Witness killed in gang violence

| 07/11/2011

(CNS): The crown’s case against Cody McLaughlin (18) and Trent Bodden (30) for mugging two American tourists at Barefoot Beach in East End earlier this year hung in the balance Monday, as a result of the fatal shooting of a key witness. The testimony of 21-year-old Asher McGaw from East End was the prosecution’s main evidence against the two men but he was gunned down on John McLean Drive in September, the fifth murder victim in a spate of gang related shootings. The robbery case was adjourned after the crown read statements to the court from both the mugging victims and the police, leaving the decision over McGaw’s statement in the hands of the judge.

McLaughlin and Bodden face one count of robbery in relation to the incident, which occurred 7 February around lunch time on a remote beach in East End. The two men, along with a third co-defendant who has already pleaded guilty, are accused of confronting their victims armed with a knuckleduster and baseball bat, threatening them and then taking the man’s wallet.

The victim said in his statement that three men approached him and his wife as they sat on the beach. He stated that they all had their faces covered with T-shirts and one of the men said, “This is a stick-up … give me your money.” At the same time one of the men, who was wearing the knuckleduster, grabbed the victim around the throat.

The man gave the robbers his wallet and made it clear that neither he nor his wife had anything else for them to steal. The three men then reportedly went to the couple’s hired car and smashed the window with the baseball bat and stole a Cannon camera from the seat before they fled on foot.

The couple, who own an apartment in North Side and who were frequent visitors to the island, reported the incident to the police immediately but they were unable to identify the men as they said their faces were covered.

Several men were arrested in two separate operations by police and three men were then charged with the crime in March. Martin McLaughlin (19) pleaded guilty to his part in the mugging and is due to be sentenced on Friday. Both Bodden and Cody McLaughlin pleaded not guilty and elected to be tried by judge alone.

Although Asher McGaw had given a written statement to the police implicating the three men soon after the crime, the fatal shooting of the witness before he was due to appear in court to give that evidence publicly prevents the defence from being able to question that evidence.

Officials said that the witness's murder is unrelated to the robbery case and 18-year-old Chakame Jamelle Scott was charged with the fatal shooting of McGaw last month and is currently in custody on remand until his trial.

McGaw died from multiple gunshot wounds to his head and body, which was discovered on John McLean Drive  just behind the district clinic by a police officer on patrol in East End in the early hours of the morning on Thursday 22 September.

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