Jury hears brutal details

| 16/07/2009

(CNS): Against a backdrop of accusations hurled at the police for either conspiracy or incompetence the jury was reminded, on Wednesday, of the gruesome nature of the murder of Brian Rankine-Carter on 17 May 2008. On the final day of the Crown’s case against William Martinez-McLaughlin, who is charged with the murder, the court heard from a number of expert witnesses, including a DNA witness who explained his findings which connected McLaughlin and Hinds to the scene, as well as the pathologist who had completed the post mortem on the young man’s body. Dr Bruce Hyma told the court that some 48 wounds were inflicted on Rankin-Carter, including one which almost severed his spinal cord  in two.

The doctor gave a detailed account of each of the wounds, which consisted of 22 puncture wounds mainly around the neck and head and then some 26 various chop and incise wounds to the upper body and arms. He explained how six overlapping chop wounds to the right side of the neck resulted in a gaping wound nine by two inches where the Carotid artery and jugular vein, as well as the spinal cord had been cut through almost severing it in two. The doctor also described many other severe wounds, including one chop wound to the head which had penetrated the brain tissue as well as chop wounds amputating the ear lobe. He said that Rankine-Carter’s jaw and arm bone were also crushed as a result of the chop wounds.

He said the cause of death was multiple chop wounds to the head and neck. He noted that because the body had suffered numerous chopping, crushing as well as incise injuries, the murder weapon was likely to be something like a machete, an axe or a meat clever – a weapon that was both sharp and blunt. He told the jury that the puncture wounds, which were mostly superficial wounds, were probably made with something akin to a scratch-all (a tool for scratching metal surfaces) or an ice pick.    

The Doctor revealed to the court that a piece of the vertebrae from the victim was saved from the autopsy. He explained that because of the severity of the chopping tool marks were left on the bone which he preserved for evidence purposes should a potential weapon be found, enabling a tool mark expert to make a match. During the cross examination McLaughlin’s defence attorney took the opportunity once again to highlight that there had never been a weapon for any expert to make comparisons.

The morning’s DNA expert, Dr John Farris from Cayman’s own laboratory, took the jury through his findings and confirmed that DNA matches had been made on the cap found at the murder scene with McLaughlin and Rankine, as well as the defendant’s boots, which were discovered in bushes near the defendant’s house in East End. He said McLaughlin’s wallet, which was taken from him when he was arrested, also contained blood which matched the victim.

He said that matches had also been made to Rankine on the boots and clothes of the principal witness Jason Hinds. However, the expert said he had only confirmed the presence of blood sufficient to make a full DNA profile which matched with Rankine on Hinds’ T-shirt in one place despite making some five tests to different areas. The DNA expert also confirmed that he had received two late exhibits for testing last week, including the machete found at the house of Jason Hinds, which he said did not reveal traces of blood. He also stated that the jeans McLaughlin was wearing on his arrest were also tested last week but had not revealed any blood.

During the day’s testimony the jury was also read a number of other admissionsfrom various technical witnesses, as well as a written admission from Ronnie Pollard, the RCIPS scene’s of crime officer who had allegedly videoed Hinds’ visits to the crime scene and the scenes where he had told police that McLaughlin had disposed of various items connected to the crime. In the admission Pollard says that although he searched high and low for the video, it could not be found and he admits that it could well have been tapped over during the filming of another murder scene which occurred within a few days following the Rankine murder.

The jury also heard that DCS Lauriston Burton, who was taken ill during his testimony on Tuesday would not be returning to the stand as he was in hospital. However his notes were submitted in evidence and an admission was read by the defence regarding the machete taken from Hinds’ house enabling the machete to be formally submitted in evidence. The defence also noted a mistake to the jury in the statement taken by Burton from Hinds which was initialled by him.

At the end of the day’s proceedings the Crown told Justice Henderson that its case was complete and the trial was adjourned until 10:00am Thursday morning when the defence is expected to proceed.

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