Spotlight on Vindra’s husband
By Jada Loutoo Thursday, April 3 2014
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Rishi Ali (back), daughter of businesswoman Vindra Naipaul-Coolman, leaves the Hall of Justice, Port-of-Spain after testifying yesterday in the trial ...
RENNIE Coolman, husband of murdered chief executive officer Vindra Naipaul-Coolman, and his relationship with his stepdaughter became the focus at the trial of 12 men accused of killing the Chaguanas businesswoman in 2006.
Naipaul-Coolman’s daughter, Risha Ali, was questioned about her relationship with her step- father during her testimony as the trial entered its fifth day, yesterday.
Coolman is expected to testify today when the trial resumes in the Port-of-Spain High Court.
During his cross examination of Ali, Joel Fraser’s lawyer Ulric Skerritt enquired whether she and Coolman were “close”, to which she said they were not.
In response to a similar question by Keida Garcia’s attorney Mario Merritt, Ali said they had a normal relationship, with minor arguments at times.
Skerritt further questioned Ali on if she had “private dinners” with Coolman.
“That was not my husband,” she replied.
Ali, who while testifying said she was pregnant and was not well and could not handle “too much right now”, was the prosecution’s fourth witness.
She and her three children lived with her mother and stepfather at 742 Radix Road, Lange Park, Chaguanas. Ali was at home on the night her mother was kidnapped and she saw when one of three persons, all of whom were wearing masks, hit her mother on the cheek with the butt of a gun.
Merritt further enquired of Ali if her stepfather ever confided in her that he attempted to bribe Israel Khan, SC, so he will not be charged in her mother’s murder case. Before Ali was allowed to respond, lead prosecutor Khan objected and Merritt was admonished by the trial judge, Justice Malcolm Holdip, who said he did not approve of the line of questioning.
After discussions were held in the jury’s absence, Merritt was allowed to continue his questioning of Ali.
“Are you aware your stepfather attempted to pay someone not to be charged in the matter?” Merritt asked. “I read it in the newspaper,” Ali answered, also testifying she did not know if her stepfather was in debt at that time.
Admitting she did not contribute to the household, Ali said she knew Coolman was a tutor at one of “those universities”, but could not say which one.
She said where her stepfather worked was none of her business.
“He wasn’t mining (sic) me,” she said in response to the questions put to her.
She also said her mother and Coolman had a normal husband/wife relationship and could not say if they had a joint bank account.
“Do you know if he was strapped for cash?” she was asked by Shervon Peters’ attorney Kwesi Bekoe.
Ali said she did not know of Coolman’s financial status or if he asked her mother for cash.
Earlier in her testimony, Ali, who did not want to give her address because of security reasons, spoke of the moments she last saw her mother.
Naipaul-Coolman, 52, was kidnapped from the driveway of her Lange Park, Chaguanas, home on December 19, 2006.
A ransom demand was made for her safe release and some of it was paid, but she was not freed. Her body was never found.
Ali said she was putting two of her children to bed when she saw the lights to the electronic gate reflecting on her wardrobe and she knew her mother came home.
The family’s live-in housekeeper Rasheedan Yacoob and her stepfather were at home.
She said as her mother drove in, she heard a loud bang but assumed her mother ran over or hit one of her children’s bicycles or toys left in the driveway.
Ali said she remained lying in bed until she heard shouting, which she said was unusual.
While looking through the window, she saw her mother’s SUV at the end of the driveway and a gold car parked behind it.Her mother was seated in the van, bent forward. Ali said she noticed three tall, slim-to-medium built, persons wearing masks and saw one of them at Naipaul-Coolman’s window banging on the glass.
The person had a gun in their hand. Another, also armed with a gun, was at the back of the van. Ali said after the person banged on the van’s driver-side window, she began to hear gunshots.
The elder of the two children woke up and she turned around to grab the child to keep him calm.
“I wasn’t sure what was happening,” she said. Ali said she turned back to the window and saw the person take her mother out of the SUV.
“She was standing in front the person. I saw the person hit her on the left side of the cheek with the butt of a gun,” Ali testified.
She described the gun as being three feet long.
“I was really scared,” she said. She then ran to her mother’s bedroom where she unsuccessfully tried to call the police 999 emergency number several times.
Each time she got no response as the number was busy so Ali said she contacted Roger Ramhit, her boyfriend at the time, and shouted that there were bandits at the house. Ali said she remained in a corner of her mother’s bedroom until Coolman came into the room and told her “they” left with her mother.
“He told me okay, you can go now. They left with her.”
Ali said she left the room and got as far as the middle of the staircase before she began crying.
“I never saw my mother again after that night,” she said.
She also gave details of the lighting conditions at the house on December 16, 2006, and spoke of handing over her mother’s personal items, such as make-up, lipsticks and hairbrushes, to a Scotland Yard detective Ian Parray. She also admitted during her testimony that there was a security company which conducted hourly patrols in the Lange Park area but said she did not think of calling them when the incident took place.
“In a moment of panic the only thing I thought about was to call the police,” she said.
Ali said she did not know about the ransom calls made by her mother’s abductors and won’t know if Coolman paid part of the ransom demanded.
“I wasn’t involved in that,” she said.
She defended the time she took to call the police, saying she was scared to leave her bedroom because she did not know what was going on and called the police when she got a chance to do so.
On trial are Shervon “Buffy” Peters; Keida Garcia, Marlon “Mad Man Marlon” 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.