Prosecution rests in manslaughter trialBy Ben Greening
© Copyright by The Royal Gazette Ltd
Bermuda, January 14, 2000
A man charged with killing a German student in a road accident denied that he was speeding or on the wrong side of the road.
But before the prosecution case ended in the Supreme Court yesterday, more damning evidence came from the Police officer who arrested manslaughter accused Bithsoonduthsing Ramchurn just after the head-on collision which left 23-year-old Catrin Schaefer with fatal head and spinal injuries.
P.c. Michael Vaucrosson testified that the 33-year-old Mauritius-born Ramchurn had given off an "overwhelming odour" of alcohol when he interviewed him just after the crash.
And questioned by Crown counsel Sandra Bacchus as to where the smell came from, he said: "It seemed to be coming from his pores, as if he had been drinking all day."
Ms Schaefer's rented scooter collided with Ramchurn's Toyota Starlet on Kindley Field Road, St. George's, as she returned from a night out socialising with friends at Swizzle Inn in the early hours of September 27, 1998.
St. George's resident Ramchurn, who has lived in Bermuda for ten years, denies charges of manslaughter, causing death by dangerous driving and by driving while over the legal alcohol limit.
The Crown, which ended its case yesterday, presented testimonies and statements from several witnesses, juxtaposing them with photographs and a sketch-map of the accident scene.
Earlier on, Ms Schaefer's friend Thorsten Kisters, who was riding a cycle just behind her just before the crash, said there was a car coming in the opposite direction at "high speed on our side of the road".
Another key prosecution witness, accident investigator Sgt. Gary Venning, said evidence at the scene led him to believe that Ramchurn's car had been "mostly on the wrong side of the road" and going at a "very high speed" when it impacted Ms Schaefer's scooter.
Ms Bacchus' last witness, P.C. Vaucrosson, was the first Police officer to make contact with Ramchurn after the accident occurred.
Yesterday, he said he was "surprised how calm and quiet (Ramchurn) was" and that, when he got downwind of him, he smelt an "overwhelming odour of intoxicants, namely alcohol".
Beginning the defence's case, attorney Philip Perinchief called his client to the stand as his first and only witness.
Ramchurn explained how he had gone to Swizzle Inn after work with a friend and had only "one-and-a-half Guinesses".
He said: "I left another drink because it was getting hot and I didn't want to drink too much anyway.
"After that I left the Swizzle Inn in the car without my friend, thinking that he would get a ride back to St. George's later.
"But when I got onto Kindley Field Road I decided to turn around and go and pick him up.
"As I was driving, I saw a lot of lights coming through the fence. When I turned the corner one bike was on my side of the road.
"It happened too fast for me to stop. It was just bang and then all the glass came down into my face and I panicked so the car just kept on going for a bit."
Ramchurn said, after the crash, he got out of the car and went to see what he could do for Ms Schaefer.
"But there were lots of people around her and I thought she was getting enough help," he said. "So I went back to my car and waited for the ambulance and the Police."
In summing up, Mr. Perinchief asked the jury to use their common sense in determining whether the "cold, hard facts" added up.
He stressed the importance of the vehicles' point of impact, saying it was only a matter of inches that would determine whether his client was guilty or innocent.
Describing the prosecution's case as an "embellishment of the facts", he said evidence from Crown witnesses could not effectively make the jury sure of whether Ramchurn was on the wrong side of the road or not.
Ms Bacchus' closed her argument by suggesting the jury "might" find evidence "overwhelming" in proving Ramchurn had acted "recklessly" and with "gross negligence".
She added: "The testimony of Mr. Ramchurn was unclear and extremely evasive about what he did at certain points during the night.
"It diverges from the testimonies of witnesses on all the salient points."
Ms Bacchus said this may concern the jury "in respect to his credibility" and added that she felt the defence's case was "one of desperation".
Ramchurn, who is on $5,000 bail, will return to court today when the case continues before Puisne Judge Philip Storr.