Acquitted Officer 'Not Present' During Attack

By LAMECH JOHNSON Tribune Staff Reporter ljohnson@tribunemedia.net A POLICEMAN acquitted of abetting a colleague in the alleged attack on a prisoner who died months later told a jury he was not present when the incident occurred. Constable Tavares Bowleg, who was cleared of being connected with the death of 28-year-old Desmond Key, returned to Supreme Court yesterday and told the nine member jury that he was not present in the cell when Corporal Donovan Gardiner reportedly carried out the attack. Bowleg was exonerated of his abetment charge on Monday afternoon when Justice Vera Watkins directed the jury to deliver a not guilty verdict. It is alleged that Gardiner beat father-of-six Mr Key with a baseball bat at the Grove police station on June 17, 2007, while Bowleg watched. Mr Key died of his injuries seven months later. Defence counsel Ian Cargill, Wayne Munroe and prosecutor Linda Evans held discussions with Justice Watkins last Thursday in the absence of the jury. Justice Watkins returned with a decision based on her consideration of the submissions made by the three attorneys. She ruled there was not sufficient evidence for a case against Bowleg aiding or abetting the co-accused in assaulting Mr Key and directed the jury to deliver a not guilty verdict. At yesterday's proceedings, Bowleg swore on the Bible and gave his account of the night in question. He told the jury he and Constable Kevin Roberts were on patrol when they came upon two cars parked in the road at Robinson off Baillou Hill Road. After inquiring from the drivers - a man and a woman - why they were there, he inspected the man's car and found the licence disc was forged. He said he went to arrest Key, but Key had ran away but turned around just as he had opened the door of the patrol car to give chase. The constable said Key was swearing and resisting arrest so violently that it took himself, officer Roberts and another off duty policeman to subdue him and place him in the patrol car. When they arrived to the station, where Corporal Gardiner was the only other officer present, Roberts was "booking Key in". "Corporal Gardiner went to the car and came back with some information in the form of a passport." The officer ran a name check in their database where it was revealed that Key had several outstanding warrants against him, "three were warrants of committal". "I informed Key of this and he tried to run away. I pursued him, jumped on him and he struggled to get free." Constable Bowleg said prior to the attempt escape, he had instructed his fellow constable to retrieve the fraudulent licence disc. After getting Key into the cell, which had been prepared by Gardiner, he went upstairs to prepare a report for his 4pm-12am shift, which he told Mr Munroe was completed by the time of the next incoming guard. He claimed he was not made aware of the alleged assault on Key until he was interviewed by Insp Kenroy Ferguson in August. In cross-examination, prosecutor Evans suggested to the officer his testimony was not true and questioned how a man of his stature, 6ft 2in and 280lbs had struggled with a much shorter and much lighter 120lb man, considering that he had "jumped" Key. He disagreed and said he had tackled the prisoner's legs before he could get out of the station but had been kicked in the face three times. He contended there was a struggle between the two to the point that Gardiner had to help subdue Key. Ms Evans asked the policeman if he recalled his conversation with Constable Roberts after Key was carried back to cell. He replied that the only conversation he remembered concerned the licence disc. However, the prosecutor suggested he was not telling the truth and was being evasive with his "selective memory". He disagreed saying "it's been five years, I can't recall having a conversation." Prosecutor Evans queried why counsel Munroe did not query Robert's testimony that the two had a conversation that did not concern the licence disc. Bowleg responded that he could not recall this being said by Constable Roberts. The trial resumes tomorrow.


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