Kidnapper of school girl to face sentence March 1
Webster Edmond, the kidnapper of a schoolgirl for over 40 days and nights in 2011 will return to the Roseau high Court on Friday March 1, 2013 for sentencing on charges of kidnapping, unlawful sexual intercourse, possession of ammunition and possession of a firearm.
Edmond pleaded guilty to four of six charges after his trial began at on Monday February 4, 2013 before resident judge, Justice Birnie Stephenson and a jury of eight women and one man.
Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) Gene Pestaina, in what could be his last case as DPP because he is retiring, needed just one witness from a possible nine to secure the guilty pleas from the accused.
Defence Counsel Peter Alleyne just before winding up cross examination of the virtual complainant, a 16-year old schoolgirl Shanice Jemmot, had a lengthy briefing with the accused in the prisoners' dock with the permission of the judge. Alleyne then closed his examination of the state witness and advised the judge that he would like a private word with her.
Court adjourned for the midmorning break about 11:20am and when it resumed one hour later it was to change the pleas of the accused.
The DPP accepted the first count of guilty of kidnapping a 15-year old girl to a secret place and confined against her will, but not guilty to abduction on Thursday February 17, 2011; guilty to unlawful sexual intercourse but not indecent assault between February 17, 2011 to March 28, 2011; guilty to possession of ammunition and guilty of possession of a shotgun on March 28, 2011.
Justice Stephenson advised the jury to return formal verdicts in respect of all six charges. She set the day of sentencing to Friday March 1, 2013. She hoped by Monday February 25 to have submissions on agreed statement on the facts from the lawyers, written submissions with mitigation from the defence, certified statement from the State Prisons as to details of recent incarceration of the convicted man, and a pre-sentence report.
In 2011, Dominicans, especially the people of Clarke Hall, publicly expressed deep concern about the disappearance of the school girl. Members of the community including the Parliamentary representative pleaded for her return to her family.
During the trial, the court was told that Jemmot left her home for school that Thursday morning of February 17, 2011 at 6:30am dressed in her school uniform. She heard a strange psst, psst, psst in the bushes.
"I ran towards the main road. I walked back up to see who was calling me," she said. She observed her kidnapper coming towards her from a secondary road. He was dress in brown pants and dark brown shirt; carried a blue or black bag on his shoulder and a gun, she thought might have been a shotgun, slinging on his shoulder.
"I started to run. He grabbed me by the hand and said I was going nowhere. He dragged me in the bushes. He crossed the main road holding my hand. He brought me along the riverside. He put me on his back and crossed the river. I was shocked, but I did not ask where he was taking me. Across the river he placed me down and we walk up a mountain about 15 minutes or so, slow, because the mountain was very steep. I was in front of him. I was feeling very scared. On a flat area I noticed a wooden house with a galvanize roof. The inside of the house was very old – old clothes, old tarpaulin, sticks, no furniture… he had sexual intercourse with me."
So the girl spent 40 days and 40 nights in the bush with her abductor. "He had sex with me every day," she said.
She said she tried to escape once, but he was hiding and caught her. She was afraid of him, and he had a gun. From that house up the mountain the girl said she could hear her mother bawling, and people talking, asking for her. And at certain places in the bush she could see her home.
Her captor would leave her and return with food. He fed her on cooked yams that he dug up in the bush. She had only her school uniform until one day he gave her a green coat. Her shoe burst in the forest. One day he brought her a pair of white sneakers. When she felt sick she just had to bear the pain.
They moved locations at least three times. The kidnapper would use the tarpaulin as a lean to against trees, and they lived in its shelter.
"On March 28 he left me alone in the night. He said he was going for food. I heard some noise after like stones rolling. I heard someone calling my name, asking if I was okay. I replied: "Yes!" I noticed someone I knew before. It was sergeant Cuffy. When I first saw Sergeant Cuffy (accompanied by other police officers and the kidnapper) I was shocked, happy and afraid and scared. I saw cameras on me. It was about 8 o'clock in the night. They told me to come outside the tarpaulin. They asked the accused where the bullets were", she said.
He asked her to get the bullets for the police, and she obliged by giving the police a heavy bag. She did not know how many bullets were in the bag, except that it was heavy.
The police untied the tarpaulin, wrapped it up and took what they had to take and they took her to Police Headquarters in Roseau. She was next taken to the Princess Margaret Hospital where a doctor examined her. She was next moved to the Psychiatric Unit (PU) where she received attention from Dr Griffin Benjamin. She saw Social Workers also and spent nine days at the PU. During that time she accompanied the police and her assailant to the scene where the abduction began.
Jemmot told the court she suffers from nightmares and occasions will see her abductor virtually in person even while at school, among other emotional trauma. She did not at anytime agree to go anywhere with her kidnapper, and she at no time asked him to have sex with her, she said.