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Worrell did not join search for missing woman out of fear

Kamal Worrell (File photograph)

A man accused of murdering the mother of his child said he did not attend searches for her or vigils in her honour out of fear for his safety.

Kamal Worrell told the Supreme Court that in the wake of Chavelle Dillon-Burgess’s disappearance in 2020, he was made aware of threats towards him made on social media.

“I have my son, and I don’t see anything on social media myself, but it was brought to my attention by friends that a lot of things were going around,” he said.

“When all of that was going on, I had my son to deal with, and I had to think about my own safety. Part of the reason why I wasn’t at any of the public searches or vigils was I didn’t know who was out there.

“I didn’t want to put myself in that position or my son in that position.”

Mr Worrell told the court he was not initially alarmed by the lack of communication with Ms Dillon-Burgess because, while they still lived together, they were “living different lives”.

He said that he was sleeping on the couch and had a girlfriend, while he understood Ms Dillon-Burgess was also seeing other people.

“It’s not that I wasn’t concerned,” he said. “When she initially left, she might have been with the person she was involved with. That’s why I wasn’t troubled initially.”

Mr Worrell has denied allegations of murdering Ms Dillon-Burgess, the mother of his child, on an unknown date between April 10 and June 11, 2020.

He has also denied a charge of wounding Ms Dillon-Burgess, a charge of common assault related to an incident on June 1, 2019, and six counts of common assault related to an incident on November 14, 2018.

As his trial continued yesterday, Mr Worrell suggested that Detective Inspector Jason Smith, the officer in charge of the police investigation, had some level of animosity against him.

He told the court that early in his legal career he had gone to the offices of the Serious Crime Unit to look at evidence related to a client’s case.

Mr Worrell said that while there, Mr Smith questioned him about what he was looking for.

Later, while examining the evidence, he said the officer approached him and stood over him, making him feel uncomfortable.

While he added that Mr Smith could dispute what had happened, Puisne Judge Juan Wolffe said that the officer had already given evidence and Mr Worrell had not questioned him about the incident or any animus he may have had.

“He cannot and probably will not have the opportunity to dispute it because of the way you know the trial process works,” the judge said.

Mr Worrell also said Mr Smith was an investigator into another case in which the defendant was accused of persuading a witness to give false evidence.

He told the court that while he had directed the officers to a recording on his phone that showed nothing untoward had taken place, he was charged and the recording was not included in legal filings used to bring the case to the Supreme Court.

The recording was later played in the Supreme Court, and the case against Mr Worrell was thrown out by a judge due to a lack of evidence against him.

“That was why you may feel based on the evidence I have some reluctance in speaking to police officers, in giving an interview because I have already been tried by them,” he said.

“I have been through the same process with the same officer.”

However, he argued that he had assisted police with the investigation into Ms Dillon-Burgess’s disappearance, speaking to officers on two occasions after she was last seen.

“Perhaps I was the most helpful person in terms of the entire investigation,” he added. “What I told police has not proven to be wrong or inconsistent.”

He also argued that Mark Pettingill, a former legal colleague who had earlier given evidence in the trial, had animus against him.

Mr Worrell told the court that years ago he had threatened Mr Pettingill with legal action over defamatory comments he had made which alleged he was practising without a licence.

He said that he did recall a conversation with Mr Pettingill about disposing of a body in relation to a case in which a body was wrapped in a rug and thrown overboard.

“I remember Mr Pettingill making the point that if he had punctured the body in some way, then it wouldn’t have floated,” he said.

He added: “Do you think that you would need a lawyer to tell you that maybe if you punctured a body it wouldn’t float? I don’t think you would need special council to know that. If you wanted to know that, you could look it up on Google.”

The trial continues.

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