By TANYA SMITH-CARTWRIGHT
CCTV footage of a hit-and-run accident that killed a woman last year has not aided police in their investigation, Chief Superintendent Mareno Hinds said.
Meanwhile, an eyewitness who claimed to have chased the driver and witnessed the person turn into police headquarters has never made a statement to police, he said, adding that the CCTV footage has not supported this claim.
Luann Joachim was hit by a car on West Bay Street last November as she exited a taxi to go home. The driver never stopped. In critical condition, she survived for two days and died in hospital on November 15.
One eyewitness account and CCTV footage appear to be the key to bringing the case to a close, but to date, neither have aided the wrap up of the investigation.
Joaquim’s family claimed to be told that there was no manpower or funding to view CCTV footage to assist in the investigation. Chief Superintendent Hinds, now responsible for the Traffic Division, told The Tribune otherwise.
“Assistant Commissioner Solomon Cash is upset about being quoted as saying that,” said CSP Hinds, who was acting as the Traffic Division head during the time of this incident. “Cash said what he, in fact, told the family was that he had exhausted a lot of manpower on the case and on reviewing the CCTV footage and footage from cameras on buildings in the area.
“The footage from both the CCTV cameras and the building cameras proved to be futile as no vehicle matched the description of the car that this witness claimed to have seen. The footage was very grainy as well with lots of glare.”
On November 14, according to CSP Hinds, the “Tango 14” team of Sgt 1460 Thompson and Cpl 148 Hepburn checked the footage of buildings in the area. He said on November 19, footage of CCTV cameras in the area was checked, but did not corroborate a reported eyewitness’’ account. There was no chase seen or any cars in close proximity to each other at high speed, CSP Hinds said.
“On November 20 we looked at footage from the Public Defender’s Office and Flowers building on West Bay Street,” added Inspector Coran Jennings, who was an original investigating officer. “We looked at footage from other buildings as well. A lot of those cameras are not affixed to the street, but instead areas of the immediate property. And, the footage was very poor quality. We also viewed the footage from cameras of all the buildings opposite the Hilton hotel. Nothing panned out.”
Asked about the eyewitness’ account of giving chase to the vehicle in question — a tan or champagne-coloured Nissan Elgrand license plate #AB1617 or #AD1617 — CSP Hinds said the witness never gave a statement to the police. The eyewitness claimed to have chased the vehicle on to East Street and saw it turn into Police Headquarters. He believes it was a woman driver.
CSP Hinds said there is no evidence to support this claim.
“We got the same thing from other people at the scene and they all said, ‘that’s what I heard’,” CSP Hinds continued. “They were referring to the witness and what they heard from him, but we are at an impasse because this witness never came forward to the police. This eyewitness chase, I don’t know what to say about that. It can almost be called an urban legend as this guy never gave a statement.”
CSP Hinds said the taxi driver who dropped the victim off also said he did not see the vehicle in question.
“Everyone who we spoke to seemed to be concerned about the victim at the time,” CSP Hinds added. “Those on the scene said that everything happened fast and they did not get a look at the car that hit her. We spoke with the taxi driver, he said he didn’t see the car either.”
Joaquim was mowed down near the police station opposite Junkanoo Beach on West Bay Street. CSP Hinds said the station is a “substation” that served only as a “first responder” to the incident as it is not outfitted for investigations. On that fateful night at 9.57 pm, that station would have called in the Traffic Division to investigate.
Joaquim’s family is even more anxious for answers now that her story has been highlighted. Police said her case is still considered an “active investigation” and any information brought forward can be helpful.
“All of Luann’s belongings are in my house,” said Calanda Cartwright, her older brother. “I am constantly reminded of this incident. No one wants justice for Luann more than me. She came up with me. Our mother died. This is my little sister. We really need to know who killed her. I had to bury my little sister. Everyone loved Luann. She was a loving person and very family oriented. I really miss my sister.”
The family is offering a reward to anyone with information that brings Joaquim’s killer to justice.