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Taaj Muhammad guilty of 2018 murder of Ronniko Burchall

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Murder victim Ronniko Burchall (Photograph supplied)

A man was convicted yesterday of a 2018 gun murder by a unanimous verdict.

The six-man, five-woman jury said Taaj Muhammad was guilty of the premeditated murder of Ronniko Burchall and of use of a firearm to commit the offence.

Muhammad remained silent as the verdict was delivered.

Detective Inspector Jason Smith afterwards welcomed the verdict – but said that there were no winners in the case.

He added: “A young man has lost his life in this tragedy and another young man will spend his behind bars.”

But he said: “We are satisfied that the jury has spoken and the verdict was just.”

Mr Smith added that the case had been difficult for detectives because of hesitation among potential witnesses to come forward.

He said: “There were several people at the St David’s cricket club the night of [the murder], but few came to assist, so without the public’s assistance at the beginning it was difficult.”

Mr Smith added: “The witnesses who came forward in this case were brave. They were courageous and that’s what tipped the iceberg for us.

“We would hope that today would be the beginning of many cases before the courts so that we can bring justice and closure to the families of those affected.”

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

He was rushed to hospital but died of his injuries the next day.

One witness, who cannot be identified for legal reasons, told the court that Muhammad confessed that he had carried out the shooting months after the murder.

She said he had told her that he had later swam across St George’s Harbour and dropped the firearm in the ocean in the process.

The witness said she did not tell the police about the confession until July 2020 because she feared for her life.

She also identified Muhammad as the gunman in CCTV footage from the cricket club based on a distinctive “limp”.

The woman and a police officer said they were able to identify the defendant on CCTV footage taken inside the club hours before the shooting.

The person they identified as Muhammad was seen to leave the club about three minutes after the victim arrived.

The court also heard that a grey sweatshirt and a pair of jeans had been seized from the defendant’s grandmother’s home days after the shooting.

Tests later revealed a particle consistent with gunshot residue inside the sweatshirt’s pockets and a series of particles, which contained two of the three elements that make up GSR on both articles of clothing.

Carrington Mahoney, for the Crown, said the GSR evidence and CCTV footage supported the confession evidence from the woman witness.

Muhammad, from St George’s, did not take the stand in his own defence.

But Charles Richardson, who appeared for Muhammad, said the evidence submitted by the Crown could not be relied upon.

He argued that he woman witness who claimed he had confessed to her hated Muhammad and had produced a “stupid and crazy” story so she could start a new life overseas.

Mr Richardson said the quality of the CCTV footage was too poor to identify the gunman and both witnesses who identified Muhammad from the footage taken inside the club had a vested interest in the case.

He added there was no evidence as to how or when the GSR particle came to be on the clothing, much less evidence to link it to the murder of Mr Burchall.

Mr Richardson added that there was no evidence Muhammad had a motive to kill Mr Burchall.

Acting Puisne Judge Juan Wolffe remanded Muhammad in custody until April 1 for a sentencing date to be set.

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