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No cold murder cases solved in 2010

Police set up a unit last year to tackle cold murder cases, as murder squad detectives grappled with the bloodiest year in the country’s history.

However, police closed none of those old cases in 2010, a year in which the country saw a record-setting 96 murders. The country also set murder records in 2007 and 2009.

Police have charged suspects in 65 of the 96 cases recorded last year, but 31 of last year’s cases remain open. In September, Assistant Superintendent Bernard Bonamy Jr. said 100 of the 231 murders recorded since 2008 remain unsolved, as police relaunched an appeal for those with information about open murder cases to come forward.

In an earlier interview, Superintendent Leon Bethell, the commanding officer of the Central Detective Unit, told The Nassau Guardian that officers were looking at cold cases that have piled up over the last three years.

He said, “We are reviewing all unsolved matters for this year thus far and some from previous years.”

Bethell claimed that the force had a stronger homicide unit, which he attributed to updated training and new equipment.

However, police have seen minimal successes in the courts, with low conviction rates and prosecutors deciding not to take certain cases to trial.

Prosecutors dropped charges against three men accused of the double murders of Sylvano Yasmin and Kenrick Dolphe months after they were charged. A Supreme Court judge granted Don Phillipe, Wilson Toussaint and Knevunn Dean bail weeks after their arrest and charge after describing the evidence against them as weak. Prosecutors apparently agreed with this assessment as the charges were dropped months later.

A judge also stayed the trial of a man accused of a murder that occurred 10 years ago. Police arrested Cancino Lightbourne on August 18, 2000 for the murder of a man during the armed robbery of Snack Food Discount. Lightbourne was arraigned before Magistrate Renae McKay on August 21, 2000 and was detained at Her Majesty’s Prison until February 21, 2001 when the magistrate found there was insufficient evidence to require him to stand trial. Police re-arrested Lightbourne for the same offenses on September 24, 2002. On this occasion, the case was committed to the Supreme Court for trial by a voluntary bill of indictment.

Justice Isaacs ruled, “It is not fair that a person should be called to account merely to appease some public longing for someone, anyone to be tried. That is all a continued prosecution in this case would amount to without any substance to support the allegation. I make this assertion because there has been nothing disclosed to the court to suggest a new witness has come forward or some new forensic evidence has emerged following the applicant’s discharge in 2001.”

Justice Isaacs said Lightbourne should not be tried on evidence that a magistrate deemed unworthy of achieving even prima facie status.

However, Commissioner of Police Ellison Greenslade has said that the low success rate is not the fault of police.

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