Not guilty verdicts in Foster’s robbery

Damean Dwayne Seymour was found not guilty of the robbery of Foster’s Food Fair Republix Supermarket in West Bay on 4 March 2006.

He was also found not guilty of possession of a handgun and ammunition used in the robbery when a Grand Court jury returned its unanimous verdicts late Friday afternoon.

There being no outstanding matters against Seymour, Justice Seymour Panton released him from custody.

‘The jury having found you not guilty, it is my duty to discharge you,’ Justice Panton said. ‘Walk good.’

The Crown’s case was that the robbery was committed by Eluno George Liking and another, unknown, man. Seymour was accused of providing the firearm and counselling and procuring the commission of the robbery offence.

Liking was the key witness in the trial, which began last Monday. He admitted taking part in the robbery, but said Seymour forced him to.

Justice Panton said the jurors’ determination of the case depended wholly on what view they took of Liking – whether he had been truthful, mistaken or lying.

They could only find Seymour guilty if they were satisfied so that they felt sure Seymour did give the gun to Liking and his companion with instruction that they commit the robbery and that Liking was put in fear so that he felt he had no choice but to do it.

Liking told the court he was a barber with his own store in West Bay. He had seen Seymour before with a mutual friend on several occasions.

Around 8pm on Saturday, 4 March, he was at his barber shop when an SUV drove up. He was ordered to get into the vehicle and was then driven to George Town. Near a bar, Seymour got into the vehicle. They drove further, then Seymour got out and returned with a gun.

Liking said Seymour thought he was a police informer, so was forcing him to do something illegal. Liking was afraid if he didn’t do it he would be hurt or killed or his family would be hurt.

He said he told Seymour he was too well known in West Bay to do the robbery, but Seymour said he could be the driver.

The SUV driver took Liking and the unknown man to Public Beach to get a car. There they saw a man and woman in the water. Liking got them out of the water to get the keys to the car they had.

Then Liking and his unknown companion took the man and woman in the car with them. They drove to a place in West Bay and stopped. Liking put duct tape over the mouth and eyes of the man and woman, and taped their hands.

When they got to Foster’s, the unknown man who should have done the robbery got cold feet. There was an argument about who should do the deed. Liking didn’t want to go back to Seymour empty-handed, so the other fellow gave him the mask and the gun.

Liking went to the door of the store, which was locked by this time, as it was minutes to 11pm. A guard motioned that the store was closed. Liking broke the glass and entered. He grabbed a cash register computer unit and left.

He later realised that what he had taken did not include a cash drawer. He also realised he had been cut and had lost the magazine from the gun.

Police responded to the scene after a civilian in the parking lot saw what was happening and called 911. Officers recovered a gun magazine with live ammunition from a mat outside the broken door. They also found blood, which was subsequently identified as Liking’s.

After his arrest, Liking told police he wanted protection for his family and then he would tell them what happened.

The man and woman who had been abducted from the beach also gave evidence for the Crown.

The woman said the person who ordered them out of the water was wearing a mask and took a gun from his waist. She said he threatened to hurt or kill her if she looked at him.

In the car, she had been able to ease up the tape on one eye, so she could see what was happening. She saw and heard Liking make two phone calls.

For one call, she said she heard him ask if there were many people there and she heard a woman’s voice answer.

Liking denied making any calls, he denied threatening to hurt or kill the woman and he denied that he was the one who had the duct tape.

In summing up the evidence, Justice Panton said either Liking or the woman was lying or making a mistake. It was for the jurors to decide.

The case for the Prosecution was conducted by Solicitor General Cheryll Richards. In her closing address, she described the robbery as clumsy, hasty and makeshift. She said Liking could be believed because of his character, his demeanour in giving evidence and the details of his account.

For the Defence, Mark Rainsford QC said Liking had already kidnapped people and tied them up, so hadn’t he proved he was not an informer? He asked why Liking volunteered to go into Foster’s when the other man started to wobble.

Mr. Rainsford pointed to an important inconsistency: Liking said he only committed the robbery because Seymour made him do it. But Liking had pleaded guilty. If someone really made you do it, it’s not an offence, he said.

In his instructions to the jury, Justice Panton said this was correct because the law provides a defence for someone forced to commit a crime that is not murder or treason.