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Three cleared of armed kidnap

Three Sandys men accused of an armed kidnap walked free from court today after the alleged victim fled to Jamaica and refused to return.

Puisne Judge Charles-Etta Simmons instructed a jury to return formal not guilty verdicts against cousins Kenith and Macray Bulford and Ashley Wellman.

The trio had been accused of holding 26-year-old Dwayne Reid Anderson against his will on January 2, 2010. They were further accused of conspiring to use a firearm to commit the kidnap, wounding Mr Reid Anderson with intent to do him grievous bodily harm and robbing him of $4,000 cash.

They maintained their innocence throughout the case and finally saw their names cleared today after a tangled legal process lasting 19 months.

Kenith Bulford, 36, and Ashley Wellman, 31, were first charged at Magistrates’ Court on January 11 2010 with wounding Mr Reid Anderson with intent to cause grievous bodily harm while holding him against his will. Macray Bulford, 38, was charged with the same crimes three days later.

According to a ruling from the judge in the case, Puisne Judge Charles-Etta Simmons, police found Mr Reid Anderson in an “injured state” on The Glebe Road on the date in question.

Mr Reid Anderson told police the three defendants had forced him to accompany them to the scene and had beaten him over the head with a gun and bound him with rope.

All three men were remanded into custody after their initial appearances at Magistrates’ Court. However, prosecutors dropped the charges against them on February 12 2010, after Mr Reid Anderson withdrew his complaint in the case. He later explained this was because he was scared for himself and his family.

The charges were reinstituted in April 2010, with prosecutor Cindy Clarke saying fresh evidence had come to light. According to the judge’s ruling, this was forensic evidence.

A further charge was added against all three men robbing the alleged victim of $4,000 cash. They were bailed until a Supreme Court appearance on June 1 2010, when a trial date was fixed for November 15 2010 and they were bailed again.

By October 2010, according to the judge, Mr Reid Anderson indicated he was willing to give evidence at the trial. However, he then changed his mind and fled to Jamaica eight days before it was due to begin. He has not come back since.

The trial was postponed until August 2 this year, when a jury of three men and nine women was selected to hear the case. As soon as the panel was sworn in, lawyers asked for the case to be adjourned for legal arguments.

Prosecutor Susan Mulligan then made an application under the Police and Criminal Evidence Act for the alleged victim’s two police statements and two recorded police interviews to be read into evidence, due to his absence. Ms Mulligan said it would be in the interests of justice to do so, as there was forensic evidence to support the statements.

The defence objected, and legal arguments over the issue continued until the beginning of this week. The judge in the trial, Puisne Judge Charles-Etta Simmons, ruled on the issue yesterday.

She told the lawyers it would not be fair for the trial to proceed without Mr Reid Anderson available as a witness. She remarked that “the facts of this case cry out for cross-examination,” and said it would be “unfair” for the defence not to be able to probe him on the witness stand.

Her ruling could not be reported until the jury returned directed verdicts in the case today.

Mrs Justice Simmons noted the Police made efforts to persuade Mr Reid Anderson to come back from Jamaica, including sending two officers over to see him in March. He refused to meet with them and told them he was afraid of the defendants and afraid for his family in Bermuda.

She also noted there was no witness protection programme in place when the case began, although there is one now.

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Published August 17, 2011 at 2:13 pm (Updated August 17, 2011 at 2:12 pm)

Three cleared of armed kidnap

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