Thu | Jun 20, 2024
KEITH CLARKE MURDER TRIAL

Daughter insists she is telling truth amid clash of narratives

Published:Tuesday | June 11, 2024 | 12:11 AMAinsworth Morris/Staff Reporter
The St Andrew home in which Keith Clarke was shot dead during an operation by the security forces in May 2010.
The St Andrew home in which Keith Clarke was shot dead during an operation by the security forces in May 2010.

Britney Clarke pushed back against a suggestion that she was a liar on Monday as she insisted that there were no gunmen at her parents’ house on the day her father, Keith Clarke, was killed and maintained that it was members of the security forces who shot him.

A week after she first took to the witness stand, Britney was being cross-examined in the Home Circuit Court in downtown Kingston by Valerie Neita-Robertson, KC; Peter Champagnie, KC; and defence attorney Linton Gordon.

Three soldiers – lance corporals Greg Tingling, Odel Buckley, and Private Arnold Henry – were implicated in Clarke’s death and are currently being tried for his murder.

While questioning Britney about the Red Stripe beer bottles captured in photographic evidence lying around the house, with eight on a coffee table, one on a step, and others outside on the front of their perimeter wall, Britney insisted that Christopher ‘Dudus’ Coke, who was wanted for extradition to the United States at the time, was not at their house on the night of the deadly raid.

After showing her the evidence on a screen, Champagnie asked, “Do you still maintain that these beer bottles were not there on the day when you were leaving the house [after Keith Clarke was killed]?”

Britney responded: “Yes, sir, I do. Do I get an opportunity to explain now or no?”

Champagnie then charged, “And when you say so, are you being truthful?” to which she responded, “Yes, Mr Champagnie. Yes, Sir.”

“You are lying. You’re lying,” the attorney said before insisting that an explanation was not needed by the witness.

“Oh, you don’t want me to explain? Okay,” she said.

Champagnie then asked her to count the bottles on the coffee table in the photographic evidence. She mistakenly answered four, while the photograph showed eight bottles. The number led the defence attorney to suggest that, perhaps, seven to eight persons were around the table.

“Have you ever put your signature to a document stating that at no time the deceased – your father that is – hosted Christopher Coke and/or seven to eight heavily armed gunmen?” Champagnie asked.

“No, that is absurd. I don’t know what you’re reading and there’s nothing like that. That is far from the truth,” Britney responded.

ABSURD ACCUSATION

He then asked the clerk of the court to hand a document bearing her signature to the witness.

She did not directly respond with “yes” or “no”, but said his suggestion was far from the truth.

“Having seen the document, do you still maintain that that is absurd? Yes or no? Simple,” Champagnie insisted.

The witness responded with a mumble and then said, “I was saying”, as Champagnie interjected, “Can’t hear you.”

“The way how it was phrased,” Britney then said, before being interrupted by Champagnie with, “No, not the way, Madam. Not the way! Not the way! It’s a simple, simple question, Ms Britney Clarke, do you still maintain that it is absurd?”

“Yes, the accusation is absurd. Yes, the accusation you are putting against my family is absurd ... . I am telling the truth, and the whole truth. God spared my life to be here today to tell the truth about what occurred and I’m here doing what needs to be done, speaking the truth,” she responded.

The witness was again asked for the exact spot where she was when her father was shot, whether she was in the master bedroom’s bathroom or the bedroom itself. She said that she was in the bedroom and witnessed her father being shot by members of the security forces.

As he continued the cross-examination, Champagnie asked Britney if she saw her father with a licensed firearm during the May 2010 incident, to which she responded in the affirmative. He then asked whether he had asked her mother to go back into the bathroom and close the door; she agreed, but took a while to clearly state where she saw him with the firearm before that and after her father’s instructions to her mother.

Britney also agreed that she went into the bathroom with her mother and closed the door, but further in the proceedings, said she saw her father being shot.

Linton Gordon, who is representing Henry, continued the cross-examination, suggesting to the witness that her father was shot elsewhere in the room from where she described.

Spotlighting another photograph of the master bedroom, Gordon asked how her father was positioned when he was shot and whether she was indeed in the room or the bathroom and that time when she stated that the security forces stormed into the room.

“He was at the window, descending [from atop the closet] ... . He was facing the window coming down,” she said.

“I am suggesting to you, Ma’am, that your father was not at the window when he was shot. And I’m further suggesting to you that because he was not shot at the window, that’s why the window is not broken. I’m suggesting to you that you never saw where your father was when he got shot,” Gordon responded.

“Yes, Sir. He was at the window when he was shot. I saw him at the window ... . I certainly did, Sir. Unfortunately, I was made to witness that. You weren’t there, so you can’t tell,” the witness fired back.

Also brought into evidence during the cross-examination was the photograph and burnt mark on the wall of a bomb which would have exploded in the room and affected all occupants at the time before the security forces entered.

The defence also charged that at the time of the incident, the house did not have a front gate or a massive wall from the road, which gave easy access to the road, should gunmen want to escape easily.

The defence, however, is contending that Coke and a group of gunmen were in the basement of the Clarkes’ home on the night and had fired at the security forces before escaping in bushes at the back of the premises.

Clarke, a 63-year-old chartered accountant at the time, was shot 21 times during the raid at his home on May 27, 2010.

Neita-Robertson represents Tingling, while Champagnie represents Buckley and Gordon represents Henry.

ainsworth.morris@gleanerjm.com