From the Courts
July 9, 2004
Four discharged of foreigners’ murders

The failure by the French investigating authorities to hand over vital information to the local Ministry of Legal Affairs has led to the discharge of four Vincentians accused of murdering four Frenchmen.
On June 30, Julius Jeffers, 17, Sylvannus Williams, 19, Ken Charles, 24, and Leonard O’Garro, 36, of Barrouallie were relieved of the charge of murdering French nationals Pierre De La Londe, 20, Annie Astier, 19, Jean Noel Martin, 51, and Belgian Simonne Rolas, 59.{{more}}
The four Vincentians were charged in July 2002, months after the foreigners’ charred bodies were fished out of the Peters Hope waters following the burning of their yacht, Sir Jean 1, on February 11 that year.
At a court appearance last week, head of the Criminal Investigations Department, Superintendent Ernest James indicated that the police were not ready for the start of preliminary inquiries, saying his department was still awaiting evidence from French authorities which was vital to the prosecution’s case.
He asked Chief Magistrate Simone Churaman for a one and a half month adjournment, telling the court that the office of the Attorney General had informed his department that the information will be made available sometime in August.
Williams’ and Jeffers’ lawyer, Olin Dennie called for their discharge, arguing that their constitutional rights were being violated because the prosecution had failed to have the preliminary inquiry started after two years. He also argued that over a long period the police had been advancing the same reason for not starting the preliminary inquiries into the yacht tragedy.
Another lawyer, Arthur Williams, rising amicus curiae (as a friend of the court) on behalf of Charles and O’Garro, agreed with Dennie that the accused’s constitutional rights had been violated. He contended that the constitution says that persons charged for offences must have their cases heard within reasonable time.
Chief Magistrate Churaman said it had been two and a half years since the incident and two years since the men had been charged. She said when she looked at the history of the case, it has been endorsed since 2003 that the prosecution was awaiting evidence from France. She said that if she was going to retain the matter, the prosecution would have to say why they believed the evidence would eventually be made available and when.
Chief Magistrate Churaman also stated that she had to weigh the prosecution request and concerns against the Constitutional rights of the accused. She reiterated that two years had elapsed since their arrest and in the interest of justice, she had to discharge them.
The Chief Magistrate said, however, that in the event the French authorities forward the evidence to the local authorities, the four discharged men could be re-arrested and charged.