Video footage from the prisons purporting to have been filmed before and during the 2019 escape of inmate Veron Primus was admitted into evidence this week, during the trial of the prison officer accused of conspiring with the escapee.
However, it was noted that the video footage was timestamped incorrectly and showed dates in January, 2000.
Louie Cupid, a veteran prison officer is suspended from his job while he undergoes a trial at the Serious Offences Court (SOC) for charges related to the October 1, 2019 escape of Primus.
On this date, the accused murderer skipped his prison cell for a few hours before turning himself in to the police. Primus was sentenced to 16 months for escaping lawful custody, and Cupid was brought to court on multiple charges.
The prison officer pleaded not guilty to charges of corruption and, agreeing with Primus that a course of conduct should be pursued which if carried out would amount to the offence of escaping lawful custody.
Earlier this week, the court heard from two prison officers who worked with Cupid, and one IT expert from the police force.
Junior prison officer Iria Ashton said after Primus’ escape, he was asked to review the video footage by then-Superintendent of Prisons, Brenton Charles to ascertain the time of escape and where Primus had escaped from.
He made copies on a flash drive for the police.
It came out in cross examination that in reviewing the footage, the officer saw Primus open his cell door and go to the dormitory gate.
“And after a casual walk outside, he then returned to his cell, and shut the door?” the lawyer asked, and the prison officer responded this was so according to the camera.
Apparently, Primus then left the cell, closed it, left the dormitory, went around the steps, then around the cell block B. He then looked from the dormitory into another area of the prison.
Primus then apparently went into the area of the prison where straw craft is made, where he came into close proximity with the senior officer in charge that night, before walking up the steps by the female prison and past the officer’s quarters. He went over the wall near to the casualty, onto the roof of the workshop, then to the outer gate towards the visiting booth.
Junior prison officer Ollivierre who entered the prison service at the same time as Cupid was next to take the stand.
He spoke about Corporal Browne from the IT Department coming to retrieve the footage. Ollivierre said that Browne noticed that the time and date were incorrect.
The prison officer explained that the reason the time on the video footage was set to the year 2000, was because of an incident that occurred two weeks prior. He was caught up in his other duties and the DVR system wasn’t working. He said he fixed it in a rush, had to disassemble it, and he did not replace a battery and therefore the time was reset.
Connell asked him if it was correct that sometimes when electricity goes the system will reboot and the time and date will change. The prison officer replied that if the internal battery is faulty it’s not incorrect.
It was revealed that Ollivierre was also assigned to be a driver, and at that time, when he was driving no one would monitor the cameras.
“If we were to take your evidence at best and we were to look back at the cameras,” that he says was on in the night in question, the lawyer asked, “At best you can say that Veron Primus escaped while it was dark?”. Ollivierre stated, “In the night.”
Finally, Corporal Browne, deemed an IT expert gave evidence that he was instructed by then-Inspector Elgin Richards to retrieve footage from the prisons. He went on two occasions to take footage, the second time after being informed of investigations relating to Cupid.
When he went to the prison the first time, on October 2, 2019 at 10:35am, he noticed that the time stamp for the surveillance read that it was January 7, 2000, 4:30pm. From his copies of the footage, files were made for specific excerpts deemed to be key points.
“The first file is where prison officers were seen checking in on duty,” he explained, “the second file is where prison inmate Veron Primus was seen in his cell (while escaping)”, “the third file is where he was seen in the prison yard”, and the file labelled workshop is when he was seen by the workshop.
A three-minute clip was also taken, where Cupid was seemingly captured conversing with prison inmate Primus the day before the escape.
These clips were shown in the court.
In the clip purporting to show Cupid and Primus, some interaction there was seen, during which Primus, out of his cell, was speaking with Cupid, and at one point seemed to put something on the prison officer’s desk. The two go off camera at the same time, into an alley.
However, Primus was not the only prisoner out of his cell at that time.
The Corporal also gave evidence that two cell phones related to the investigation were placed in the care of the IT Department and sent to Barbados for analysis.
Connell questioned him about manipulation of systems such as the one at the prison, and whether the time can be changed. Browne said that it could be changed before and not after the recordings.
The lawyer also noted that according to the camera, it was 4:39 am when Primus walked out of his cell, 4:45 am when he went to the prison yard, and 6:55 am when he left the workshop.
“So you would agree that Primus went on a patrol or walked through the prison for about two hours plus the morning? That’s what your camera is saying?” he queried, to which the Corporal agreed.
After this witness, the trial was adjourned to January 25, when the defence is expected to challenge a statement given to the police.