The facility at San Fernando Hill. –
WOMAN police constable Nicole Clement admitted she signed a report on the killing of three Moruga friends in 2011 knowing it was false.
That report was the initial report the seven officers involved in the fatal police shooting on July 22, 2011, were required to give about the incident.
Clement was one of those officers. She and her colleagues Sgt Khemraj Sahadeo, along with PCs Ronald Riveiro, Glenn Singh, Roger Nicholas, Safraz Juman and Antonio Ramadhin were initially charged with the murders of Abigail Johnson, 23, Alana Duncan, 28, and Kerron “Fingers” Eccles.
However, the three murder charges against her were discontinued in 2012, after she was given immunity by the Director of Public Prosecutions to turn State witness and testify against the six.
The six are now facing a judge and 12-member jury in the Port of Spain High Court for the murders and Clement has since said she “would not be giving evidence” at the trial.
On Monday, Clement was deemed a hostile witness by trial judge Carla Brown-Antoine and the reading of the testimony she gave at the Princes Town magistrates court at the preliminary inquiry into the murders has started after which she will be further questioned by lead prosecutor Gilbert Peterson, SC, and the defence team of Israel Khan, SC, and Ulric Skerrit.
On Tuesday, Clement returned as scores of pages of her testimony were read. The only time she spoke was to recite the affirmation of the truthfulness of her evidence.
It was during her cross-examination by Khan at the preliminary inquiry that Clement spoke about the “one squad, one song” police culture indoctrinated from “training at the barracks.” She said she knew the report she signed was not true but said she did so because it was “normal police culture.”
“Everyone sticks together…That is how we were trained to corroborate and write one report. That is the way we were trained. When something happens, we corroborate and write one report so our story will be along the same lines.”
According to her testimony at the inquiry, it was while she was on remand on the three murder charges, that she gave three statements to the police.
Clement also said the murder charges against her were “false.”
“I did nothing to be charged with three counts of murder.”
She also said she did not give the three statements so the DPP could drop the charges against her but because it was the “truth.”
After the charges were discontinued, she was charged with conspiracy to pervert the course of justice. She was then questioned by Khan on the conditions of the immunity she received.
Earlier in her testimony, she again spoke of the “second” crime scene where, according to her, two of the three friends who survived the “gunfight” at Barrackpore, were taken and shot.
While leaving the lonely gravel road off the M2 Ring Road, she said Riveiro exclaimed, “Oh f— doh tell me I shoot the tyre,” since one of the tyres was wobbling. He determined it was a stone.
Some 20 minutes later, they then put the sirens on and treated it as an emergency while they made their way to the Princes Town health facility.
She also said, while there, Singh exclaimed, “Like the f—— man eh want to dead.”
While at the health facility, Clement said she was “horrified” since she believed the victims’ family, who had already gathered there, would attack them as they had already started to hurl abuses at them. She said she refused to go into the examination room and also spoke of a relative of the man taking a four-year-old child to see his body.
Later, she said one of her colleagues assured, “Don’t worry, they fixing up everything,” meaning the Homicide Division “will fix up for police in police shootings.”
That night, Clement said she slept on the floor at home. The next day, the seven officers were given seven days’ leave after meeting with a social worker.
“I felt I was going crazy at home and needed to talk to someone.”
She spoke to her pastor.
Days later, she reported to the robbery squad at the San Fernando Police Station where she and the six others were assigned.
She said Singh and Sahadeo drew sketches but she did not understand the adjustments made. They met again at the robbery squad offices where she said she signed the report prepared for her “knowing it was incorrect.”
In her testimony, Clement spoke of the team meeting on at least two occasions at the San Fernando Hill to draw sketches of the adjusted crime scene which, she again said, she did not understand.
She said on one of those occasions, Singh told her Special Branch officers were going to meet with them but would question her since she was considered the weakest link.
Clement said she started rejecting his phone calls because she felt they were taking her for a ride.
She also said two of her colleagues were planning a trip to Tobago during their time off and she told them she did not think having a Tobago lime at that time was a good idea.
Also at the inquiry, Clement said she was told acting deputy commissioner of police Raymond Craig, the lead investigator in the murders, was “assisting them” and “they will organise for the file to go missing” if an inquest was ordered into the murders of the three friends.
Singh, she said, kept saying, “Give it time, it will work out,” while Riveiro said the commissioner “wouldn’t want to lock up seven police officers.”
Questioned by Khan, Clement said when she and her colleagues left the station that night, it was her belief they were going on a lawful exercise.
In earlier testimony, she said they were on the lookout for a man named Shumba James who was allegedly wanted for a double murder and who was said to be carrying two AK47 rifles in a white Nissan B15.
The three friends were in that car when it was shot at by the officers at the corner of Gunnes Trace and Rochard Douglas Road, Barrackpore. James was the intended target and had previously been in the car since Duncan was his common-law wife and they had gone bar hopping before deciding to go to Barrackpore for barbeque. Shortly before the incident, he met two other friends and drove in their car.
Clement admitted she took cover behind one of the police vehicles when the shooting started after Ramadhin shouted, “Look the vehicle.”
She then ran out from behind the vehicle and opened fire “in the direction of the white car.” Clement said she could not say if she hit the vehicle or anybody with the MP5 automatic weapon she was carrying.
She also did not see or hear where the earlier shots were coming from.
In response to Khan, Clement said they did not go to kill anybody, but went there to do their lawful duty.
She also said at that time, she was under the impression their lives were under threat. It was when they left the first crime scene and vehicles diverted from conveying the three to the hospital, the “lies began.”
Clement will again return to court on Wednesday as the trial continues. Also appearing for the six police officers is attorney Arissa Maharaj. Also appearing for the State are Elaine Greene, Giselle Ferguson-Heller and Katiesha Ambrose-Persadsingh.