Tue | Jul 23, 2024
Keith Clarke Murder Trial

Forensic investigator defends handling of crime scene

Published:Thursday | June 20, 2024 | 12:51 AMTanesha Mundle/Staff Reporter
Keith Clarke
Keith Clarke

A crime scene forensic investigator who collected evidence and photographed the scene at Keith Clarke’s home following his shooting death in May 2010 yesterday denied that he had been incompetent and unprofessional in his duties.

The detective corporal, who has been on the witness stand since Tuesday, facing questions from the defence, disagreed with suggestions from King’s Counsel Peter Champagnie that he did a “poor job” at the scene and has been “most unhelpful in what he did that day”.

“My suggestion to you, sir, is that in relation to how you dealt with this scene and your role, you did not act with the highest level of professionalism in terms of what your training requires,” Champagnie said.

“Yes, sir, I did,” the witness replied.

The witness, who repeatedly stated “I can’t recall” to several questions asked by the defence, also denied that there were many things that he had forgotten.

However, he maintained that he acted exclusively on the instructions of the crime-scene manager, Inspector Victor Mendez, now deceased. The witness accepted that because he was being supervised, he was not able to exercise any independent professionalism on the scene.

Champagnie is representing Lance Corporal Odel Buckley, one of three soldiers charged with Clarke’s murder, and is currently being tried in the Home Circuit Court.

Red Stripe beer bottles

The detective corporal, who visited the scene at Kirkland Close in Red Hills, St Andrew, hours after the 63-year-old was killed, said in a statement, which was read into evidence, that he found 572 M16 spent shells, one M16 magazine with 30 live rounds, nine 9mm spent shells, five .38 cartridges, six canisters, and numerous brown stains resembling blood.

The witness, who also took more than 1,000 photographs, said he also collected eight Red Stripe beer bottles at the scene and that the bottles were examined for fingerprints, but no prints were found.

However, during cross-examination, the witness agreed that there were several other Red Stripe bottles scattered across the premises. At the same time, he said he could not recall if any was tested for DNA or fingerprints.

Asked if he had caused any testing to be done on the bottles, he said that that was not his duty.

He also indicated that he had not organised for any of the bottles to be tested for fingerprints.

The witness, during further questioning, admitted that he had written his three statements long after taking the photographs and that up to two years after the incident, he was still writing about the photographs.

The witness’s competence also came under scrutiny from attorney-at-law Linton Gordon, who is representing Private Arnold Henry.

Gordon also questioned the witness about taking DNA samples of the bottles and was told that he could not have taken them on his own initiative and that he was never instructed to do so.

The witness also stated that he did not take any fingerprints of the door knob in the basement or any door knobs in the house. Neither did he take any photographs of the cupboards above the closet in the master bedroom or pictures of the top of the closet.

The investigator maintained that he did only what he was told.

Asked whether he had taken any photographs of the bushy area at the rear of the premises leading down to the main road, the witness said he had not, while admitting that it would have been useful.

At the same time, he rejected a suggestion that if he had not failed to photograph the bushy area, it would have assisted with a fuller understanding of the matter.

Killed in bedroom

Clarke was killed inside his master bedroom during a police-military operation aimed at nabbing then fugitive Christopher ‘Dudus’ Coke, who was wanted in the United States on drugs and weapons charges.

The defence’s case is that Coke and seven to eight of his heavily armed cronies were camping out in the basement of Clarke’s home when the security forces swooped down. The defence is contending that Dudus and his men used the bushy area at the back of the house as an escape route.

Clarke’s widow and daughter, however, have maintained that there was no one hiding in their basement. They insisted that they were the only ones home that night.

They both testified that Clarke was shot by soldiers while climbing down from the closet inside the master bedroom with his back turned to the soldiers.

tanesha.mundle@gleanerjm.com