Witness betrayed by robbers

| 23/04/2013

CNB robbery_0.jpg(CNS): The crown’s key witness and co-conspirator in the Cayman National Bank robbery last June appeared in Grand Court last week and told a 12 person jury how he and the five men currently on trial for the daylight heist pulled off the crime. Marlon Hudson Dillon explained that he had pleaded guilty and confessed to the crime because he felt betrayed by his friends, who had used his car as a getaway vehicle, which led to his arrest. He expressed genuine remorse and said he had cooperated with the RCIPS because he knew that what he did was wrong when he and the five accused held up the bank and stole over $500,000.

Dillon is a protected witness and the crown’s principal source of evidence against the five defendants, who have all denied being part of the robbery. He told the court that a female bank manager at the CNB branch in 2011 had initially asked Ryan Edwards, one of the defendants, to commit the robbery because she had wanted to buy a house. Although the police arrested a female employee following the daylight robbery, she was never charged with any crime.

Dillon said, however, that it was with her help that Edwards had organized the heist, along with co-accused David Tamassa. Dillon said he knew four of the five defendants and had spent a considerable amount of time with them at Tamassa's house and other places.

While giving his evidence, Dillon revealed that the robbers were unable to execute the heist in 2011 because Edwards had asked a CNB security guard what he thought about robbing the bank. Hearing this, Tamassa became enraged, telling Edwards that his actions were unnecessary and foolish because everything was organized with the female bank manager. As the guard had most likely told his boss, it would not be very intelligent of them to carry on with the plans.

In the days leading up to what turned out to be the rescheduled robbery, Dillon received many phone calls from his friend Andre Burton, another one of the defendants, as well as Tamassa, asking him to meet them. But on the Tuesday before the robbery he had been at work and refused to answer any calls. Then the next day, which was the day before the robbery, he took his wife out as it was their day off from work.

At around 8 o'clock on Thursday 28 June, Dillon said he got out of bed and went to visit his friends who were still trying to contact him.

"I was worried because David kept trying to get me out of my yard," he told the court. When he arrived at Tamassa's home, he said, George Mignot, another co-defendant, was there and the men said that they were going to commit the Cayman National Bank robbery that day.

Dillon explained that Tamassa had given Burton the role of getaway driver in a white Honda Civic, which would meet the robbers behind Grand Pavilion after the heist. George Mignot along with Dillon would enter the bank with Ryan Edwards and commit the robbery.

"He told me not to worry about anything and that everything was already organized," Dillon said.

As he gave his evidence to the court, Dillon said he and Mignot left Tamassa’s house in West Bay to pick up Burton from South Sound. They then drove to Safe Haven Drive, where Dillon saw a man parked in a white panel van, who he learned was Rennie Cole, the fifth man now on trial, along with Edwards, who was in the driver’s seat of a white Toyota Windham.

Dillon told the court that he had never met or seen Cole before that day but was made to understand that he would be the "bait" and distract the security guard while he, Edwards and Mignot ran into the bank.

"Me and George got out of my Chevrolet Equinox and I left my key in the ignition and Andre in my passenger seat," he said, explaining that they then got into the Windham.

The jury also heard that whilst at Safe Haven Drive, Edwards told the men that he had spoken to the female bank manager who was helping them and she had given him directions into the vault as well as pressured him to hurry up because she could not delay the armoured truck due to transport the vault money to the main branch at Elgin Avenue.

Dillon told the court that he was uncomfortable with doing the robbery and asked Edwards to call it off as they drove to the Buckingham Square branch. "He told me I have to do the robbery because I know the plans for robbing the bank and if I don't do it I would be able to snitch," Dillon told the court.

He said that it was at that point he knew he was about to be involved and was in fear of his life because Mignot was sitting next to him with what was reported to be Tamassa’s shotgun in his lap. Edwards had a handgun nearby, which Dillon identified as belonging to Tamassa's friend, and Dillon told the crown counsel that he could not see a way out of it.

Dillon also admitted that he had not gone equipped for a robbery and that Edwards had provided him with construction gear, including a dust mask to cover his face, as his fellow robbers had done. He added that they followed behind Cole in the white panel van the entire way up to the bank. The plan on arrival was to run into the bank as soon as Cole had walked in as the bait, Dillon revealed.

At some time after 9am they arrived and Mignot ran in behind Cole and commanded the customers, staff and security guard to lay on the ground while Dillon got money from the tellers and Edwards jumped over the counters and robbed the vault. The court heard that Edwards had become stuck behind a door when he was trying to get back into the customer lobby and Mignot was telling themto hurry because the guards were calling out.

In his evidence, Dillon said that he took Edwards' overflowing money bag along with his own and began to flee from the bank with his friends, only to be blocked by the delayed armoured truck driver. The men then fled the scene on foot along the Esterly Tibbetts Highway to meet with the getaway driver that should have been in the white Honda Civic, only to find Dillon's registered red Chevrolet Equinox.

Dillon said it was then that he dropped the bag of cash and asked what was going on but Edwards placed a gun to his chest and told him, "Let's go!" the witness said. "My heart comes to my mouth when I saw my Chevy Equinox was used as the getaway car," Dillon told the court, adding that he felt betrayed. He believed his friend was truly going to shoot him that morning and was in fear of his life.

The men drove to Burton's home with the guns and the money and Dillon left his co-conspirators before he went to his own home, where he changed his clothes, hid US$100,000 in a drawstring bag along with Mignot's baseball cap, and then hid himself in his neighbour's shed out of fear.

Dillon then revealed that he had received a call from Tamassa instructing him to tell the police he'd been abducted if he was caught. When he was arrested, Dillon followed the plan and told the police that four men had abducted him and threatened to kill him but after further interviews he admitted his involvement in the robbery and eventually pleaded guilty to the crime.

As a crown witness Dillon has remained in protective custody and is expected to be sentenced after the on-going trial, which continues in Grand Court one.

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