One witness was asked to sign a false statement about the shooting of Cornelius John, 60, at his home on April 13, while another was told to keep their mouth shut, iWitness News was reliably informed.
Sources, independent of each other, have told iWitness News that a witness was asked to sign a statement saying that John had a cutlass when his assailants shot him.
John, a businessman, of Diamond Estate, has maintained that he was unarmed and was not aggressive to the three persons who came to his house, one of whom shot him.
Commissioner of Police Colin John has told iWitness News that lawyer Ashelle Morgan, who is a government senator and deputy speaker of the House of Assembly, and Karim Nelson, an assistant director of public prosecution, are persons of interest in the investigation into the shooting.
The identity of the third person who is alleged to have been present when the shooting took place has not been disclosed.
John has said repeatedly that while the persons were wearing face masks, he was able to recognise Morgan from her gait, physique and voice, as she grew up in the neighbourhood.
He said he did not recognise the two men, one of whom shot him.
No arrests have been made or charges laid in connection with the shooting, which has attracted widespread discussion about justice in St. Vincent and the Grenadines.
However, John’s lawyer, Kay Bacchus-Baptiste confirmed to iWitness News, on Sunday, that she and police officers went to John’s house earlier that day as part of the investigation.
“The police were told to get further information as to whether Mr. John had a cutlass or any weapon or anything,” Bacchus-Baptiste told iWitness News of the reason for Sunday’s visit to her client’s home.
“They wanted to get measurements as to where he was when they (assailants) came and where they (assailants) were. They are still going to take a caution statement. They are aiming to charge that man (Mr. John) still,” she said.
“So tomorrow, DV, I am going to go in with him to the police station.”
She said that the police had told her that they needed to get certain clarifications.
“But what is amazing is that the clarification is something that they should have gotten from day one — eight weeks ago, if they were serious. Taking measurements when the prime minister said the investigation was closed.
“And now they actually put down markers of where he was sitting when his [assailant] ran off and kicked him. Where the second one was standing, where the third one was standing. This is amazing because it is clear to me now that they are now forced to investigate. Nothing was done really, before.”
Bacchus-Baptiste said that what is strange is that the police have not disclosed what Mr. John supposedly did with a cutlass.
“If it were a normal investigation, the police would put to him that he did so and so to a named person with a cutlass. To this day, no such disclosure has been made. It is against the rule of natural justice not to put to an accused what exactly he is being accused of!” the lawyer told iWitness News.
This publication understands that the witness who was approached refused to alter their statement, thereby creating “problems” for those claiming that John’s assailants had shot him in self-defence.
Further, iWitness News was reliably informed that an auxiliary police officer witnessed the shooting, and, at the time of the shooting, was on the phone with a detective who gave clear instructions as to what to do in its immediate aftermath.
The source told iWitness News that the auxiliary officer was telling the detective, via cellular phone, what was happening at John’s house when the gunshot rang out.
One hearing the shot, the detective told the auxiliary officer to go to John’s house to verify his status.
When the auxiliary officer went to John’s house, the injured man responded, saying he was unable to move.
The detective is said to have told the auxiliary officer to look around the scene for weapons.
The auxiliary officer found no weapon, but pointed out a bullet casing to the police who arrived at the scene after the axiliary officer, the source told iWitness News.
Speaking at a press conference on May 21, John said that after the shooting, neighbours came out.
“But it have a neighbour on the side. She came and she looked around with a light then she asked me what happen; I said, ‘They shoot me in my foot’
“She said, ‘Could you walk? Get up?’ I said, ‘No.’ Then she called the police. I think she called for her husband first, then she called the police and the ambulance then the police came.”
He said that to his knowledge, no weapons were retrieved from the scene.
“Any weapon retrieved from the scene, it has to be the gun that they shoot me with,” he said.
In a May 19 interview with iWitness News, John said it was “not true” that he had attacked the trio with a cutlass.
“That’s not true. No truth in that. I was sitting on the blocks and the guy just run and kick me off the blocks. I did not attack anyone. I had no need to attack anyone. I am not an attacker,” he told iWitness News.
While it took two weeks for the shooting to become public, iWitness News understands that in the hours immediately following the shooting, a story began to circulate that John was shot because he had attacked the trio.
Our sources said that one person went to a witness, saying, “If you know what’s good for you, you’d keep your mouth shut.”
The witness, however, later decided to give police a statement about what had happened.
A separate witness is said to have been confronted after they gave to the police a statement that did not refer to a cutlass.
“Why did you not mention the cutlass?” the witness was reportedly told.
“Because there was no cutlass there,” the witness responded, according to our source.
iWitness News understands that the person who approached the witness asking about the absence of a reference to a cutlass in the statement, then produced a statement that included reference to a cutlass and asked the witness to sign it.
The witness refused.
Speaking to iWitness News on Sunday, Bacchus-Baptiste said that police had earlier asked Mr. John for a caution statement, claiming it related to a report his wife had made.
“Now, today, they say the complaint is made by Ashelle and Karim. The two of them made a complaint against him. Strange enough, there does not appear to be a complaint by the third person who was there,” she said.
The lawyer said she has not been able to determine in any official way who the third person is.
“I know the third person is a driver. I know it is not a police and it appears that I have it right. The person is a driver. That is the most I can say without having the official confirmation.”
Returning to the request by the police for a caution statement, Bacchus-Baptiste said that until iWitness News interviewed John’s wife, Nicole on May 5, police had been telling him that the caution statement related to a complaint his wife had made against him.
But, in the interview, Mrs. John, when asked if she and her husband had had a confrontation on the day of the shooting, told iWitness News “not to my knowing”.
Asked to clarify her statement, Mrs. John, said, “Well, not to my knowing. If two people have confrontation, these two people have to be verbalising these words, right?
“If me and you have confrontation, that means me and you have to verbalise words; so not to my knowing. That’s all I have to say, please.”
On Sunday, Mrs. John appeared to have hung up the phone when iWItness News contacted her and subsequent calls went unanswered.
Also on Sunday, Bacchus-Baptiste said:
“To my mind, that is what altered everything, even what the prime minister was saying. That altered what he said. And it is no longer defending women now. It is that he attacked both of them.
“Both of them, according to the police, made a statement against him, which still doesn’t make sense to me because I don’t know how if somebody come to your yard in the night, dressed like how they were and if you, obviously, had reason to defend yourself, I don’t know how that could be that he attacked. But, I think they are just desperate.”
Bacchus-Baptiste said she was not saying that her client attacked the assailants or defended himself against them.
“But even if he did, he would have had a good defence. So it shows me how desperate these people are. They are determined to charge this man.”
She said that on Sunday, the police went to a witness as well as Mrs. John.
The lawyer said she understands that the police have statements from all three persons who were present when John was shot.
“I was not able to determine whether it was a caution statement or not. I really don’t think it is a caution statement and that is what is upsetting even more, that they would want a caution statement from my client but I am not even sure that they have caution statements from the others. They said they have statements that were made concerning the incident.”
The lawyer said that her client’s injury is improving.
“The cast is off and I can see that the injury is coming along but he has to go back tomorrow, DV, for them to treat the wound again or something.”