Nicole Clement Witness Protection

Witness Protection Programme in focus again…..

Spread the word

Remember how Clint Huggins was killed

Once again, the issue of State witnesses has surfaced. This time, it is WPC Nicole Clement who is threatening to walk out of  a “safe house” because she is not being treated well. We must never forget that high profile State witness Clint Huggins got fed up at his safe house at Teteron Barracks, walked out and was killed by his own family for $3 million. Two things can happen when a State witness leaves a safe house. Either that witness gets killed, or refuses to testify against the accused persons. In the case of Clement, she is the star witness against six of her colleagues on three counts of murder.
History has shown that the State does not take much care of its witnesses. “It is frustrating,” Huggins said after he ran away from the safe house in 1996.
Once a witness is taken away from his/her home, it is unlikely the witness will be able to function as normal. That witness cannot work, cannot lime, cannot go to the mall or grocery, cannot socialize, cannot go to the beach, cannot go to the cinema. That witness’ life is now in the hands of the State in what is referred to as the so-called Witness Protection Programme.
That programme works well in the United States, not because that country is much larger, but the US Justice Department looks after its witnesses.
State witnesses in safe houses are nothing new in Trinidad and Tobago.
Witnesses were hidden away in big murder trials, such as the Queen v Abdul Malik and Stanley Abbott,and the State v Nankissoon Boodram (Dole Chadee) and others.


Huggins was a key witness in another era, a time of drug criminals and chilling mass murders by ruthless gangs. His was the era of men such as Dole Chadee, feared as the “boss” and with good reason for Chadee allowed no one to stand in his way.
Huggins’ fate was sealed when he became one of two key witnesses whose testimony would send Chadee and eight of his henchmen to the gallows in 1999. But as Christ once said, those who live by the sword die by the sword, and Huggins met his end in a gruesome killing orchestrated by Chadee.
Clint Huggins was a Special Reserve Policeman attached to the Sangre Grande Police Station in the early 1990s. But while he wore the police uniform with pride sitting in the charge-room and taking reports, there was a dark side to this man.
He was a member of the Dole Chadee gang. Dole Chadee, the police knew, was heavily involved in trafficking cocaine and killings, more sophisticated and cunning than what is taking place today in areas such as Laventille.
There were other policemen on Chadee’s payroll which allowed the gang to flourish for years. But there was something about Huggins that attracted the attention of Senior Superintendent Mervyn Ghatt, then head of the Homicide Bureau. He targeted Huggins for information about the murder of four members of the Baboolal family of Williamsville who were gunned down mafia style on January 10, 1994. 

The Williamsville killings bore the stamp of a ruthless boss and the police believed it was no one else but Chadee. But, such fear surrounded Chadee that the police kept encountering a solid wall of silence. With nowhere else to turn, Ghatt moved on Huggins and finally in May 1994 Huggins broke his silence and gave the police some vital information.
This led to a massive weekend round-up of the Chadee gang and the last weekend of freedom that they would have. It was not the first time that Chadee had been charged with murder. In fact, he had faced three murder charges but on each occasion had been acquitted because the witnesses were killed. This time the police decided to take no chances and the main State witness — Clint Huggins — was placed in protective custody at the Regiment Barracks at Teteron where, surrounded by top security, it was thought that Huggins would be safe.

In the meantime, Chadee and nine members of his gang were committed to stand trial for the Williamsville murders. The country was preparing for the biggest murder trial of all time. Chadee, of course, was not without resources and used everything legal to delay the trial, including filing a constitutional motion and claiming that the pre-trial publicity would prevent him getting a fair trial.
When that failed, a plan was hatched to get rid of Huggins. A soldier, Lance Corporal Eric Williams was approached. He had easy access to Huggins in the safe house at Teteron and it would be easy for him to poison Huggins. Chadee, however, picked the wrong man because Williams immediately informed his seniors about the plan.
A sting operation was put in place by the authorities to trap the would-be killer of Huggins and it became the infamous hoax of 1995, in which the media was unwittingly used by the National Security Ministry and the police to fool the would-be killers into believing that Huggins had indeed been poisoned and that their plan had succeeded.

One morning, Superintendent Phillip Browne, the then Head of the Homicide Bureau, ‘admitted’ that Huggins was dead, that he had been poisoned and that the post-mortem was about to start at the Forensic Sciences Centre. At the Forensic Sciences Centre Huggins’ father, Neville Huggins, emerged from inside the building, having duly identified the “body”. He was in tears and being comforted by soldiers but he was quickly led away.
That evening the next act in what was a staged drama — except the media didn’t know it at the time — was going down in the Brian Lara Promenade. There, the police carried out a sting operation and arrested suspects who had in their possession one million dollars, that was the payment for poisoning Huggins. 
Their plan, having been achieved, the police were now going to come clean with the media. The following day, the then Chief of Defence Staff Brigadier Ralph Brown and former Commissioner of Police Jules Bernard held a joint news conference at Defence Force Headquar-ters to say that they had fooled the media so that they could capture the person behind the poison plot.
Clint Huggins was very much alive. And while reporters were being briefed by Brown, editors had been summoned by then National Security Minister Russell Huggins who admitted the hoax, insisting that the end had justified the means.

Three suspects were arrested on the Brian Lara Promenade and charged with conspiracy to kill a State witness but only two, Felicia Constantine, 29, of Valencia, and Ronald Williams, 25, a regiment private were found guilty. The third was acquitted.
Huggins became frustrated at the confinement of the State house. He complained that he was not getting what he had been promised. Huggins was a very frightened man. Although he was in protective custody he was still afraid of the “boss”. “Imagine Mr Chadee paid one million to poison me. I couldn’t believe it. No one since I was around dared to stand up to him,” Huggins said.

Huggins knew what he was talking about. He had been recruited by Joey Ramiah, Chadee’s chief lieutenant and had been involved with the gang in several jobs including the murder of the Williamsville family. Why did he get involved in this gang? “I wanted money,” he said. “I had a young wife and we were planning to have children. I never planned to be a full-time member of the gang, but once you get involved you could not leave alive. It was either you stayed or you were left like ‘Mice’ Baboolal.”
Huggins said the killings increased all the time. He was part of the gang for two years before the Baboolal murders. Huggins continued, “To tell you how brutal that man Chadee was, he killed his own family, Wally Chadee. There was some dispute over money and cocaine and just so Wally get killed and the man did not even have a heart boy.” Wally was shot and killed in Piparo on September 11, 1993.

Huggins said when the gang received Chadee’s instructions to kill ‘Mice’ Baboolal, he never anticipated that the entire Baboolal family would be killed. “I hear Joey with that talk when we reach in the house. I felt so sick I just wanted to get it over with. That bloodshed really affected me and that is why I decided to talk,” Huggins said. 
Huggins left the safe house. On February 20, 1996, Huggins’ body was found hanging out of a car on the Uriah Butler Highway, Mt Hope. According to police reports, he had been shot, stabbed and his body partially burnt. But who would believe the story after the great hoax. The public needed hard evidence. A photograph showing his body battered, shot and burnt . 

He really had been killed this time. He had run away from the safe house to enjoy Carnival and the alcohol spoke when he was seen at a bar in Sangre Grande. He was lured away from the bar and brutally murdered. Chadee had put out a $3m bounty on Huggins’ head, but before Huggins was killed he had given evidence in the preliminary inquiry of the Williamsville murder and his deposition was admitted into evidence at the trial.
Chadee and his gang were tried and convicted through Huggins’ deposition and the evidence of another gang member Levi Morris, who had also participated in the Williamsville murder but had turned State witness.

WPC Clement is now threatening to not testify against six of her colleagues. 
Clement, who was initially charged with the crime before being given immunity in exchange for her testimony, made the threat in a letter sent by her attorney Gerald Ramdeen to National Security Minister Edmund Dillon on Monday. 
Clement is alleging that the police and the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) failed in their obligations under the plea bargain deal to relocate her family to a foreign country and foot the bill for their living expenses. 
Ramdeen said, “It is clear from the manner in which my client has been treated that the State has not taken seriously their obligations towards her and her family. From the actions of the State, it seems that those in authority take the view that they are doing my client a favour, whereas it should be understood that the relationship between the State and my client in this matter is one governed by law and contractual obligations that are enforceable in law.”
He added, “My client took the decision to put her life and that of her family at risk in the interest of the State and in exchange she has been treated in the most inhumane and degrading manner. Her rights have been trampled upon by those in authority… Her basic needs have been neglected and the security of herself, her daughter and her family have been taken for granted.” 
Ramdeen gave Dillon 48 hours in which to rectify the situation or his client will “walk out.”
“Our jurisdiction is not unfamiliar to the vicious acts of murder orchestrated by those whose interest is to silence those who have witnessed criminal acts and in the interest of preventing justice being done. One need only mention the names Clint Huggins, Stacy Roopan and Nicholas Joseph as those who lost their lives at the expense of the criminal justice system. Officer Clement will not be joining that list,” Ramdeen said. 
On November 1, 2012, Clement and her co-workers Khamraj Sahadeo, Ronaldo Riviero, Glen Singh, Roger Nicholas, Safraz Juman and Antonio Ramadhin were charged with murdering friends Abigail Johnson, Alana Duncan and Kerron Eccles in July 2011 at Moruga.
Johnson, Duncan and Eccles were shot dead in their car while driving in Barrackpore on July 22, 2011, sparking weeks of protests from members of their community. 
After spending a little over seven months on remand, Clement entered into an agreement to testify against her co-accused. Under the agreement, the murder charges against her were to be discontinued and she, her 18-month-old daughter and a handful of her immediate family were to be placed in the Witness Protection Programme and relocated to a foreign country if she testified and pleaded guilty to a lesser offence of conspiring to pervert the course of justice. 
But according to Ramdeen, while his client fulfilled her obligations under the agreement, she and her family are yet to be placed in the structured programme and are instead still under a makeshift arrangement in which she and her daughter are living in a “safe house” with minimal police protection. 
He added that since signing the agreement in June 2012, his client and her daughter had been kept at three different locations, including one which did not have potable water. He also claimed his client had issues with the fact that police officers were in charge of her protection, since officers were also involved in the case. She feared the possibility that her location may be compromised under this arrangement, he added. 
“My instructions are that one of the officers attached to this location had a habit of leaving the location for two to four hours every tour. As he reported for duty he would have to get something to eat and he would leave the location and not return for another two hours after which he would leave around 4 pm and not return before dark,” Ramdeen said, as he also stated that Clement’s daughter is unable to attend kindergarten as comprehensive security could not be provided for her. 
He said despite repeated complaints to DPP Roger Gaspard and to several senior police officers, her concerns over the ongoing arrangements and the state’s failure to provide proper witness protection were ignored. 
“Without her evidence this prosecution is bound to fail. If this prosecution fails the stain that it would leave upon the administration of criminal justice in this country will be permanent and its effect will be far-reaching and catastrophic,” Ramdeen wrote to Dillon.
“It has the potential to taint the entire Police Service and all of those who participate in the criminal justice system. If this administration is prepared to take that risk it would be a sad day for this country.” 


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