Trial began on Thursday
for two of the four men charged with abducting a young man last year and trying
to get US$500,000 from his mother in exchange for his release.
Talbert Tyson Tatum, 23,
was kept confined at a house in North Side for more than 24 hours before he
escaped and got help from a neighbour.
Richard Robert Hurlstone, was the alleged “mastermind” who, the Crown said,
introduced the plan and had several meetings with the other three men to
rehearse the plan. The kidnapping was said to be a joint enterprise by
Hurlstone, Wespie Wilfred Mullings, Allan Sywell Kelly and Charles Felix
Hurlstone was granted
bail last summer and absconded in December. He has since been seen in his
native Honduras with his wife and children. Mullings was scheduled to give
evidence for the Crown in this trial. He has already pleaded guilty to
abduction, blackmail and keeping an abducted person in confinement, but has not
yet been sentenced.
Before Justice Karl
Harrison was to begin hearing evidence on Wednesday, Crown Counsel Tanya Lobban
applied to have Hurlstone tried in his absence so that the trial could proceed
against all three men. After hearing her application, the judge said Hurlstone
had deliberately chosen not to appear to stand trial; he therefore ordered that
the trial should proceed in Hurlstone’s absence.
Kelly and Webster had
entered not guilty pleas and chose to be tried by judge alone.
However, Hurlstone had
not yet entered his pleas in a formal arraignment and he had not yet indicated
whether he would elect to be tried by judge alone.
referred to the Criminal Procedure Code and pointed out that every person
committed to the Grand Court shall be tried by a judge and jury, unless he has
specifically elected judge alone. Since Hurlstone had not elected, and the
three were to be tried together, Kelly and Webster would also have to have
trial by jury.
Defence Attorney Ben Tonner objected. “It cannot be fair
or just for Richard Hurlstone to voluntarily absent himself yet still dictate
the mode of trial my client should have,” he said on behalf of Webster.
Attorney Clyde Allen expressed concern as to how a jury would view the absence
of a defendant.
Arguments continued on Thursday as to whether the three
men should be tried together. Acting Attorney General Cheryll Richards
submitted it was only in exceptional cases that separate trials should be
ordered for two or more defendants who are jointly charged with participating
in one offence. She pointed to the risk of different treatment by different
tribunals if the defendants were tried separately.
After hearing further arguments and considering various
authorities, Justice Harrison ordered that Kelly and Webster be tried
separately from Hurlstone. He pointed out that the Crown already had an order
to try Hurlstone in his absence and that could be dealt with at some future
date “if the Crown decides that they desire to do so.”
Talbert Tatum was the first Crown witness. He said he
fixed wave runners as a hobby and he was asked to meet a man in North Side to
do some work on two wave runners. They met and the man, whom he identified as
Webster, directed him to a house near Rum Point, where he was met by two more
men, assaulted, overpowered and tied up. Duct tape was placed over his eyes and
mouth, but later the tape was removed from his mouth for food and water, he
said. The Crown exhibited photos of his injuries and of the exterior and
interior of the house where he was confined.
Questioning by defence
attorneys was brief. Justice Harrison asked if identification was an issue.
“I’m going to say Mr. Kelly was present,” Mr. Allen replied. He also stated he
was not questioning whether Talbert Tatum was abducted.
The next witness was
Talbert’s mother, who was scheduled to continue her evidence Monday morning.