The Grand Court jury trial of Carol Ann McNeill-Skorupan, a cruise ship passenger accused of illegally possessing a handgun and ammunition, began Monday without the defendant being present.

A jury was empanelled to hear the trial in absentia of the defendant Monday morning and Crown counsel Greg Walcolm made his opening arguments. The court heard that the defendant was a passenger on board the Celebrity Silhouette and that Delta Air Lines had flown a missing piece of her luggage into Cayman on Feb. 3.

Walcolm told the jury that McNeill-Skorupan had a valid licence to carry a concealed firearm in Wisconsin and that her name was clearly written on a luggage tag on her bag.

“We take no issue with it,” said Walcolm of the foreign licence. “She did not have a firearm users permit to have a firearm in this jurisdiction. It was fortunate the gun was intercepted by Customs.”

Walcolm said that the defendant admitted to owning the weapon during a police interview and said she had packed the gun inside the suitcase. Walcolm also said that the defendant’s intention could be ascertained based on information she had provided the cruise line, airline and shipping company.

The question of the case, he said, was whether she had intended to have the weapon sent to Cayman.

Walcolm called two witnesses Monday morning.

The first witness was a senior Customs officer who works in a supervisory capacity at Owen Roberts International Airport, and he testified about how the weapon was discovered.

The bag holding the weapon arrived on Delta Flight 690 from Atlanta, and the supervising officer said the baggage – a black suitcase with a Mickey Mouse emblem – was left on the floor unattended. The bag was scanned at the X-ray machine and the weapon was discovered in its side pocket.

The gun, a .25-calibre handgun, had a magazine with six bullets inside. Two officers were summoned to remove the magazine and make sure that the gun was safe before the investigation continued.

The second witness, a Customs and Border Patrol officer, testified that he was part of the team that collected the firearm. He confirmed that the pictures in the evidence bundle correspond to the bag and gun he had recovered, and he said that he and another colleague made contact with the defendant.

The defendant was already in custody when he arrived at North Terminal, said the witness.

“She confirmed the firearm was hers,” he said.

The police were transported to the ship with the defendant and affected a search of her cabin. Nothing illegal was found there, and the defendant transferred from the ship to the detention centre.

At that point, she was booked into custody and interviewed in the presence of her attorneys.

Defence attorney Keith Myers had just a couple of questions for the second witness. He wanted to make sure that the witness had never seen the defendant with the gun or bag in her possession.

“No, I did not,” said the witness.

Myers also asked if the defendant had objected to having her room searched or made the process difficult, and he was told that she had complied with the requests of law enforcement.

The trial will continue Tuesday, and the Crown is expected to run through the rest of its case.

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