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Pregnant daughter wilts on stand...
The pressure of reliving the memory of
her mother s kidnapping almost proved too
much for the daughter of murdered central
businesswoman Vindra Naipaul-Coolman
yesterday and she lost her composure several
times while being cross-examined.
Risha Ali, who shared her mother s Lange
Park, Chaguanas, home with her three children
and her stepfather, Rennie Coolman, spent a
little over two hours in the witness box,
explaining what she saw while peeking through
a second-storey window on the night of the
While Ali seemed calm and collected while
being led through her witness statement by
special state prosecutor Israel Khan, SC, her
mood noticeably changed when defence attor-
neys came to cross-examine her.
Several of the questions involving her rela-
tionship with her stepfather were met with
Coolman is listed as the next witness to
testify in the trial, which resumes this morning.
Asked about Coolman s occupation yester-
day, Ali could only say he was a tutor at a ter-
tiary institute but could not say where he
was currently employed.
"That is not my business. He was not mind-
ing me," Ali said.
Defence attorney Ulric Skerritt was also
given a series of short answers when he began
suggesting she was romantically involved with
Skerritt asked: "Did you not have private
"No that is not my husband," Ali said in a
sharp, defensive tone.
Attorney Mario Merritt, who is representing
two of the dozen men on trial for Naipaul-
Coolman s murder, also asked Ali if she was
aware that Coolman had been extorted by
someone into paying money to avoid being
prosecuted in the case.
"I only know what I read in the newspapers,"
The series of questions left Ali visibly frus-
trated, prompting her to make an outburst
against the attorneys.
"I am not well. I am pregnant. I can t handle
any pressure right now. I am trying my best,"
Ali said, before Justice Malcolm Holdip inter-
vened to warn the defence attorneys to contain
their questions to those relevant to the case.
During her testimony, Ali told the 12-mem-
ber jury and six alternates that on December
19, 2006, she was in an upstairs bedroom at
her family s Radix Road, Lange Park, home
when she heard her mother s SUV pull into
Ali said she looked outside when she heard
a man arguing with her mother. As she peered
through a window, she said she saw a man
standing next to her mother, pointing a gun
Ali said the man hit her mother in the face
with the gun and then she heard a series of
At that point, she said, she grabbed her
youngest child and went to her mother s bed-
room from where she called the police.
Ali said when she realised that the police
emergency number was busy, she decided to
call her boyfriend, a labourer. She said she
hid in a corner of the room until Coolman
came into the room and told her that the men
had taken Naipaul-Coolman and left.
Ali said the only thing Coolman told her
after coming into the room was: "You could
come out now, they left with your mom."
Asked about her apparent delay before con-
tacting police when she realised her mother
was being attacked, Ali said she was too fright-
ened to act.
"I was not sure if these people was going
to come into the house to hurt me and my
children," Ali said.
Also taking the witness stand yesterday was
the family s former live-in housekeeper
Rasheedan Yacoob, who was downstairs with
Coolman when his wife was being kidnapped.
Yacoob explained that when she first heard
the commotion between her employer and
her kidnappers, she looked through an open
door, secured by a metal gate.
She saw two strange men near Naipaul-
Coolman s car, but said she could not identify
them or what they were wearing because of
poor lighting in the yard.
Yacoob said on hearing the gunshots, Cool-
man, who was sitting near her, grabbed his
phone to make a call.
Yacoob was stopped before she could reveal
the details of Coolman s conversation as this
was deemed hearsay by Holdip.
At the end of yesterday s hearing, both Ali
and Yacoob were relieved from attending fur-
I can't handle pressure now
The dozen men before the jury and
Justice Malcolm Holdip are: Allan "Scanny"
Martin, twin brothers Shervon and Devon
Peters, siblings Keida and Jamille Garcia
and their older brother Anthony Dwayne
Gloster, 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 from sickle-cell
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
The prosecution team includes Senior
Counsel Israel Khan, Gilbert Peterson and
Dana Seetahal, who are being assisted by
senior state prosecutor Joy Balkaran.
Risha Ali is assisted into her car by chief investigator, Inspector Michael Veronique, left,
outside the Hall of Justice, Port-of-Spain, yesterday, after testifying in the murder trial of her
mother, Xtra Foods chief executive officer Vindra Naipaul-Coolman. Inset: Rasheedan Yacoob,
the former live-in housekeeper who witnessed the kidnapping of her employer Naipaul-
Coolman. PHOTO: MICHEAL BRUCE.
WHO'S IN COURT
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