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Man accused of masterminding cinema double-shooting fled Island ‘for safety’

A man who fled to America amid allegations that he masterminded a double shooting said he left because he feared for his safety.

Jahmel Blakeney, who is now back in Bermuda and on trial at Supreme Court, told the jury: “I didn’t mastermind anything. I didn’t have no involvement, no knowledge of anything I have been brought in front of the courts for.”

He blamed the media for making him look guilty for a crime he did not commit and said he spent the evening with a friend who has since died.

Mr Blakeney, 30, is accused of arranging the attempted murder of footballer Shaki Minors and his pregnant girlfriend Renee Kuchler after spotting them at the Southside Cinema in St David’s.

Prosecutors allege that he left the movie without watching it in order to drive back to Hamilton and arrange for his co-accused, Sanchey Grant, 20, to come and shoot the victims.

Mr Minors and Ms Kuchler were seriously injured when a gunman opened fire on them as they left the cinema at 11.30pm on November 13, 2009.

Mr Minors believes the attack was perpetrated by the Parkside gang due to his links to the rival 42 gang. Prosecutors say both accused men have links to Parkside, although Mr Blakeney denies being a member of the gang.

He and Mr Grant both deny charges of attempted murder and possessing a gun. Taking the stand yesterday, Mr Blakeney said he only left the cinema because he did not to want to watch the film ‘Precious’, which his girlfriend Jalicia Crockwell had chosen.

“I looked at the ticket and saw it was ‘Precious’ and I left because I didn’t want to see that movie,” he said. “It was about some lady getting abused or something.”

He said he was “irritated” with his girlfriend and they drove back to her house in Pembroke without speaking.

After he dropped her off, he said, he went to Western Stars Sports Club elsewhere in Pembroke to meet his friend Carlton (CJ) Darrell Jr and pick up a $100 bag of cannabis from him, which they smoked together.

Mr Blakeney said that as he was driving back to his girlfriend’s home he spotted co-accused Mr Grant walking along the street, and found out he needed a ride.

He explained he knows Mr Grant as Mr Grant’s brother is his nephew. According to Mr Blakeney, who is from Spanish Point, Pembroke, he decided they should get a drink on their way to Mr Grant’s home in Hamilton Parish.

“I told him I had just got some weed, some good weed, some high grade,” he said, explaining it was the type of drug “you’re privileged to get”.

However, he said, the Crawl and Bailey’s Bay clubs in Hamilton Parish turned out to be closed, so they carried on to St David’s Cricket Club where he bought drinks and they sat in the car smoking and drinking.

The pair was arrested as they exited St David’s in Mr Blakeney’s vehicle, which was his sister’s jeep, around two-and-a-half hours after the shooting.

Police witnesses have told the trial Mr Blakeney sped through a police checkpoint after failing to stop, but was eventually pulled over a short distance up the road. Mr Grant was found lying down in the front passenger seat.

According to Mr Blakeney, his friend was sleeping. He told the jury he was not speeding and he never saw the police signal to him to pull over. The pair was arrested and taken to Southside Police Station.

The gun allegedly used in the shooting was found on the road the jeep had travelled along later the same morning.

Mr Blakeney remained in police custody for three days. He confirmed that he fled the Island as soon as he was released on bail and went to America, where he has citizenship.

“Being arrested and detained for three days; that made people feel I had involvement in the shooting. I left because I was getting threats. I left for my safety,” he told the jury.

“I actually left the next day. I actually read an article in the paper saying I was on the run, that I was running. That was not true.”

He said the police did not inform him he was not allowed to fly while on bail and they did not take his passport from him.

Explaining why he stayed in America, he said: “The article in the paper made me look guilty for something I hadn’t even been charged yet for.” And, he added: “I didn’t want to end up getting shot or anything.”

Prosecutor Cindy Clarke began cross-examining Mr Blakeney on his evidence late yesterday afternoon, and pointed out that Carlton (CJ) Darrell is now dead so “we can’t ask CJ what happened”.

She is to continue cross-examination today.

In court: Jahmel Blakeney

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Published November 16, 2011 at 9:18 am (Updated November 16, 2011 at 9:18 am)

Man accused of masterminding cinema double-shooting fled Island ‘for safety’

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