By LAMECH JOHNSON
Tribune Staff Reporter
“ABSOLUTELY positively no” was Donna Vasyli’s response to a detective’s suggestion that she murdered her millionaire podiatrist husband, a jury heard yesterday after watching a video of the widow being questioned while in police custody.
However, she told police that her husband had been drinking and fell down the stairs – shattering glass from picture frames along the way – hours before his dead body was found. She added that he was walking around the house looking “disgusting” with his pants hanging down even though she told him guests were coming to the house. However, she said, she did not argue with her husband.
The tenth day of the 55-year-old’s murder trial saw Crown prosecutors close their case against the accused with the testimony of Inspector Michael Johnson who, in a video-taped interview, suggested to the widow that she stabbed 59-year-old Philip Vasyli for embarrassing her in front of their invited guests with his drunken state.
She strongly denied the accusation in the presence of her lawyers at the time, Elliot Lockhart, QC, and Judith Whitehead.
“It is my information that you dropped the knife to the floor, closed the door that leads to the kitchen area and fled,” the investigator suggested to the widow in the interrogation.
“Absolutely, positively no,” Vasyli answered.
“You then left in the northern direction of the property, placing a hand on the wall leaving a blood smear,” the detective further suggested to the widow.
“It wasn’t me,” she replied.
In the video, the accused was shown seated next to her attorneys across from Inspector Johnson in an interview suite.
She told the detective she had been married for 34 years and lived in Old Fort Bay for nearly 14 years.
“My information is that you have a gardener,” the detective said. The accused said Alejandro Quintana had worked for the couple for six years in that capacity.
She also confirmed her housemaid’s name, Nicolaza Quintana.
“My information is that you and Mr Vasyli got into an argument?” the detective suggested.
“He was drinking and I said ‘Philip, you need to put on pants or go back to bed,’ our guests were coming,” the accused said.
“I was speaking to him more like a child, not confrontational. He looked disgusting with his pants hanging down,” she added.
She stumbled over her next set of words trying to explain that her guests, Myles and Judy Pritchard, were on their way and she had sent her husband upstairs to get dressed, but he instead had a drink.
“He fell from top of the staircase and my housekeeper screamed, I screamed,” she said, adding that “all the glass from the pictures had broken.”
“He lacerated all of his back. My housekeeper tried to clean up the glass so he wouldn’t step on them,” the jury then heard.
By this time, the guests had arrived and “Judy and Myles were shocked,” the accused told the officer.
Her husband, she said, “went to lay on my daughter’s bed.”
While she spoke with the guests, “Phil came out once or twice again,” she said.
“I took Judy and Myles to do a tour of my house and they left. While I was heading out, my nephew – ” she paused before she said: “I’m saying too much…Am I saying too much?”
Inspector Johnson told her to simply answer the questions as asked.
“There was no argument,” the accused said.
“My information is that after your friends left, you and your husband were home alone,” the detective put to the widow. She said this was “correct.”
“You were upset because Mr Vasyli embarrassed you,” the detective said.
“I was probably upset with him more than arguing,” the accused said.
The detective put it to her that they were arguing in the kitchen area.
“My information is that you and your husband were in the kitchen near the patio area and because you were very embarrassed by him, you got this black handle knife and you stabbed him in the neck,” Inspector Johnson said.
Vasyli denied this. She dismissed the subsequent suggestions that she discarded the knife and fled to the steps near the beach where she left a blood smear on the wall.
“You went to your daughter’s house where you told her what happened,” the detective suggested.
The widow said yes she went to her daughter’s house, but gave no answer beyond that.
She was asked about the home’s surveillance system but she answered that it barely worked because it was not completely installed.
During the interrogation, Vasyli denied giving a statement beyond what had initially been asked of her.
In cross-examination, Mr Lockhart, asked the witness if his client had been in custody for more than 36 hours before being interviewed. Inspector Johnson said she had.
“What happened to the DVD for the second interview?” the lawyer asked.
Inspector Johnson was attempting to explain an issue with the automatic-recording function at CDU the weekend following the incident.
“Do you have it or not?” the lawyer probed.
“I do not have it,” Inspector Johnson said, explaining that the second interview “somehow did not record.”
Mr Lockhart asked the officer if he had Constable Knowles’ report “in your possession before you interviewed Donna Vasyli for the second time?”
The detective said “yes.”
“Did you make any inquiries about any other person who may have been present when this statement was made?” the lawyer asked.
The detective said no.
The jury asked the detective if “Mrs Vasyli ever mentioned why she went to her daughter’s house.”
“She didn’t explain why she left. She just left,” the witness answered.
Prosecutor Neil Braithwaite said the Crown would close its case without calling on the last four witnesses named on the indictment.
Vasyli’s lawyers, Mr Lockhart and Murrio Ducille, have already given notice to the judge that they intend to make legal, no case submissions in the absence of the jury.
Those discussions will take place today at 2pm before Acting Chief Justice Stephen Isaacs who excused the jury until Monday, September 28.
The accused is on $200,000 bail and has been outfitted with an electronic monitoring bracelet.