Dramatic images of masked, armed robbers bursting through the doors of Diamonds International jewelry store and shattering display cases with a hammer as staff fled in terror were shown in Grand Court on Tuesday.
Details of the New Year’s Day heist and the roles of each of the three men charged with the robbery of jewelry, worth more than $800,000, were outlined by Director of Public Prosecutions Cheryll Richards during the sentencing hearing.
She said Jonathan Ramoon was the man who could be seen on security camera footage, wearing a mask and pointing a gun at the security guard, before forcing him to the floor.
James McLean had been identified as the individual wearing a white mask, who had wielded the hammer to smash the glass display cases.
A third man, who escaped and has not yet been caught, was seen on the still images, pulled from CCTV footage, stuffing jewelry into a bright yellow bag.
Additional pictures of staff huddled in a back office of the store and lying face down on the floor behind the display counters were also shown.
Ramoon and McLean have entered guilty pleas on charges of robbery and possession of a firearm – a .38 caliber revolver loaded with five bullets.
Christopher Myles, who has admitted to being the getaway driver, has entered a guilty plea to the robbery. The Crown agreed not to proceed with charges of possession of the firearm after he denied knowing about the weapon.
Ms. Richards said three of the robbers had been caught after off-duty police commissioner David Baines, who had been driving by in his Chevy SUV, had intercepted the getaway vehicle before pursuing the men as they fled on foot toward the Legislative Assembly, dropping their loot.
She said his vehicle struck two of the men. One was trapped beneath the car, while the other attempted to get away.
Members of the public assisted by restraining and sitting on the men until police reinforcements arrived. The fourth, as yet unidentified member of the gang, escaped over a fence, she said.
Ms. Richards urged Justice Charles Quin to hand out tough sentences for the crime, which she said had a long-term impact on staff in the store.
Statements from some of the staff were read to the court, including one from a woman who was nine months pregnant at the time who said she had not been able to return to work.
“I can’t shake the image of these three men coming into the store and smashing everything. I feel like somebody is constantly chasing me,” another staff member said in a victim impact statement.
The prosecutor said the crime had a wider negative impact on the Cayman Islands because it occurred on the main tourist thoroughfare in the center of George Town.
“This was the first day of the year in a destination, where tourism is one of the main pillars of the economy. This can only be described as a daring, daylight robbery on the waterfront with cruise ship passengers on their way in [to port].”
She said the men had entered the store with a loaded weapon and each had clearly defined roles, showing a degree of sophistication and planning.
She added that one of the men who had helped restrain the robbers had dislocated his shoulder, while another had been punched in the face and sustained injuries.
John Furniss, for Myles, 33, said his client had admitted his role as the getaway driver immediately. He said Myles had not been aware that a gun was involved in the robbery plan and had played only a minor role. He said his client had been drinking with the others the night before and had been persuaded to take part in the robbery at the last minute.
He read a letter of apology to the court from Myles, stating that his agreeing to help in the robbery was “the stupidest mistake I ever made”.
Nick Hoffman, for McLean, 23, said his client was a naïve young man with no serious criminal background who had been following orders from his older accomplices.
He acknowledged that he would have to face a minimum of seven years in jail because the offense involved a firearm. But he urged the judge to “go no further than that” saying McLean, arguing that his client had not been the “prime mover” in the robbery plot.
Ramoon’s attorney, Irvin Banks, said his client accepted he had carried the weapon. But he disputed the claim from the Crown that the raid was “professionally planned.”
“Perhaps it was three or four guys sat around one night saying it might be a good idea to rob a jewelry store.”
Justice Charles Quin indicated he would deliver his sentences on Jan. 7.