Guilty verdict in Durty Reid’s robbery

After he chose trial by judge alone, Anthony Connor was found guilty last week of the robbery at Durty Reid’s Bar and Beanery in July 2005.

Mrs. Justice Nova Hall adjourned sentencing until 20 July.

Before announcing her verdict, she said the most important issue was the identification of Connor by an off-duty police officer who was in the bar at the time.

The judge reviewed the evidence called by Crown Counsel Trevor Ward and Defence Attorney David McGrath.

There was no dispute that a masked person carrying a firearm entered the bar, located in Red Bay Plaza, and robbed the premises around 11.30pm on Sunday, 17 July 2005. He threw a satchel on the bar and asked for money. Some $800 was given to him by the manager from the cash register.

There were four patrons present, including the off-duty officer. The robber taunted the officer, threatened him and threw a stool at him.

The burden was on the Crown to prove that Connor was the robber. Connor did not have to give evidence, but he did and he also called an alibi witness.

The judge found as a fact that the officer and the defendant did have mutual first cousins, so there was a familial link. She accepted the officer’s evidence that he had known Connor from school days and later in a professional capacity.

Guidelines for identification evidence warn that it is easy for even an honest witness to make a mistake, the judge noted.

She therefore reviewed the circumstances of the identification. The Defence argued that the incident happened too quickly and was too stressful for a positive identification to be made.

The officer acknowledged it was the first time in his career that anybody had pointed a gun at him. The robber had asked him for his gun, but he said he didn’t have one. The robber also commented that he had always wanted to shoot a policeman.

He explained that he observed the robber for some 30 seconds before being told to lie down on the floor. He agreed his face was down, but he kept looking up, engaging the robber in conversation and concentrating on his face.

The robber was wearing a balaclava, so the officer could see from above the man’s eyebrows to below his nose. His eyebrow was shaved and he had an indentation near his nose.

Another patron who gave evidence said he thought that the officer was using psychology and, by causing the robber to focus on him, helped to keep other customers safe.

All witnesses agreed that the lighting was good.

The judge found as a fact that the officer had used his hostage training to deal with the situation; that the lighting, distances involved, duration of the incident and the hole in the mask were sufficient for the officer to identify Connor as the robber.

A witness for the Defence told the court she had been with Connor at the time of the robbery. She said they had been sitting in her car talking for about two hours.

The judge pointed out that Connor had said the young woman’s visit to his house had not been prearranged. The witness said she had never been to his house before that night; she had spoken to him on the phone and he gave her directions.

This witness said she heard about Connor’s arrest the day after the robbery. When they had parted they were on friendly terms.

But this witness did not giver a statement in the matter until January of this year.

After assessing all aspects of this testimony, the judge said she did not accept the young woman as a witness of truth.

There was also evidence of a red car in the vicinity of Durty Reid’s at the time of the robbery and Connor having access to a red car of the same type. But the judge indicated there were too many red cars in Cayman to draw any inescapable conclusion.