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Sighting of missing woman came before disappearance

In the dock: Kamal Worrell is on trial for the murder of Chavelle Dillon-Burgess (File photograph)

The lead detective in the investigation into the murder of Chavelle Dillon-Burgess gave further evidence during the trial of Kamal Worrell yesterday.

Mr Worrell has denied charges of murdering Ms Dillon-Burgess on an unknown date between April 10 and June 11, 2020.

He has also denied a charge of wounding Ms Dillon-Burgess and 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.

Under cross-examination by Mr Worrell, Detective Inspector Jason Smith insisted that claims of a possible sighting of Ms Dillon-Burgess were not followed up because the alleged sighting took place in February 2020 – two months before Ms Dillon-Burgess was last seen.

During repeated questioning on the point from Mr Worrell, who is representing himself, Mr Smith said: “It wasn’t relevant because she wasn’t missing in February.”

Mr Smith also explained that the claim of the sighting was made third-hand by a witness during a police interview. In a statement, the witness said she had spoken to her best friend “who told me that her nanna saw her on the back of a bike”.

Mr Smith added that he understood the “nanna“ referred to in the statement was Ms Dillon-Burgess’s grandmother, who was interviewed by police and made no mention of any sighting.

Mr Worrell also questioned Mr Smith about the circumstances of his arrest and the reasons why he was fitted with an electronic monitoring device.

Mr Smith replied that he authorised the ankle bracelet because of the seriousness of the offence and the fact that Mr Worrell was “high risk”.

When Mr Worrell continued with this line of questioning, he was warned by Puisne Judge Juan Wolfe that “this is not a fishing expedition”.

In another round of repetitive questioning, Mr Worrell produced a number of e-mails written by Mr Smith to members of his investigating team.

In one e-mail, dated May 20, 2020, Mr Smith wrote: “Colleagues, I have made a policy decision to arrest Kamal Worrell for the murder of Chavelle Dillion-Burgess.”

Mr Worrell repeatedly asked the detective what he meant by “policy”. Mr Smith repeatedly replied that he was simply laying out a formal record of the actions he was taking.

The defendant also questioned Mr Smith about a comment in the e-mail regarding removing Mr Worrell’s child from his care.

Mr Smith said he did have concerns about the child’s safety, stating: “You were a murder suspect, having been suspected of murdering your son’s mother. That in and of itself would give concern.”

He said that any decision in that regard would be the responsibility of the vulnerable persons unit, not himself.

Mr Smith said: “I had nothing to do with any removal of your son. That’s not my remit. I raised a concern for my colleague to address.”

Mr Worrell said Mr Smith’s e-mail stated that the removal of his son would leave the defendant “vulnerable” for subsequent police interviews and suggested that it was one reason why police wanted to do so.

Mr Smith, however, denied that it was the case.

Mr Worrell said the e-mail also stated that the arrest would allow officers to seize and access the defendant’s mobile phone. However, he noted that police had seized and extracted data from the phone when he was arrested earlier in the month as part of the investigation.

Mr Smith agreed and said that while other phones were seized, they could not be accessed for download.

He said that the need to seize the phone was not the only reason for the arrest.

“In the circumstances of the case, there were more than enough investigative leads that led me to arrest you for murder,” he said.

The trial 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