Baby used to hide shoplifting

Two women who went shopping at Kirk Supermarket last year hid items in a bag and placed a baby on top of it to conceal their thefts.

Chief Magistrate Margaret Ramsay-Hale reached that conclusion after hearing evidence in the trial of Hilda Brown-Estaval and convicted her of theft. The magistrate based her verdict on the evidence of a store security guard and Estaval’s own admissions.

The incident occurred on 23 October 2007. The guard said he saw the women take hair- and skin-care products off the shelf in one aisle, then move to another aisle where they placed those items into a black bag. He then saw how a child was put to sit on the bag to conceal the goods.

The women were stopped after going through check-out and leaving the store. They had no receipt for the goods in the black bag.

Estaval also gave evidence. She said she was at the hospital and met the other woman who was there with her baby. She said she was going to the supermarket and the other woman asked to go along.

Estaval told the court she was ill that day and went to the bathroom several times. She said she did not see the other woman take items and she did not take any herself. She admitted seeing the items in the shopping trolley, seeing the other woman put them into a bag and then seeing how the baby was put on the bag to conceal the goods.

She admitted knowing the woman intended to take the goods without paying. ‘But knowing this she continued to shop with her, went through the check-out and intended to leave with the lady, the baby and the stolen items,’ the magistrate summarised.

Even without the guard’s evidence, Estaval’s admitted conduct would amount to encouragement of the other woman’s theft. But so much of her evidence supported the security guard’s evidence that the magistrate was satisfied he was a witness of truth. ‘I accept his evidence and I reject her version, in which she seeks to distance herself’ from the theft.

Estaval was a joint party to the illegal activity, the magistrate concluded.

She noted that the goods, with a value of $100, were returned to the store. She also referred to Estaval’s statement that the other woman had returned to Cuba after the incident.

Estaval, also Cuban, told the court she works as a housekeeper and her income varied.

The magistrate fined her $250 for theft and $250 for costs of prosecution, pointing out that the trial had taken parts of two days.

Estaval was given time to pay if a Caymanian surety would sign for her. She was advised of her right to appeal within seven days.