Crown depends on supergrass

| 24/11/2014

(CNS): Following the acquittal of the man police believe is the mastermind behind Cayman’s largest ever bank robbery, the CNB daylight heist, as well as the WestStar robbery, and three other men involved in the bank job, the crown will need to call back its key witness. The Court of Appeal has ordered that a new trial should take place for David Tamasa, as well as George Mignott, Andre Burton and Rennie Cole early in the New Year. However, the case against the men for stealing over $500K in the armed hold-up hangs heavily on the evidence of Marlon Dillon, the prosecution's so called ‘supergrass’, who is understood to have recently been released from custody and placed in some form of witness protection.

The crown will now need to call Dillon back because without him they will not have a case against the men, which could see Tamasa, the suspected mastermind behind the allegations, and his alleged accomplices, George Mignott and Rennie Coles, walk free. Burton, who was convicted with Tamasa in the robbery of the offices of local TV station, WestStar, did not succeed on appeal against that conviction and will therefore remain in jail regardless of the outcome of the CNB retrial. Ryan Edwards, the sixth man in what police believe was a gang of robbers that included Dillon, remains convicted in both cases.

The Court of Appeal overturned the majority of the CNB convictions on a technicality regarding the failure of the judge to point out to the defendants that their decisions not to take the stand could allow the jury to draw an adverse inference. The situation did not apply to Edwards, whose appeal was dismissed and who also remains convicted of being the getaway driver in the WestStar robbery.

The three-judge panel made it clear, however, that the decision was based the technical irregularity and had nothing to do with the key witness, despite extensive arguments by all of the defence attorneys in the bank robbery appeal that Dillon’s evidence was seriously flawed.

Dillon was arrested in the immediate wake of the CNB robbery, which came after the WestStar hold up. Following his arrest and during police interviews, which have been heavily criticised for the tactics used to coerce the witness, Dillon confessed to his part in the robbery and sometime later admitted to being involved in the WestStar case.

He named a number of accomplices in both cases but several people were never prosecuted as they had full alibis and could not have played the parts indicated by Dillon. During a more than two year period in which Dillon, because of the risk to his life, was held in solitary confinement in a cell described as not being fit for human habitation, he gave numerous statements to the police regarding these robberies and that of the murder of Mackford Bush, which resulted in the conviction of Brian Borden this summer.

The statements varied wildly, however, with his evidence conflicting with telephone evidence, which led to the acquittal of Tamasa in the WestStar heiston Friday with no new trial ordered. The appeal court said in that case the crown should not be given another chance to plug its evidence gap.

Nevertheless, with a retrial order for four out of the five men originally convicted by ajury in the CNB case, the crown will still need to recall their controversial witness if they are to have any chance of securing a second conviction in the bank robbery.

Dillon was, however, sentenced just over two weeks ago by Justice Charles Quin.

As a result of his co-operation and the risk now to his life and that of his family after giving evidence, as well as the appalling conditions under which Dillon has been held since his arrest in June 2011, he was given a three year sentence. Having already served two and half years, it is understood that Dillon was released almost immediately after his sentencing.

Although he was expected to be placed under formal witness protection overseas, concerns were raised that as a result of the conviction Dillon may not be allowed to move as expected and join his family, who were whisked away by the authorities immediately after Dillon began naming the people he said had robbed the bank and the television centre’s offices.

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