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I loved Vindra, dearly

By JADA LOUTOO Wednesday, April 16 2014

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MURDERED: Vindra Naipaul-Coolman...
MURDERED: Vindra Naipaul-Coolman...

RENNIE Coolman, husband of murdered businesswoman Vindra Naipaul-Coolman yesterday admitted he loved his wife dearly and his life was turned upside down when she was snatched away in December 2006.

Coolman’s admission came during the end of his third day of cross examination by lawyers for the 12 men on trial for murdering the Xtra Foods chief executive officer. 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.

Coolman, who is the prosecution’s sixth witness in the trial, was cross examined by four defence attorneys, representing Keida Garcia, Marlon Trimmingham, Earl Trimmingham, Ronald Armstrong and Antonio Charles.

He was already questioned by Kwesi Bekoe, who was fired by his client Shervon Peters, but remains amicus curiae (a friend of the court) by order of Justice Malcolm Holdip to treat with issues relating to law in Peters’ case.

Under cross examination by Charles’ attorney Ian Brooks, Coolman admitted he loved his wife dearly. He also said he was traumatised by the incident. Each of the four attorneys questioned Coolman on his earlier admission that he paid $75,000 to a woman to ensure he would not be charged with his wife’s murder.

Coolman also testified that after his wife’s death he came into an inheritance from her estate, although he was not questioned further on the issue. On being cross examined by defence attorney Mario Merritt, Coolman said at the time of the incident, he earned $32,000, while at the University of Trinidad and Tobago, where he was campus coordinator.

Merritt: You were working for $32,000 yet you were strapped for cash?

Coolman: I didn’t say I was strapped for cash.

Merritt: You didn’t offer one month’s salary toward your wife’s freedom? What prevented you from offering one month’s salary?

Coolman: Nothing prevented me.

Questioned by Marlon Trimmingham’s lawyer Selwyn Mohammed, Coolman said he did not know what was the ransom paid, but was told it was $122,000. He admitted to Earl Trimmingham’s attorney Colin Selvon he had a responsibility for his wife’s well being and safety and would have had the authority to veto any decision made by the police and his brother-in-law Ryan Naipaul, who was pretending to be him during telephone conversations with Naipaul-Coolman’s kidnappers.

Coolman was asked about the decision to have his brother-in-law pretend to be him and said he felt it would have been better than him taking that responsibility himself. Questioned about the phone calls that came from his wife’s mobile phone, Selvon focused mainly on the last two phone calls received sometime in mid-February 2007.

In one of the calls, the caller volunteered to have Naipaul-Coolman speak to her relatives. “The caller hung up and called back three hours later,” Coolman said when he gave evidence two Thursdays ago. When the caller called back, Coolman said, “I heard a voice that appeared to be Vindra’s voice.”

He said the voice said, “I am Vindra Naipaul-Coolman. I am injured.”

“Ryan said ‘Vindra, Vindra this is Rennie are you okay? There was no response.

The person hung up and called back a few minutes later. Ryan indicated that it did not appear to be Vindra...that it appeared to be a recording’.”

He told Selvon the voice appeared to be a recording. He said having heard what appeared to be his wife’s voice and based on the conversation he could not assume she was alive at that time.

Selvon: Having heard the voice did you consider the possibility that Vindra was still alive?

Coolman: Based on the conversation I could not assume she was alive.

Coolman testified that he did not consider asking the kidnappers how much they wanted for his wife’s safe return, saying he relied on the expertise of the Anti-Kidnapping Squad officers who were at the house at the time.

Coolman was again asked about his earlier testimony under cross examination by Bekoe, who asked why he did not call police “999” emergency. He said his first reaction was to contact the Anti- Kidnapping Squad (AKS), and he did not consider anything further than that.

He told Merritt he called AKS not because he knew his wife was kidnapped, but because it was the number given to him by his step-daughter’s friend. Questioned about the first few lines of his statement in which he said he knew his wife was abducted, Coolman said he was not sure that those were the exact words he told police.

He said what he told police was subsequently reduced into writing. He said he told the police that his wife had been taken. He was again questioned as to why he did not call “999” yet called the Anti Kidnapping Squad.

Coolman said it was based on what he told his step-daughter’s friend, that he was given the number, which happened to be for the AKS. The trial continues today.

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