Sean Luke

Murder victim: Sean Luke

ONE of the men accused of murdering six-year-old Sean Luke in 2006 is claiming that the statement given by him to homicide detectives after the child’s body was found was obtained through oppression, inducement and trickery.

Richard Chatoo, who was just a teenager when he was arrested in March 2006 and later charged is maintaining his innocence, saying that the State’s case against him was fabricated by investigators.

His defence statement was yesterday read in open court by presiding judge Justice Lisa Ramsumair-Hinds. After the reading of the defence statement, Chatoo was asked by the judge to confirm its contents and verify his signature.

The defence statement of Chatoo’s co-accused, Akeel Mitchell, who was also a teenager when charged for the capital offence, was previously tendered into evidence. In it, Mitchell, provided an alibi, claiming he was not present when the boy was killed.

Earlier during yesterday’s hearing, one of the State’s witnesses, Avinash Baboolal, who lived in the same area as Luke, completed his testimony.

His evidence was followed by that of another resident, Arvis Pradeep, who was led into his evidence-in-chief by State prosecutor Sabrina Dougdeen-Jaglal.

He is the 17th witness to be called since the trial started on March 19.

While journalists are allowed to report the evidence of witnesses during criminal trial, in this instance Justice Ramsumair-Hinds has imposed a temporary gag order, restricting reporters from making public the testimonies of either Baboolal or Pradeep.

Last week, the judge said she accepted that members of the public were entitled to know what was transpiring at the trial, but in this instance, she believed it was best that the evidence of the two men not be made public at this time.

She assured that once Pradeep’s testimony was complete, the restriction would be lifted and at that point, journalists will be allowed to report their evidence.

When Pradeep returns to court tomorrow, criminal defence attorney Mario Merritt will begin his cross-examination of the witness on behalf of Mitchell. This will be followed by cross-examination by attorney Evans Welch on behalf of Chatoo.

Both accused are alleged to have murdered Luke sometime between March 26 when he went missing from his Couva home and March 29, the day after his body was discovered in a cane field not far from where he lived.

An autopsy found he died from severe internal injuries after being sodomised with a cane stalk.

Also appearing on behalf of the two men are attorneys Randall Raphael, Kelston Pope, Kirby Joseph and Gabriel Hernandez.

Attorneys Anju Bhola and Sophia Sandy-Smith appear alongside Dougdeen-Jaglal for the State.

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