Bank heist witness is ‘robber with a conscience’

| 08/05/2013

(CNS): In her closing address in the trial of David Tamassa, Rennie Cole, Andre Burton, George Mignot and Ryan Edwards for armed robbery, Director of Public Prosecutions Cheryl Richards, QC, told the 12 member jury that the prosecution’s key witness and co-conspirator in the case, Marlon Dillon, was a "robber with a conscience". The jury was expected to begin their deliberations Wednesday following directions from the presiding judge, Justice Alex Henderson. The jury will decide whether Dillon will be alone behind bars for his part in the crime or whether the five defendants will also be jailed for the part the crown says they played in the Cayman National Bank daylight heist in June of last year.

Marlon Dillon was seen, not as a man of virtue, but instead as a man of courage for his assistance with the police to bring his accomplices to justice after expressing such great fear of them, the crown’s senior attorney told the jury as she summed up the crown’s case.  Dillon's evidence was the focal point of the case against the five men and Richards argued that, despite the suggestions made to him that he was lying about the identity of his co-conspirators during the armed robbery, Dillon, who hasalready pleaded guilty to his part in the crime, was a witness of truth.

She said that the jury had been able to assess the demeanour in which he responded to the questions during his cross examination and infer his credibility when he gave his evidence. While it was suggested by the defence that Dillon had been reciting his answers from some sort of script prepared for him the crown’s lawyer, Richards said Dillon’s continued repetition was because he was telling the truth and facts cannot change.

The jurors had heard Dillon's motives for finally coming clean and admitting his guilt. The self-confessed robber said his reasons for assisting the police were because he didn't think it was fair for him “to go down alone” when he did not commit the robbery by himself. He also said he was severely hurt that his own vehicle had been used in the robbery, which led him to feel betrayed by his friends. He had said that "even a child would know not to use their own vehicle".

Richards told the court that it was not his fault that he was being rushed, causing him to forget his car keys, and that he could not have known that the intentions of his friends were to use his vehicle as the getaway car.

Amongst many others, suggestions were made by the five defence counsels that Dillon had hidden the names of his real accomplices because he was afraid the real robbers would hurt him and instead picked the men on trial. However, Richards told the jury that this was illogical and did not make sense for him to allow his "real" co-conspirators to go unpunished and wander at large, placing his wife and son in danger. The QC said it was ridiculous that Dillon would name five innocent acquaintances, who coincidentally were absent from work on that morning and matched the descriptions given by other witnesses.

Richards submitted that Dillon had no reason to lie to the police because they were knowledgeable of his involvement and if he had really wanted to lie about the men involved, he would have given false names.

Dillon was adamant that his confession had nothing to do with what the police said or did and that his motive was his own morals, and he had expressed gratitude to the police for their pressure and help.

Detective Constable Rachel Johnson was one of the officers involved in the case and had multiple interviews with Dillon, in addition to sweating the truth out of him. Crown counsel told the jury that the evidence put forward by DC Johnson was not tainted by pressure or special treatment, as suggested by the defence.

Richards summarised the important facts in the case against the five men for the jury and noted that, although Dillon did not identify Rennie Cole on the CCTV footage of the robbery, he had already identified him in a photograph spread and named him as the "bait" to distract the bank's security guard as seen in the footage. In addition, Cole had arranged an alibi to cover his presence at the bank. He had a cheque cashed and sent to his daughter from an employer in Camana Bay, which he had received almost a week earlier. The crown’s attorney noted that he could have cashed it at the Camana Bay branch rather than at Buckingham Square at the exact time of the heist.

Although the alleged getaway driver, Andre Burton, returned to work on time that day, he told the police during questioning that he had left work to go back to his home in West Bay to deliver marijuana for a man on Crewe Road. Counsel put to the court that it did not add up that Burton would leave home for work only to return shortly after just to give someone an amount of ganja if the delivery was pre-planned as he had told the police. When questioned on how he arrived back at work, Burton said that he did not want this person to be involved.

Richards said that the DNA evidence against George Mignot confirmed that he was a passenger in the getaway vehicle — Dillon's red Chevrolet Equinox –from samples taken from the headrest and a red cap found in the rear of the car. Mignot is accused of carrying the shotgun during the heist and Dillon's statements support Mignot's work records that he was absent for a period of time on the day of the robbery as well as a few days before.

Co-defendant and Jamaican national Ryan Edwards was found with over CI$34,000 in proceeds from the robbery overseas along with bank receipts for large sums of money. In addition, there were no records of Edwards' departure from the Cayman Islands.

David Tamassa is believed to be the mastermind behind the entire operation, who gave the men their instructions. The jury heard that he told Dillon that he would be the lookout for the robbery and had provided the gun. Richards told the court that he let the others do the dirty work and added, "He is a man who created distance between himself and this robbery."

Dillon was questioned as to why he had neglected to name Tamassa until such a late point, but the prosecution suggested that it was because the pump action shotgun had belonged to him and it would make more sense for Dillon to be reluctant to name the man with a gun than those without.

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