Another Trinidad attorney received death threats

Attorney Wayne Sturge
Attorney Wayne Sturge

PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad — Trinidad and Tobago defence attorney Wayne Sturge said he has received three death threats over the last 12 months but did not take them seriously.

“I have gotten serious threats in the last 12 months, initially you don’t take it seriously, but then you dismiss it because you say to yourself people won’t cross the line like that. I never expect anyone to kill you for doing your job,” Sturge said.
The attorney was commenting on last weekend’s assassination of former independent senator and senior counsel Dana Seetahal because of his involvement in the Vindra Naipaul Coolman case, in which Seetahal was among the state’s team of prosecutors.

Sturge is representing the 12 men accused in the killing of Naipaul Coolman.

“I don’t know what’s to gain from killing a prosecutor; that is just so stupid.” Sturge said.

He added that he will never represent the perpetrators responsible for Seetahal’s murder.

“I will not represent anybody responsible for this,” Sturge emphasised.

In response to reports of cheering in the prisons when news of Seetahal’s assassination broke, Sturge said he does not believe any such thing happened because he does not think she had any real threat there.

The police are said to be working on two theories at this time in their investigations into the assassination; they believe that Seetahal’s involvement in the Naipaul Coolman case may have placed the senior counsel in harm’s way. They also believe that there could be a link to the casino she drove away from, as they seek to unravel what national security minister Gary Griffith described as a “well orchestrated hit”.

Seetahal was executed at around 12:05 last Sunday morning while she was heading home from a night out at a casino. Police say 12 bullets were fired into her vehicle, killing the prominent attorney on the spot. According to the police account of what happened, Seetahal was forced to stop her vehicle when one of two vehicles that were following her sped in front of her and blocked her, while the other pulled alongside her and the occupants came out and opened fire on her Volkswagen SUV.

Asked whether it is possible that one of the 12 accused could have had something to do with Seetahal’s killing, Sturge said, “Anything is possible, but from my interaction with the clients, they were happy with the way case was going, if I had to hazard a guess I would say it is unconnected, but of course I am not the police. I don’t think that they think they will profit from doing something like this… they come across as people with common sense.”

While Sturge insisted that his interactions with the accused men does not suggest that any of them had anything to do with the killing, when asked to explain if he can tell what a criminal is going to do based on his or her circumstances, he said, “Generally no, they wouldn’t come out and tell you. Sometimes you have to think beyond them, try to understand what they think and what they are capable of. I think they understand what we do, we do for a living… again we don’t know what’s in a man’s mind. Some people say only the devil knows what is in a man’s mind, while others say not even the devil knows what is in a man’s mind.”

Sturge admitted that criminals can lie very persuasively.

Still shocked at the news of Seetahal’s murder, Sturge said he received the news of her killing around 12:30 am same day.

“I was shocked, I am still shocked… I saw a missed call from Sergeant Alexander and then Terrance Dick, a lawyer and policeman called twice, at that hour I thought it was something serious,” he recounted.

The defence attorney remembered Seetahal mostly for her thoughtfulness.

“She was a very thoughtful person. She was basically a good friend and we were very close, she always defended me,” Sturge said.

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