The father of a nine-year-old girl who was sexually assaulted and murdered four years ago in Westmoreland was overcome with grief on Tuesday as he recounted to the court the horror he felt when he saw his child’s body.
The little girl was reportedly raped, buggered, and killed in June 2018 by a 13-year-old boy she knew.
The accused and the victim are from the same community and live about six chains apart. They and other children had a habit of walking home together after school in the afternoons. Both the accused and victim are under the age of 18 and their identities, as well as some individuals giving testimony and the name of their community, are being withheld to protect both minors.
During the trial, the court is expected to hear from two child witnesses, the doctor who performed the autopsy, and a DNA expert.
The case is being heard by Supreme Court Judge Courtney Daye. Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) Paula Llewellyn is leading the prosecution with support from Renelle Morgan and Loriann Thugwell. The defence is led by Denley Saddoo, supported by Devon Brown.
On Tuesday, the first day of the trial in the Westmoreland Circuit Court, a seven-member jury was empanelled following which the charges were outlined. In laying out her case, the DPP told the court that swabs were taken from the vagina and anus of the victim and compared with swabs from the accused.
The father of the murdered girl was the prosecution’s first witness. He tried to keep his composure but failed and the tears flowed freely as he was sworn in. He again broke down in tears as he described the state in which he found his daughter’s body during a search.
“Her head turned sideway and her tongue was longing out of her head,” he said before the tears came, once again.
The DPP was sympathetic but pressed him gently for his testimony.
“I am so sorry that I have to ask you this but we need it for the evidence. Just take your time. So, she was lying on her back. What else you noticed?” Llewellyn asked.
The sobbing father replied: “Her uniform was up. Her underwear was off and her legs apart. I was shocked. The only thing I could do at the time, [I] touched her and I realised that she was dead. I don’t know anything from that as I fainted.”
After a break in the proceedings, a male juror was released after providing an acceptable reason for not being able continue. This left a six-member jury, evenly split between genders.
The prosecution paused the father’s testimony to hear from two children. Their testimonies were taken Tuesday as they have to be in school on Wednesday when the trial continues.
They told the court about the incidents leading up to the nine-year-old’s death.
The male witness said, as a group of them walked home from school the accused thrust his groin towards his bottom, causing him to fall. He said he later ran.
He stuck to his story during cross-examination by the defence.
The court was told that as the group of students walked home the accused asked if they wanted apples from a nearby tree. Everyone, except the victim, said no, the court was told.
The children testified that the apple tree is in a dark and bushy area. That is where the young girl’s body was later found. The court was told that both witnesses called out to the girl as they left but she responded that she knew her way and then headed in the direction of the apple tree, with the accused.
The murdered girl’s father later returned to the stand, followed by his wife.
The accused was remanded in custody.
As the police whisked him away from the courtroom he was heard saying, “Daddy” as he looked in the direction of his father.