QC blames mystery accomplice

| 13/02/2010

(CNS): Robert Fortune QC told the court on Friday that his client, Larry Ricketts, was entirely innocent of the murder charge against him and was not there on the night/morning of 10/11 October when his co-defendant abducted, raped, robbed and murdered Estella Scott-Roberts with a mystery accomplice. During his closing address, Fortune insisted that the police had fabricated Ricketts’ statement in their enthusiasm to believe Henry’s accusations. Meanwhile, Ian Bourne QC told the court that his client, Kirkland Henry, was there but it was Ricketts that had killed the deceased and moved beyond the agreed parameters of their crime. (Photo courtesy of News 27 Robert Fortune QC)

As one of the Cayman Islands’ most high profile murder trials drew towards its conclusion, the two defence attorneys presented their cases to the court on Friday. At the close of their clients’ murder trial, the two men not only rebutted evidence from the prosecution as presented by Solicitor General Cheryll Richards QC, but also evidence presented by each other’s defence teams.

Ian Bourne said Ricketts had killed Scott-Roberts and his client had withdrawn from that crime as his expectation that night was to commit the serious crimes of abduction and robbery, and by inference rape, but never to kill. Bourne told the court that Henry could not have foreseen the “probability” of murder arising from their original, agreed, joint criminal enterprise, the point of law which the crown would have to prove.

He said that although violence was used to abduct Scott-Roberts, the “degree of violence was minimum” at the start of the criminal enterprise. Although Ricketts had pulled a knife and struggled with the deceased and cut her hand, Henry could not have concluded that, as a result of that, the crime was “probably” going to end in murder, he said.

“He never joined a joint enterprise that countenanced murder,” Bourne stated. “It was a last minute plan in the mind of Mr Ricketts alone.”

Bourne also stated that when Henry walked away as Ricketts committed the act of murder and then later the setting of the fire, he had indicated in the only way possible, given the location and time of the crime, that he was not any part of the killing. Henry, he said, had also told his co-defendant that it was not a good idea to kill the victim and he would not do it.

Bourne told Chief Justice Anthony Smellie, who is acting as both judge and jury, that any involvement with Ricketts and the stolen property after that time was not a sign of participation as the death had already occurred.

After a long closing address, Bourne said that the court could not be sure that Henry had been a participant in the murder or that he had any intention to kill the victim, so it must find Henry not guilty of murder.

Fortune then took to the stand and suggested that Henry would certainly have had a partner in crime that night but it was not his client, and therefore there was a mystery accomplice whom Henry, for whatever reason, did not want to name.

He pointed to the movement of one of the stolen phones and suggested that after the two men had allegedly attempted to get money from the ATM machine in George Towns, according tothe evidence from the crown and his co-defendant, half an hour later one of those phones was back in West Bay. Half an hour later it was back in George Town, according to the cell cite records. Fortune told the court that it was “highly implausible” that this ricocheting of the phone was either one of the co-defendants but it pointed to Henry’s real accomplice – a mystery person who had taken the property from the crime scene and left Henry to go collect the money from the ATM, at which point Ricketts had by chance encountered him in George Town around 6am.

However, during the trial the court had not heard any evidence of where Henry had gone once he claimed he left Ricketts in George Town at the Elgin Avenue Cayman National Bank at around 6:20 in the morning, but evidence had been put forward that Henry had access to his work van that weekend.

Fortune said the movement of the phone supported his clients’ claim that he was innocent and, as a result the attorney spent a considerable time presenting the possibility to the judge. He also told the court that, while the accusation against the police officers that they had fabricated Ricketts’ statement was an uncomfortable one for the court to consider, he said it had a duty to do so.

Ricketts’ defence attorney said the police had erred when they took Henry’s accusations that Ricketts was his accomplice at face value and had not viewed his statement with a critical eye. He said the pressure to solve such a high profile case led them to seize on the confession and conclude that Ricketts, an innocent man the attorney claimed, must be guilty because Henry had named him. Having done that they then fabricated the statement as they genuinely believed Ricketts was the accomplice.

Fortune said that the statement was concocted as a result of the information being fed to the two officers interviewing Ricketts by the two officers interviewing Henry, and information had also come to them from other sources within the investigation, essentially accusing several senior police officers in the RCIPS of entirely fabricating a statement of an innocent man.

“I know it is a distasteful allegation to make and I am not suggesting they would have picked anyone at random and made up a statement,” Fortune told the court. “I think they all believed Mr Rciketts was guilty. By taking Henry’s statement at face value they allowed themselves to fall into error.” Under so much pressure, he said, the police were “cruelly deceived by Mr Henry”.

He insisted that his client’s account of the night was true and that he had signed the confession as a result of the confusion and misunderstanding of a young man who had never been in trouble before. He said that contrary to the accusations of the crown and the co-defence, his client’s case was highly implausible; it was, in fact, implausible to imagine a cold killer would make such a clean breast of it, rolling over and confessing to a heinous crime on his arrest and then decide to make up a pack of lies on coming to court.

He said his client’s comment that he had heard about the murder in his workplace the morning before the car was discovered could have been a genuine error, as the men were talking of the crime when he went to work on the Monday, as Ricketts’ boss had confirmed, Fortune told the court, adding that he testified that during the conversation Ricketts’ demeanour had never changed.

Fortune also pointed to Ricketts’ calm and polite manner on the witnesses stand, how he had answered every question courteously.  As Fortune made his closing address, Ricketts sat impassively staring into the middle distance, as he had throughout the entire proceedings. Fortune summarised his closing speech by telling the judge that there were serious questions surrounding the guilt of his client, and that if the judge could not be sure the verdict had to be not guilty.

The chief justice thanked the attorneys and told them he would hand down his ruling next Friday.

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