COP FREED OF MURDER
By AZARD ALI Thursday, September 19 2013
POLICE Corporal Darwin Ghouralal yesterday told Newsday his heart is pure and he had nothing to do with the death back in 2011, of eight-year-old Gasparillo schoolboy Daniel Guerra, whose murder shook the nation.
Ghouralal arrived at the San Fernando Magistrates’ Court handcuffed, but left hours later, a free man after Magistrate Rajendra Rambachan upheld a no-case submission by Ghouralal’s attorney Sophia Chote SC. However, Acting Assistant Director of Public Prosecutions Joan Paul-Honore, told the court the prosecution intends to petition a Judge in Chambers for a warrant for Ghouralal’s re-arrest.
Daniel, went missing after he left his Bedeau Street, Gasparillo, home on February 17, 2011 to purchase two bottles of Lucozade at a nearby parlour. His body was found four days later in a drain near to what was then, the San Fernando Technical Institute in Tarouba Village.
The boy’s death became a national issue when two autopsies gave conflicting results and the State intervened through Attorney General Anand Ramlogan. Dr James Gill, the Chief Medical Examiner at Bronx County in New York, was flown to Trinidad and conducted a third autopsy which revealed Daniel was strangled.
Daniel was buried following a funeral service attended by Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar who initiated the Daniel Guerra Decree, in the boy’s honour, which is an initiative with a social agenda that includes involvement of all NGOs partnering with government, the police and army and the private sector in tackling issues of crime, child neglect and abuse, in their myriad forms.
Ghouralal, 42, a police officer with 19 years service, ten of which he worked as a detective, was arrested and charged with Daniel’s murder in April of 2011. At the time he was stationed at Mon Repos Police Station. For the next two and a half years, Ghouralal, a father of two, remained incarcerated as Rambachan conducted a Preliminary Inquiry at the San Fernando Magistrates’ Court.
The prosecution pursued the charge for a High Court trial, via paper committal. Several witness statements were tendered for the magistrate’s consideration which hinged only on circumstantial evidence. Daniel’s mother Rona Guerra, his grandfather and uncle all testified.
Honore-Paul and State attorneys Sarah de Silva and Chris Ramlal prosecuted. Chote and Michelle Solomon-Baksh, defended Ghouralal. On May 15, Chote made a no-case submission to Rambachan arguing that the State was seeking to have Ghouralal committed for murder on the basis of inferences to be drawn from the circumstantial evidence. She submitted a 55-paragraph written submission. Honore-Paul, also in written submissions, stated that the main thrust of the prosecution’s case was DNA samples tendered into evidence which showed that Daniel’s blood was found on a certain exhibit.
Yesterday, at 1.10 pm, Ghouralal was handcuffed and brought into the courtroom. Rambachan told Ghouralal to stand. He then ruled that the State had not made out a prima facie case and therefore the no-case submission was sustained. “You are hereby discharged,” Rambachan told Ghouralal. Ghouralal, dressed in jacket and tie, looked up at the ceiling and let out a long sigh.
“Your Worship, the State would be applying to a judge in Chambers for a warrant,” Honore-Paul said, to which Magistrate Rambachan shook his head and said, “Yes.” Ghouralal walked up to Chote and hugged her. He then made his way downstairs in the cell block where he shook hands with his fellow police officers.
Based on Honore-Paul’s verbal notification in court, the file comprising all evidence, would be submitted to a High Court judge in chambers who would be required to review the evidence and if satisfied that there is sufficient circumstantial evidence to meet the threshold required in law, as distinct from eyewitness evidence, the Judge would issue a warrant to indict Ghouralal for murder. It is tantamount to a form of appeal of a magistrates’ decision at the Preliminary Inquiry stage.
After the case ended, Chote told Newsday the evidence at the inquiry, “pointed in another direction and that further investigation should be done in relation to another person.” Asked her view on the prosecution’s intention to seek a re-indictment of Ghouralal via a bench warrant, Chote said she hopes DPP Roger Gaspard would first peruse the evidence.
Speaking to Newsday afterwards, Ghouralal said, “I know in my heart that I had nothing to do with this. My heart is pure and my hands are clean. That child (Daniel) complained about sexual abuse and the police did nothing. There isn’t one iota of evidence against me. Today makes it two years, five months and eleven days since I was locked up. I have been a police officer for 19 years, ten of which was as a detective. Why would I want to kill a child?” He then left the courthouse.
When Newsday visited Daniel’s family home after the case, no one was at home. Residents said Daniel’s mother Rona is now living elsewhere while his grandmother Shirley Indarsingh was attending a funeral.