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Police officer says she saw alleged gunman on club CCTV footage on night of killing

Supreme Court (File photograph)

A police officer said a man accused of a gun murder was seen on CCTV footage at the scene of the crime two hours before the shooting happened.

Detective Constable Annika Donowa told the Supreme Court Taaj Muhammad arrived at the St David’s County Cricket Club at about 11.23pm on December 28, 2018.

She said he was last seen walking down steps that led out of the club just over 20 minutes later — three minutes after the victim, Ronniko Burchall, arrived.

Ms Donowa said that she did not know Mr Muhammad before the shooting, but was able to recognise him because she had several meetings with him over the course of the three-year investigation.

She said: “I conducted interviews with him, I have seen him at the court proceedings and I knew his mother.”

Ms Donowa said that all three of the interviews she conducted with Mr Muhammad were less than ten minutes long and the process had taken between 15 and 20 minutes each time as she escorted him to and from the interview room.

She added she had also taken mouth swabs from Mr Muhammad as part of the investigation.

But Charles Richardson, who appeared for Mr Muhammad, argued that Ms Donowa had made a mistake.

He claimed the man was too far away from the camera to make a proper identification and that it appeared the man in the footage had a different style of beard from Mr Muhammad.

Mr Richardson also suggested that Ms Donowa only had about an hour of close contact with the defendant over the course of the investigation.

Ms Donowa said: “I never said I knew him well. I said I knew his face. I cannot forget his face.”

She told the court she reviewed the CCTV footage from the night of the murder on January 19 at the request of Carrington Mahoney, the prosecutor in the case.

Ms Donowa said she was asked if she could identify another individual, but when she reviewed the footage she was able to identify the defendant.

Ms Donowa said Mr Muhammad could be seen to arrive at the club at about 11.23pm on December 28, 2018 and appeared to talk to other people on the club’s balcony, which overlooks the car park.

She added that the defendant was near the balcony railing at 11.39pm, then went back inside the club and returned to the balcony moments later with a second man.

Less than a minute later, at 11.41pm, Mr Burchall walked up the stairs on to the balcony and entered the club.

Ms Donowa said Mr Muhammad and the second man walked down the steps that led down from the balcony at 11.44pm.

The second man returned about half an hour later, but she did not see Mr Muhammad again in the CCTV footage.

Ms Donowa accepted under cross-examination that she had not suggested to Mr Muhammad that he had been present at the Christmas party in any of the three police interviews.

Mr Muhammad, 26, from St George’s, has pleaded not guilty to the murder of Mr Burchall and a charge that he used a firearm to carry out the offence.

The court heard earlier that Mr Burchall, 30, was shot in the head at point-blank range as he left a Christmas party at St David’s County Cricket Club just after 1.30am on December 29.

He died in hospital the next day.

The jury was shown video footage of a witness earlier this week who told police Mr Muhammad had told her he had shot a man in the head months after the killing of Mr Burchall.

The witness, who cannot be identified for legal reasons, said Mr Burchall had swam to St George’s and dropped the firearm in the sea as he did so.

The trial, before Acting Puisne Judge Juan Wolffe, continues.

It is The Royal Gazette’s policy not to allow comments on stories regarding criminal court cases. This is to prevent any statements being published that may jeopardise the outcome of that case.