Wednesday 20 November, 2019

BDF Court Martial: Whatsapp conversations examined in court

Evidence from Whatsapp conversations were shown to the panel in the ongoing Court Martial, as the trial of a Lieutenant of the Barbados Coast Guard continued.

Lieutenant David Harewood is charged with knowingly communicating with Akem Waithe aka “Ellis” between August 7 and 10, 2018, via a BDF cellphone and knowingly communicating with a known drug trafficker sometime in January 2018.

In addition, he is accused of failing to inform his superiors of a threat to a fellow officer - OS Marlon Scott and conducting unauthorised information-gathering operations, conduct unbecoming of a commissioned officer in the BDF.

This evidence came to light as a result of an expert witness who extracted the cellphone information using cellebrite software. Station Sergeant Candice Maynard was set to take the stand to give this evidence but due to illness she was unable to appear.

After considering a number of sections in the Evidence Act, the court gave leave to the prosecution to tender the report of Maynard. Sergeant Emille Jacobs of the Royal St. Vincent Police Force instead took the stand to read the examination reports from Maynard.

Both Maynard and Jacobs work at RSS Regional Forensic Lab in the area of forensic examinations.

The first report was done on a BDF cellphone attached to Harewood. It revealed calls between the BDF cellphone and a number linked allegedly to an “Ellis World Boss” or ”World Boss” – a second report linked the number and alias while the first had no attached name.

The second report was initially challenged by Defence Counsel Vincent Watson as being unrelated to Harewood. However, the court ruled that the report was indeed relevant and had “probative value” to Harewood’s matter. The report was related to information extracted from a personal cellphone belonging to OS Tyrell Gibbons.

There were two chats which were retrieved from the phone and shown to the court.

The first chat included Gibbons’ number, a personal phone number admitted to be linked to Harewood and saved as “Boss Hwood” and the phone number saved as “World Boss”. 

In that chat, part of the conversation regarded the provision of “juices” and concerns about trust – “you said trust you this good, u can’t even track ****”

Although the panel said they did not see evidence of relevance in the second chat because the conversations regarded two numbers other than the ones requested, the prosecution sought to highlight what they deemed relevant.

 This second chat was between Gibbons’ number and the number linked to ‘World Boss’.

Part of the conversation went as follows:

World Boss : “I want to see your boss”

A screenshot then sent by Gibbons to ‘World Boss’ showed an image of a whatsapp chat with the name ‘Boss Hwood’ at the top. One message in that image read: “I not about meeting nobody else so he can speak through you, u know the procedures upfront.”

Other screenshots showed conversations saying “wanna got me doing work boss…sort it out. This ain’t no free work.”

With regards to the screenshot of the Whatsapp chat, Jacobs told the court he could not say who the conversation was between.

In cross examination, Defence Counsel Vincent Watson asked Jacobs whether the owner of the phone was necessarily the user of the phone. To which he answered no.

He also questioned whether any of Gibbons’ conversations relate to anything that happened between August 7 and 10, 2018. Jacobs said not based on the report.

The prosecutor then informed the court that he would no longer be calling Gibbons as a witness but had one more to call tomorrow before he closes his case.

Defence counsel first questioned the prosecution’s move to exclude Gibbons but then said he would be calling Gibbons as a witness for the defence.

The case continues today.

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