Creation: 11 Feb. 2022 07:54

Supreme Court (file photo)

A police officer yesterday admitted to mislabeling two bags of evidence seized as part of a murder investigation.

Detective Sergeant Lennox Ince told the Supreme Court he recovered a gray sweatshirt and a pair of jeans from a house linked to Taaj Muhammad, who is charged with the murder of Ronniko Burchall.

Mr Ince said the clothes were placed in separate evidence bags, but he mistakenly labeled the jeans as a sweatshirt and the sweatshirt as jeans.

He added: “When I got back to the office, I should have made sure the exhibit tags were placed on the correct bags by looking through the bags.

“It’s a lesson learned and I apologize to the courts for my mistake.”

Mr Ince added that he had not handed over the evidence bags to the Forensic Support Unit for several days, but had kept them locked in his desk drawer.

He insisted, “No one has altered or traded these exhibits.”

Mr Ince told the court the items seized were given to him by Mr Muhammad’s grandmother when he and other officers attended St George’s home with a search warrant on December 31, 2018.

He said the grandmother produced the items in a closet in the bedroom, which appeared to be mostly filled with women’s clothing.

Mr Ince added: “As far as I remember, I didn’t see any other men’s clothing in the closet.”

He said the sweatshirt and jeans were dry and he folded them before putting them in brown paper evidence bags.

Mr Ince added that he and other officers went to Southside Police Station in St David’s to await further instructions and the bags were left in the police car, which was locked.

He said officers had visited other addresses in St George for further searches, but he returned to his Vulnerable People Unit office on Hamilton’s Front Street after the team found no one at home in other houses.

Mr Ince said he sealed the two bags with red tape, affixed labels to them and locked them in his office.

He told the court that the next day he was assigned to investigate the sexual assaults and did not have time to provide the evidence to the forensic support unit until January 3.

But Mr Ince added that he was the only person with the keys to his office and it would have been obvious if the evidence bags had been tampered with.

He said: “Once you put the red tape on top and seal it, any attempt to remove it will be seen by anyone.”

Mr Muhammad, 26, of St George’s, has pleaded not guilty to the murder of Mr Burchall and to a charge of using a firearm in the commission of the offence.

The court heard earlier that Mr Burchall, 30, was shot in the head at close range as he left a Christmas party at St David’s County Cricket Club just after 1.30am on December 29 .

He died in hospital the following day.

The court heard testimony earlier from Mr Muhammad’s former girlfriend, who said he told her he shot Mr Burchall and then swam from St David’s to St George’s.

Another witness said the shooter was wearing a gray hoodie with the hood over his head.

The trial, before acting Puisne Judge Juan Wolffe, continues.

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