|VINDRA CUT UP |
By Jada Loutoo Tuesday, March 25 2014
VINDRA Naipaul-Coolman was “sawed up like a piece of meat” and her dismembered body disposed at sea by her kidnappers who grew frustrated that their demands for money were not being met.
The gruesome details of Naipaul-Coolman’s murder was presented to jurors by lead prosecutor Israel Khan, SC, in the trial of the 12 men who are charged with the Chaguanas businesswoman’s killing.
On December 19, 2006, Naipaul-Coolman, 52, was kidnapped from the driveway of her Lange Park, Chaguanas, home. A ransom demand was eventually made for her safe release and some of it was paid, but she was not freed. Her body was never found.
On trial are Shervon “Buffy” Peters; Keida Garcia, Marlon “Madman” Trimmingham; Earl “Bobo” Trimmingham; Ronald “22” Armstrong; Antonio “Hedges” Charles; Joel “Ninja” Fraser; Lyndon “Iron” James; Allan “Scanny” Martins; Devon “Blackboy” Peters; Anthony Dwayne Gloster, also called Anthony Peters, and Jamile “WASA” Garcia.
A 13th accused, Raphael Williams, died in prison in 2011.
The 12 men are before Justice Malcolm Holdip in the Port-of-Spain Second Criminal Court and 18 jurors –12 on the main panel and six alternates.
In his four-hour long opening address to the jury, Khan described the details of Naipaul-Coolman’s murder.
“They cut off her legs up to her belly. They cut off both arms from her shoulders. They cut off her head. They cut up her belly and her chest,” Khan said.
“Her body parts were placed into black garbage bags for disposal,” Khan said. The body parts, which were initially buried in two garbage bags in a hole in La Puerta, Diego Martin, where most of the men lived, were later exhumed by the men and dumped out at sea.
Her body was cut up using an electric saw used for cutting meat. This was done after she was shot in the chest by one of the men.
“The prosecution is unable to say whether Mrs Vindra Naipaul-Coolman was actually dead or alive when she was dismembered,” Khan said. The motive behind the killing of the Xtra Foods Supermarket chief executive officer, Khan said, was “greed”.
Throughout his four-hour long presentation of the prosecution’s evidence, Khan used biblical and other religious references, including from a Bollywood blockbuster movie.
“This is not a case of a mother’s milk of human kindness and the goodness of humanity,” he said, as he reminded the jury that the men on trial were presumed to be innocent.
The prosecution is leading its case on the Felony Murder Rule, the killing of someone during the commission of an arrestable offence, and intends to lead circumstantial and Deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) evidence to prove that the 12 men killed Naipaul-Coolman.
He said it was not necessary under the Felony Murder Rule for the prosecution to prove who actually kidnapped Naipaul-Coolman.
“All the prosecution is required to prove is that the accused men knew she was a victim of a kdinapping for ransom and when payments were not forthcoming, she was eliminated and they assisted in the disposal of her body parts,” he said.
Keon Gloster, a brother of one of the men on trial, has also given evidence against the men and although he has recanted his evidence, the prosecution will be leading his initial statement in which he spoke of Naipaul-Coolman’s killing. Prosecutors will also be relying on the statement of Earl Trimmingham, who also implicated the men, Khan said.
James has been fingered as the man who actually pulled the trigger, shooting her in the chest at the house in La Puerta.
Martins, while not taking part in the dismembering of Naipaul-Coolman’s body, stood by a door looking on and said nothing, Khan told the jury.
“The prosecution will prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Mrs Vindra Naipaul-Coolman who was shot and kidnapped on December 19, 2006, from the driveway of her home at Lange Park, Chaguanas, was the same woman who was shot to death about three days after Christmas 2006 while sitting on a pool table in an unfurnished red brick house at La Puerta Avenue, Diego Martin. DNA evidence found at the red brick house will cement the fact that Mrs Vindra Naipaul-Coolman, the kidnapped victim, was the same woman who was shot by accused No 8,” Khan said.
Who are the accused men?
According to Khan, the 12 men were not a “pick-up side, selected at random to play a small goal football game.”
“They are a brotherhood, so much so that some of them are related by blood,” he said.
Shervon Peters and Devon Peters are twin brothers. Anthony Gloster, also called Anthony Peters, is the twins’ elder brother.
Marlon Trimmingham and Earl Trimmingham are brothers. Keida Garcia and Jamile Garcia are also brothers. Raphael Williams, who died in prison in 2011 awaiting trial, were the Garcias’ brother-in-law. Williams also assisted Peters and Marlon Trimmingham in cutting up Naipaul- Coolman’s body, Khan said.
Joel Fraser is the Peters’ cousin. Fraser at the time of the killing lived at Keon Gloster, his cousin’s home.
Keon Gloster, the prosecution’s main witness, is the cousin to the Peters’ brothers and Fraser.
Allan Martins and Shervon Peters grew up together and were said by Khan to be very close friends. Martins also had a sexual relationship with Shervon Peters’ sister.
Khan said the prosecution intends to rely on 73 witnesses, 65 of which are police officers. Eight witnesses are civilians, three of whom include Naipaul-Coolman’s husband, Rennie Coolman, her daughter Risha Ali and live-in housekeeper Rasheedan Yacoob.
Ali, who lived with her mother and step-father with her three children, was at home when her mother was kidnapped at about 8.30 pm on December 19, 2006. She saw three men with their faces covered in masks hit her mother on her cheek with a gun.
Ali also heard shots fired. Yacoob, who was also at the house at the time of the kidnapping, saw a tall man standing by the driveway entrance gate with a gun.
She also heard shots and that was the last time she saw Naipaul-Coolman. Both women saw when the Xtra Foods CEO drove in the driveway with her Kia Sportage SUV.
Coolman will testify of being ten feet away from one of the masked men who walked towards the front door of Vindra’s car. He heard his wife scream out and also heard gunshots.
Khan said police witnesses will speak of the processing of the crime scene. He said there were three bullet holes in the rear window on the passenger side of Naipaul-Coolman’s car. There was also blood on the driveway and her dentures and pair of glasses on the ground.
Khan also spoke of the ransom demands made using Naipaul-Coolman’s mobile phones. A ransom of $122,000 was paid to kidnappers the morning after the kidnapping and a recording of her voice was also played to relatives.
“Nine days after Vindra Naipaul-Coolman was kidnapped, no further ransom payments were forthcoming and thus she was eliminated, deliberately killed. She was murdered. And even after she was killed, attempts were bing made by the caller for ransom payments,” Khan said. On January 6, 2007, six of the men were arrested by police.
Martins surrendered to police on January 13, 2007.
Khan read out portions of the interview notes and zeroed in on Earl Trimmingham’s interview with police on May 12, 2007, in which he allegedly made incriminating admissions against himself.
Khan said Trimmingham at first said he knew nothing about the kidnapping but later changed his story, telling police he “eh kidnap nobody” and “eh kill nobody” and “eh making no jail for nobody”.
Trimmingham, according to the prosecution, admitted that he and others were told of a “kidnapping wuk” and of a woman being brought to the unfinished red brick house at La Puerta. The woman’s head was covered with a piece of green cloth and her hands and feet were bound with duct tape.
The woman, he allegedly told police, was groaning. He saw the woman again three days later. The first time he said he saw the woman’s face was when he went into the red brick house, about a week after she was taken there. She was on the pool table and appeared to be dead.
He told police he went home and then returned the next morning at about 1 or 2 am in time to see a certain individual with an electric saw cutting up her body and handing her body parts to other individuals who placed them into doubled garbage bags.
Earl Trimmingham also told police he saw tools like forks, cutlasses, pick axes and “things” in the red brick house. He said all the individuals who were there went up to the hill behind the house to bury the woman.
“He went to see what they were doing and he helped to bury the woman’s body parts,” Khan said.
Earl Trimmingham also told police that he was told by two of the men that they dug back up the body and went to Carenage where they used a boat to dump the bags at sea.
The lead prosecutor also told the jury that they will hear further evidence in which Earl Trimmingham led police to a camp on the hill at La Puerta Avenue where they found a black ski mask and a white and blue glove.
This glove was tested and revealed Naipaul-Coolman’s DNA. Armstrong, another of the accused, was also interviewed by police and he named ten of the men as his friends. He spoke of a white plastic bag with a Marvin Gaye ski mask, a pair of cloth gloves and plastic ties being in a white plastic bag.
He also told police he saw two men with “two stacks of money, blue notes, approximately 200 and something thousand dollars.”
Armstrong said on the day of the kidnapping, one of the men came in a white Nissan car and was looking for someone.
Khan used numbers and letters to represent the men of whom Armstrong was speaking and informed jurors that he did so because whatever an accused said in a statement against another accused as not evidence and warned them not to attempt to figure out who the people behind the numbers and letters were.
Armstrong said the next day he read of Naipaul-Coolman’s kidnapping in the newspapers and on the night of December 20, 2006, he heard his friends saying, “Better days ah coming” and “we go live and eat ah food and drink ah juice.”
Keon Gloster was 17 years old at the time when he witnessed Naipaul-Coolman’s killing. His evidence, Khan said, implicated all the men in the businesswoman’s murder, dismembering of her body and the subsequent disposal of her body parts by 11 of the accused men. He said a week before Christmas 2006 he saw Naipaul-Coolman on the pool table in the red brick house they called the “Black Album” and Shervon Peters and Raphael Williams were asking her for money. She was said to be crying, “Help, help.”
James and Martins were outside talking, Khan said Keon Gloster told police the men continued shouting at Naipaul-Coolman that they want the money and were getting aggressive.
Marlon Trimmingham hit her on the hand, asking for the money, saying, “We did not kidnap you for nothing.”
Keon Gloster said he did not like how they were treating the woman, and went home. Three days later, he went back to the house where he witnessed Lyndon James shoot Naipaul-Coolman who was dismembered by Shervon Peters, Marlon Trimmingham and Raphael Williams.
“Iron (Lyndon James) was saying (to Naipaul-Coolman) he getting f—ing fed up, come and carry we for the money. Then ah see Iron take the gun and shoot she in she chest. She fell back on the pool table. Like she dead and real blood start to flow,” Keon Gloster allegedly told police.
He also saw the three men, counting “ah set ah hundred dollars and 20 dollar bills,” before Naipaul-Coolman was killed.
He also said he saw Shervon Peters take the power saw and started to cut up the body. “He cut off she both foot and they put it in ah black plastic (garbage) bags. Buffy cut up to she belly. Raphael cut up the belly area. Marlon cut off the both hands by the shoulder and bag it. The belly was in the next bag. The chest, head and hands were in one bag. It had two bags. The other parts of the body was in the next bag,” he said.
Martins, Gloster said, left before the men went to bury the body by a cashew tree up on the hill. Galvanise was also placed in the hole they dug to prevent dogs or corbeaux from attacking the body parts, Khan told the jury.
Khan said Naipaul-Coolman’s kidnapping and killing was “well executed and planned”.
“And after they killed they were trying to still get money....an insatiable appetite for money,” he said.
In closing, he told the jurors if they had a reasonable doubt of the men’s guilty, they must acquit them but if their conscience told them, after they’ve heard all the evidence, that the men were guilty, they must convict.
The trial continues tomorrow, when the first of the prosecution’s witnesses is expected to testify at the Third Criminal Court, which has been outfitted with audio and video equipment. At yesterday’s hearing, relatives of the accused men were accommodated in the Third Criminal Court, while their attorneys, both advocate and instructed, utilised the space at the bar table as well as the area normally reserved for witnesses.
Security arrangements have also been implemented and members of the public entering the foyer to the courtroom are scanned with metal detectors.
(Israel Khan’s address on pages 20, 22, 23A)