Almost five years after being silent about the incident, murder accused, Bibi Shareema Gopaul looked anxious yesterday as she waited on her turn to lead a defence in relation to the murder of her daughter, Neesa Gopaul.
Gopaul and her former lover, Jarvis Barry Small, are jointly charged for the murder of the 16-year-old Queen’s College student. The incident occurred between September 24, and October 2, 2010.
Small and Gopaul were called upon to lead their defence yesterday, after Justice Navindra Singh overruled no case submissions by Attorneys-at-law George Thomas and Glenn Hanoman, two of the five member legal team representing them.
When given a chance to lead their defence yesterday, both accused elected to give unsworn statements from the prisoners’ dock. “Sir I am innocent of this charge. I did not kill Neesa Gopaul or play any part in killing her,” Small said.
“I never told Sergeant Caesar that I know who wanted to Kill Neesa Gopaul. Mr Jessamy asked me if I know who would want to kill the girl and I said I think I know who would want to kill her but I would only say so in the presence of my lawyer.”
Small said that he never admitted to ownership of the dumbbells which were lodged at the Station.
He told the court that he shared a relationship with Bibi Gopaul but that it ended long before September 23, 2010.
He claimed that on September 25, 2010 Gopaul contacted him via telephone and related to him that her daughter had gone missing.
“She was crying and wanted to see me,” the accused added. He agreed to meet with the woman but not in public. He said that he didn’t want his wife to find out.
“I had grown to love Neesa and Mary like my own daughters. I would never do her anything to cause harm to her. I would like the police to find the real killers and let them pay for what they did.”
Gopaul sat at the edge of her seat, and as she listened to Small speak, she fidgeted and appeared anxious at some points of his testimony. Persons had begun to flock the courtroom and additional benches had to be brought in to accommodate the growing audience. Despite the crowd, the courtroom was dead silent.
“My freedom was taken away for me, from my wife, from my children, for a charge I know nothing about, for which I am innocent. I never encouraged Bibi to kill her husband or anybody.”
“Sir, I am a Christian man. I am a father of three and a brother to five sisters and a husband of one wife (whom) I love very much. I did backslide. I did cheat but I never kill. I am not a killer. I am a family man.”
Small concluded his defence in less than half an hour. At this point, Small’s attorney, Lyndon Amsterdam, noted that no witnesses will be called on his behalf.
Bibi Gopaul thereafter stood up to lead her defence. She took almost three hours to tell her story. The woman told the court that on September 23, 2010, she picked up her children from school and they had a normal day; she cooked, they had dinner and went to bed.
Gopaul related that after the children had finished having dinner and had their bath they were watching television in her bedroom.
“We would watch television until we fall asleep. There is no lock on my room door so I placed a towel on top to keep the door closed tightly. There is an A/C in my bedroom that is why the door must be kept closed tightly”, she explained
“Me and my children sleep in one room, on one bed. In the morning when I got up Neesa wasn’t in the room,” the accused added, noting that she didn’t find this unusual since it was normal for her daughter to get up and do her chores early.
She said that after a while she realized her daughter was not going to bathe and she “looked around for her but couldn’t find her anywhere”.
The woman said that she immediately called her parents since it was not the first time Neesa might go out without her knowledge or consent.
The woman claimed that the Islamic School on East Street, Georgetown, which Neesa and her younger sister attended at the time, had half day school, hence she assumed her daughter had gone to spend the day with her friends.
However, at 5 o’clock the girl did not return home.
She said that the following day, she opted to make a missing person’s report at the Leonora Police Station. The woman related that she checked everywhere for her daughter but she could not find her.
Gopaul said that on October 3, 2010, Officer Paul of the Leonora Police Station contacted her and told her that they had found her daughter and she was dead. The accused told the court that she began crying and screaming.
The woman recalled that the officers took her to the Police Station at Leonora, West Coast Demerara and La Grange, West Bank Demerara before taking her to a funeral parlour.
Gopaul said that at the funeral parlour she was shown a body and she recognized the top to be one which her daughter was wearing. She claimed that she thought it was her daughter but she didn’t know since the head of the victim was covered.
The accused said that she was taken to a number of police stations but she never participated in confrontations with anyone except for Jarvis Small. She said that the police never showed her any dumbbells, rope, passport or bank card.
“I was only shown a bag, a sheet and a dress and I told the officers I don’t know them. They are not mine. Sir I have suitcase at my house but I have no bag like that,” Gopaul added.
She went on to say that Officer Caesar had shown her a photograph of her younger daughter with some red rope hanging on a wall in the background. The woman explained that the rope was used to tie a hammock in her house but that the hammock was taken down long before the incident.
She recalled that after her daughter went missing, she met Small at Parika and followed him to a hotel because she wanted to see if her daughter had been with him. She said she did not find the girl there but the police showed up moments later.
The woman said that her daughter had said that Small had sexually assaulted her. Gopaul claimed that she accompanied the teen to the station where they lodged a report. She said that she never recanted any story, as was relayed in the evidence of police witnesses.
Gopaul added that she was also assaulted by Small; he had fractured her skull. She said, however, that she went to the Justice of the Peace with him in relation to another matter.
As the woman told her story she appeared to be crying but she shed no tears. She gasped and paused as if she was having trouble breathing, causing members of the jury to fix their eyes upon her from time to time.
The accused told the court that she feared for her life and that of her children since Small had threatened “to take my daughter (Neesa) out of the picture” if she didn’t sign the affidavit to rebut her reports.
She claimed that the man had moved out of her house taking his “big weights” with him but he left a pair of small weights which remained on her back verandah. Gopaul said that she would sometimes hear noises coming from her backyard as if someone was there. She said that she reported this to the Police.
The woman said that she was forced to sign an affidavit since she feared for her life. She said that she felt the need to protect her daughter.
“Sir, I protected my daughter; I didn’t kill her and I didn’t allow no-one to hurt or kill my child… I never hurt my daughter. I never put my child in no bag and I never throw my child away. I don’t know such things sir.”
The woman went on to tell the court that a year prior to that her husband had passed away after a period of illness. She claimed that her husband, “Javed,” had diabetes and other health complications before he passed.
Gopaul said that after her husband passed his relatives from Crabwood Creek were present and they prepared his body for burial the day he died.
“I love my husband and I love my kids,” Gopaul said, noting that she never poisoned her husband. The woman also told the court that she does not use any drugs or smoke.
She explained that her children are very bright academically but that her daughter Neesa‘s grades began to drop drastically while she was at Queen’s College and thus she transferred to the Islamic school. She said that she did her best to do what was right by her children.
“I did not stand by and allow Jarvis Small or anybody else to kill my daughter,” Gopaul said
The accused also told the court that she never slept in or shared any cell at the East La Penitence Police with Simone De Nobrega. She said that she never confided in De Nobrega or told anything as it pertains to any crime.
The teen’s remains were recovered from a location along the Soesdyke /Linden Highway. Reports indicated that the body was found in a suitcase which was partially submerged in a creek at the location. A rope was wrapped around the suitcase, and at its ends dumbbells were attached, apparently in an effort to keep the body under water.
A family on an outing made the discovery when they became aware of an offensive smell.
Inside the suitcase, along with the body was a passport and bank card (Number 0730108) bearing the name Neesa Lalita Gopaul.
Following the discovery, Small and Gopaul were arrested and charged for the murder. They are on trial before Justice Navindra Singh and mixed 12-member jury at the High Court in Georgetown.
( Rehanna Ramsay)
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