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Expert: gait evidence ‘unsuitable’ in murder trial

A defence witness told the Supreme Court that footage of a gunman who killed two people in a pub could not fairly be compared with recordings of the man accused of the crime.

An expert witness for the Crown noted similarities between how the gunman walked and how Syhon Akinstall walked while being held in custody at Westgate.

However, David Blake, a forensic gait analyst for the defence, said no meaningful comparisons could be made because of differences in the footage.

Mr Blake said that for a proper gait analysis, the suspect would ideally be recorded in an unfettered walk with their hands free and no obstructions, but that was not the case with the gunman filmed during the Robin Hood Pub and Restaurant shootings.

“In this scenario, and you can use the grout lines for example, you can see that the body is deviating to the left position away from the lines,” he said. “That indicates there was not an unfettered walking gait.

“The other concern was the firearm facing forward and the helmet located on the head, which would affect one’s gait as well.”

He further stated that it was not appropriate to compare footage of an individual running to footage of an individual walking for gait analysis, saying that comparisons should ideally be “like for like”.

“It’s a matter of opinion, but in my opinion what I see is a situation where in the first instance, coming forward, the man is crouched, stalking, running with a firearm to the front,” Mr Blake said.

“When you compare that to the main suspect in custody, none of those factors are there.

“For me, it wasn’t suitable enough to make a meaningful comparison to suggest a similarity with an unknown person.”

Mr Akinstall, 22, has denied the murders of Ayinde Eve and Micah Davis, as well as the attempted murders of Troy Eve Burgess and Derrick Golding, a police sergeant.

He has also denied four counts of the use of a firearm to commit an indictable offence, namely the murders and alleged attempted murders.

The offences were said to have happened on October 26, 2021, at the Robin Hood Pub and Restaurant in Pembroke.

Earlier this week, the court heard evidence from Barry Francis, a consultant podiatric surgeon and a forensic gait analyst, who compared footage from the restaurant with that of Mr Akinstall recorded at Westgate.

He said that both Mr Akinstall and the gunman appeared to walk with their right foot pointed forward and their left pointed outward.

Mr Francis also said that both men walked with a moderate stride and a narrow base of gait, meaning that they walked with their legs close together.

He maintained under cross-examination that while the suspect accelerated as he approached the victims, he was walking and not running.

However, he accepted that it would be inappropriate to compare the footage of the gunman fleeing the scene to the recording of Mr Akinstall walking because, in that portion of the recording, the suspect was running.

As the trial continued yesterday, Mr Blake said he did not notice the suspect’s left foot pointing outward except when he was turning leftward.

He added that a moderate stride was common and that an individual’s base of gait naturally narrows when they run.

Mr Blake also said that the gunman holding a firearm in front of him would also have affected his gate because it would impact the movement of his arms.

“Walking gait is based on a natural arm swing, so if you are placing your hands forward, that changes the way you walk,” he said.

He later told the court that the shoes worn by someone, such as sneakers or flip-flops, could also affect their gait.

Under cross-examination, Mr Blake said that while clinical laboratory settings would be ideal for gait analysis, the criminal cases he had given evidence in did not involve such circumstances.

While he said that the footage was unsuitable to identify similarities, he accepted that it was also unsuitable to identify any differences between the defendant and the suspect.

“With regard to the jury, it probably doesn’t help them one way or the other,” Mr Blake said.

The trial is expected to continue next week.

• 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