partly-cut plastic bottle, carried water inside the house to clean the blood.
He said on their way down, Jean-Charles mentioned that he forgot his crowbar and that he will come and get it the following day.
He added that when he asked Jean-Charles where is Appasamy, he replied that he is where he is supposed to be.
He said that while on the way down, he was told to keep his mouth shut, and was dropped at Pointe Larue.
He added that at around 4pm to 4.30pm the same day, Jean-Charles came to pick him up, paid him and drove him to Anse Aux Pins.
The witness told the court that on several occasions Appasamy’s mother called him, and each time he told her that the victim left work on Friday and he had not seen him, just as he was instructed by Jean-Charles.
He said on September 16, 2021 he got call from the criminal investigation department (CID) to come and give a statement on the disappearance of Appasamy, and noted that at that time, Jean-Charles was close by, listening to the conversation, instructing him to tell them that Appasamy came to work on the day he disappeared and was paid.
From then on, the witness told the court that he was living in fear since Jean-Charles was threatening him, even informing that he had connections to high government officials.
He said he was later arrested and brought to the Bois de Rose detention centre and while being questioned, he gave them the same old story Jean-Charles instructed him to tell.
He explained that being a heroin addict, once in police detention, he began to suffer from withdrawal syndrome and slowly began to detox and came back to his senses and disclosed everything.
It was then that he took them to the location of the crime, before deciding to turn into state witness through a sober mind.
While in court, the witness managed to identify and align all the evidence with the series of events as they happened including the crowbar which was used to harm Appasamy, while the video footages confirmed his testimony.
Cross examination – defence identifies several discrepancies in evidence
While cross examining the witness, defence attorney Chang-Leng pointed out several discrepancies in the evidence given, precisely in the irregularities in the different police statements – five altogether – written by him.
Chang-Leng pointed out that in one of the statements, the witness wrote that Jean-Charles called him to ask him whether he knew Appasamy, while in his testimony yesterday morning he said that the question came while they were working at La Louise.
The defence lawyer also noted that in one of the statements, the witness mentioned that upon reaching Bougainville he stayed in the pick-up truck while yesterday he said he got out of the truck.
Another irregularity was regarding that in his statement, the witness wrote that Jean-Charles came out and pulled out a pair of gloves from the pick-up, while at yesterday’s hearing he said he saw Jean-Charles entering the house, already wearing a pair of black gloves.
As for the crowbar in the case, Chang-Leng informed the witness that no forensic evidence linking it to the case was discovered on it, to which the latter replied that following the incident, the tool had been used frequently on various sites, so it is therefore normal for it not to contain evidence.
The witness stressed that despite some discrepancies in his statement due to fear and withdrawal syndrome, he is certain about the crowbar since the incident has greatly affected him morally.
He said he was telling exactly what he witnessed and how things happened on that day.
Based on the comment, Chang-Leng noted that it does not make sense that the witness was confused – due to withdrawal syndrome – regarding key and important issues in the case while writing his statements, but could easily identify a crowbar which has been described as the main assault weapon in the case.
Referring to the witness’ past drug case, Chang-Leng noted that he has a habit of not telling the truth and is known to blame other people for things he does.
He added that only liars change their story and that if the witness was telling the truth, he would not have said whatever he said in court yesterday.
Chang-Leng further noted that the witness’ fifth statement was made after striking the deal with the Attorney General’s Office, so it is common practice for him to pin all the evidence towards his client.
On his part, Thachet said the discrepancies are purely based on the witness’ state of mind at that time, buried in fear for his life, especially after threats made to him by the accused.
He explained that at yesterday’s hearing, the witness was sober with a clear mind and conscience while giving his testimony.
The case will continue today.