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Ex-police accused of stealing meat to know fate next month

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by Crystal Jones

Come November 2, magistrate Rickie Burnett will deliver his decision in a case in which a former police officer has been charged with having meat, suspected of being stolen, in his possession.

Granville DeFreitas, a resident of Chester Cottage, is charged that on July 4, 2017, he had in his possession at North Union, 62.5 lbs of beef, reasonably suspected of being stolen or unlawfully obtained, contrary to section 308 chapter 171 of the Laws of St Vincent and the Grenadines.

The case was first called in Kingstown on July 6, then transferred to the Georgetown Magistrate’s Court, where the first appearance was on August 17 before Burnett.

The court heard that on July 4, at about 5:50 a.m., police officers were on mobile patrol in North Union, conducting searches for stolen agricultural produce.

A white high roof van was stopped, and a search was conducted on the passengers. Defreitas had in his possession a book bag containing three parcels of meat, which he claimed was mutton.

DeFreitas, who now claims that he is a fisherman, was held by police on suspicion.

He took the police officers to an area at Congo Valley near Black Point, where he pointed to a big stone in the river, claiming that was the place where he had slaughtered a brown ram goat that morning.

Police officers told the court they searched 100 feet up and downstream, but found no evidence that a slaughter had taken place.

The lawmen also testified that after they went back to the road, they met the passenger van in which DeFreitas was a passenger, and the driver presented them with another plastic bag with meat, stating that Defreitas had left it behind in the van’s fish bucket.

A search was carried out at DeFreitas’ home and items were taken into evidence, including wet clothes, a knife, a flashlight and water boots found at the side of the house.

District health officer Craigg, in his testimony on August 31, said he was called to the police station to identify the meat on July 4. He said he told police it was definitely not mutton, but in his opinion, pork. He took a sample of the meat to get a second opinion from his superiors, who he said also agreed it was pork.

Craigg said because the meat had no bone or intestines included, it was difficult to identify the origin.

He said on July 5, when he returned to the police station, he met a butcher and two certified vets with whom the police were consulting about the type of meat.

Craigg testified that the vets and butcher identified the meat as beef and that overnight, the colour of the meat had changed and it had developed an odour, which made it easier to identify.

He agreed with the vets and butcher that it was beef.

The district health officer, however, told the court that the meat had come from a very young bovine (cow), the youngest he had ever inspected, which is another reason he initially thought it was pork.

When he took the stand, Corporal Jack told the court that based on information, police officers journeyed to Mt William, where the remains of a young cow were discovered. The skin, head, feet and intestines were present, but the meat had been cut from the bones.

Rudolph Hall, driver of the van in which DeFreitas was travelling, gave evidence on September 28. He said the book bag and plastic bag which were shown to him at court were different from what he saw on July 4. He claimed the book bag DeFreitas was carrying was brown and black and the plastic bag containing meat, which he handed over to police, was black.

The plastic bag presented in court by the police was blue and one police officer testified that DeFreitas’ book bag was black and grey, while district health officer Craigg said the book bag was black with camouflage.

Defreitas chose to represent himself in the matter. He made a no-case submission, saying the prosecution had no reasonable evidence because the meat he was travelling with was mutton.

He declined the opportunity to present witnesses, saying that there was no need for him to do so, given the evidence presented to the court. In his no-case submission, he pointed out numerous flaws in the the evidence presented by police.

DeFreitas stated that the Black Point river is shallow and two feet of water would be enough to wash anything in it downstream, as it had been raining that morning.

He said he weighed the meat before leaving home and it was 40 pounds and 45 pounds (a total of 85 pounds) and not 62.5 pounds, as stated by police, adding that something was wrong with the scale used by police when it was weighed in his presence.

According to DeFreitas, some of the things removed from his home belonged to his younger brother.

He said the police should be made to tell the court where his bag and his meat are now, hinting at a possible switch.

Defreitas said as a result of the case, he missed out on an opportunity to travel to England for work, as his relatives were in process of buying his plane tickets.

“How could a book bag I initialled in pen be erased? Where are the exhibit tags and how could the colour of the bags change?” Defreitas asked.

In his closing arguments, prosecutor Delroy Tittle told the court that the health inspector and the other experts agreed that the meat was beef. He said Craigg initially thought it was pork because the cattle was very young.

He said whenever an animal is slaughtered, some evidence is always left, even days after, but no evidence had been found that DeFreitas had slaughtered a goat in the Black Point river.

Tittle also made the point that goat head, liver and feet are all consumable, so why would DeFreitas throw them away.

“Mr Defreitas would never kill his own ram goat and skin off all the meat from the bones,” the prosecutor declared.

He also argued that the health inspector told the court that the meat could never be mutton.

“There might be some mistakes with the colour of the bags, but all the witnesses mentioned black and 90 per cent of the bag is black,” Tittle said.

“The fact remains Mr Defreitas was carrying a book bag filled with beef on that morning,” Tittle concluded.

Defreitas told SEARCHLIGHT he is anxiously awaiting the verdict on November 2, so that the police officers could provide him with his meat and belongings.

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