Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : March 3rd 2015 Contents DEREK ACHONG
The trial of 12 men accused of murdering
businesswoman Vindra Naipaul-Coolman
took a dramatic turn yesterday after the
State s main witness attempted to recant
on statements he allegedly gave police in
While the move may have left some
members of public in court at the time in
shock, it came as no surprise to prosecutors,
defence attorneys and even the accused,
who all seemed to be well prepared for the
In fact, minutes before Keon Gloster was
due to take the witness stand in the Port-
of-Spain Second Criminal Court, defence
attorney Mario Merritt raised a last-ditched
procedural application questioning his men-
tal capacity to give evidence.
While presiding Judge Malcolm Holdip
noted that Gloster s medical records showed
he had psychological "issues" caused by his
epileptic condition, he said that was not
sufficient to preclude him from giving evi-
dence in the trial.
"This does not diminish his capacity to
testify under oath and remember things
relevant to the proceedings," Holdip said as
he dismissed the application.
Despite the assurance, Merritt s concern
quickly became evident as Gloster was led
into the court and asked to chose a holy
book to swear the oath.
"I is not a Muslim," Gloster said loudly
as he fumbled while grabbing a Bible from
a court marshal.
After pausing repeatedly while answering
basic questions on his age, address and edu-
cational background, Gloster was asked by
lead prosecutor Israel Khan whether he had
given a series of statements on Naipaul-
Coolman s murder to police.
"No, I never gave any statement," Gloster,
who suffers from a speech impediment,
Even as he was shown copies of the
alleged statements, which have already been
tendered into evidence, Gloster maintained
"I can t remember signing any statement.
I swear to Almighty God I am telling you
the honest truth," he said, as he shook his
Gloster s repeated denial did not appear
to frustrate Khan, who simply kept rephras-
ing his question while throwing in several
seemingly unrelated ones.
Khan asked: "Do you know what is a pig
"I never see one in my life," Gloster, who
said he could not read but could write,
While he had no luck in getting Gloster
to change his position, Khan did get him to
identify each of the 12 accused men by
name, although he (Gloster) claimed he
could not remember some of their nick-
"They is all my family. They grow me up
from small," Gloster said.
Tuesday, March 3, 2015 www.guardian.co.tt Guardian
Gloster, who is related to almost all the
accused men either by blood or marriage and
lives in the same community in Upper La Puerta,
Diego Martin, was allegedly present when
Naipaul-Coolman was killed. He was 17 years old
at the time.
His alleged statements to police and several
pieces of circumstantial evidence recovered
during raids of the accused men's homes form
the majority of the State's evidence in the case.
Yesterday's hearing was not the first time the
quality of Gloster's evidence was questioned
since the trial began almost a year ago.
While being cross-examined last year,
Homicide detective Inspector Suzette Martin,
who reportedly interviewed Gloster, was accused
of coercing the statements from him. Martin also
admitted that some of the statements were
recorded shortly after Gloster was taken to
hospital when he suffered a severe bout of
epileptic fits while in police custody.
Naipaul-Coolman, the former CEO of her
family's supermarket chain, Xtra Foods, was
abducted from her home at Lange Park,
Chaguanas, on December 19, 2006. A $122,000
ransom was paid by her family but she was not
released and her body has never been found.
Prosecutors are contending she was held
captive at a house in the Diego Martin
community for several days before she was shot
dead, dismembered and her body parts disposed
of.When asked yesterday whether he knew the
small red brick house identified by investigators
as the location of the murder, Gloster said yes
but said he did not reveal any details of the
He did agree with Khan that several of the
accused men used to live in the two-room house,
with the others visiting occasionally to play pool.
Khan is expected to refer to the details
contained in the alleged witness statements
when Gloster's testimony resumes tomorrow.
I signed no statement
WHO'S IN COURT
The 12 men before the jury and
Justice Malcolm Holdip are Allan
"Scanny" Martin, twin brothers Shervon
and Devon Peters, their older brother
Anthony Dwayne Gloster, siblings Keida
and Jamille Garcia, brothers Marlon and
Earl Trimmingham, Ronald Armstrong,
Antonio Charles, Joel Fraser and Lyndon
James. A 13th man, Raphael Williams,
was charged with the crime but died in
prison in 2011 of complications arising
from sickle cell anaemia.
Witness deals state's case big blow...
Their legal team includes Ulric Skerritt, Joseph
Pantor, Selwyn Mohammed, Lennox Sankersingh,
Ian Brooks, Wayne Sturge, Mario Merritt, Richard
Valere, Kwesi Bekoe, Colin Selvon, Vince Charles,
Christian Chandler, Delicia Helwig and Alexia
Romero. The prosecution team includes Senior
Counsel Israel Khan and Gilbert Peterson who are
being assisted by senior state prosecutors Joy
Balkaran and Kelly Thompson.
for 02ND MARCH, 2015
State witness in the Vindra Naipaul-Coolman murder trial Keon Gloster leaves the Hall of
Justice, Port-of-Spain, yesterday, after appearing at the trial. PHOTO: ABRAHAM DIAZ
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