By Kemeseng Sanneh (Kexx)
Lawyer H. Farage has commenced cross-examination of Police Commissioner Momodou Sowe, the head of the Anti-Crime Unit, seeking to discredit his evidence in the murder case involving defendant Ousainou Bojang and his sister, Amie Bojang.
Ousainou Bojang, a resident of Brufut is facing charges of murder, attempted murder, committing a terrorist act, and assault causing grievous bodily harm, while Amie Bojang is charged with accessory after the fact to murder. Both accused persons pleaded not guilty to the charges.
The prosecution alleges that on September 22, 2023, at the Sukuta-Jabang traffic lights, Ousainou Bojang shot three police officers, resulting in the death of two officers and injury to one officer.
The Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), Abdul Maita Yusuf represented the State.
Senior Counsel H. Farage is representing Amie Bojang. Farage was holding brief for Senior Counsel Lamin J. Darboe, the counsel representing Ousainou Bojang.
During cross-examination, Counsel Farage asked Commissioner Sowe about his designation in the scene of the crime team. Commissioner Sowe stated that he is the Commissioner heading the Anti-Crime Unit.
Counsel Farage inquired about the security officers present at the alleged crime scene. Commissioner Sowe replied that his officers were present along with others who claimed to have witnessed the incident and some other civil servants.
Counsel Farage questioned how the crime scene was preserved if Commissioner Sowe had only been informed about the shooting on his way home. Commissioner Sowe explained that it is the role of police officers to preserve a crime scene when an incident occurs.
At this point, Counsel Lamin J. Darboe entered the courtroom, relieving Counsel Farage of his duty. Counsel Darboe asked Commissioner Sowe who called him and informed him about the shooting incident at the Sukuta-Jabang traffic lights junction. Commissioner Sowe responded that his operational officer. After a follow-up question, Commissioner Sowe revealed the name saying the informant was Bubacarr M. Bah. However, when asked about the exact time of the call, Commissioner Sowe said he could not recall it.
The questioning continued, with Counsel Darboe inquiring about the preservation of the crime scene. Commissioner Sowe affirmed that officers were deployed to protect the area of the crime scene.
Counsel Darboe challenged Commissioner Sowe’s statement, suggesting that there was no preservation of the crime scene. Commissioner Sowe maintained that the scene was indeed preserved. Counsel Darboe put to Sowe that some witnesses, like Ismaila Bojang and Bakary Jarju (first and second prosecution witnesses), testified that the crime scene was crowded with members of the public and curious onlookers. Sowe in his response did not disagree with the mentioned prosecution witnesses, saying that is their version of testimony.
Commissioner Sowe also mentioned that empty bullet casings were recovered. When asked about who recovered them, he admitted that he could not name the exact person who retrieved them, but his operational officer showed him the empty casings. Counsel Darboe sought clarification on what exactly an empty case is. Commissioner Sowe explained that an empty case refers to a bullet that has already been fired.
The line of questioning then shifted to the items allegedly recovered from Ousainou Bojang’s home. Counsel Darboe inquired whether the canvas shoes, combat boots, jeans and haftan were with the forensic officers or experts. Commissioner Sowe confirmed that they were in the possession of forensic officers.
Counsel Darboe asked Commissioner Sowe if he was aware of an audio conversation between Mama Jabbie, a lady informant, and the first accused (Ousainou). Commissioner Sowe stated that he was not aware of any audio conversation, adding that he did not listen to that particular audio recording.
Counsel Darboe stated that it was a dereliction of duty on Commissioner Sowe’s part not to have listened to such a central piece of evidence. The Counsel was interrupted by an objection from the DPP, A.M. Yusuf. The DPP argued that the question was unfair to the witness, as Commissioner Sowe was not present during Mama Jabbie’s testimony, and he was never informed about an audio conversation between Mama Jabbie and the accused. The presiding judge, Justice Ebrima Jaiteh, ruled that the question was fair and straightforward. He emphasised that Commissioner Sowe, being a seasoned police officer, should answer the question. Commissioner Sowe then stated that as the head of the Anti-Crime Unit, he was not in position to confirm whether the audio recording was with the police or not, as he was not part of the investigation team. He clarified that it would be the responsibility of the investigators to collect and preserve any useful audio evidence.
The cross-examination continued, with Counsel Darboe asking how many officers were in Commissioner Sowe’s three-vehicle convoy to Giboro. Commissioner Sowe replied that he could not provide the exact number. Sowe mentioned that he was the leader of the convoy.
Counsel Darboe proceeded to ask Commissioner Sowe about the officers present in one of the vehicles, but the witness said he could not recall the number of officers and their names. Counsel Darboe informed him that one Oli Bobb was in the car with Yerro Saidy and the driver was Abdoulie Bah. The Counsel added that there was one whose surname was Njie. Commissioner Sowe acknowledged the information, but denied the presence of Yerro Saidy and said he could not recall an officer surnamed Njie.
Counsel Darboe challenged Commissioner Sowe to provide the names of the other officers present in the vehicle. Commissioner Sowe mentioned himself, Lamin Cham and Oli Bobb, but said he could not remember the names of all the officers seated behind him.
Commissioner Sowe was then asked if it was fair to say that he, Lamin Cham, Olie Bobb, and himself had a combined 40 years of experience. Commissioner Sowe said he was unsure about the experience of the other officers, but for him, he did not have 40 years of service.
The questioning then turned to the items recovered from Ousainou Bojang’s home in Brufut. Counsel Darboe asked Commissioner Sowe who told him that the accused was wearing canvas shoes, combat desert boots and jeans. Commissioner Sowe revealed that witnesses at the crime scene told him, and that the accused had also confirmed it when he was changing his statement.
On whether someone informed him (Commissioner Sowe) the accused was wearing a grey hatfan, Commissioner Sowe clarified that no witness mentioned a grey haftan being worn by the accused.
Counsel Darboe asked whether Commissioner Sowe recorded the alleged confession of Ousainou to the killing and shooting of the officers either in audio or video. Commissioner Sowe said he did not record that. He further explained that confessional statements are usually taken at the time of taking cautionary statement. He clarified that the confession was not recorded in either audio or video format.
Counsel Darboe asked if Ousainou Bojang was the one who told him that the shot that hit the car was intended for the third victim, Police Constable Nancy Jawo. In his response, Commissioner Sowe stated that Ousainou had mentioned something related to that.
Counsel Darboe pressed further, asking Commissioner Sowe to describe the location of the vehicle in relation to the crime scene. Commissioner Sowe explained that if one is approaching the roundabout from Jabang and heading towards Sukuta, the vehicle would be at the right corner of the roundabout.
Commissioner Sowe was then asked if he had the registration number of the vehicle. He explained that it would be available in the records of the forensic officer.
Counsel Darboe further questioned the witness about whether they started questioning the accused from Jululung to Giboro or Giboro to Banjulding. The witness clarified that the questioning started from Giboro to Banjul, not from Jululung. Counsel Darboe inquired about the team of investigators that went to Brufut after arriving at the anti-crime headquarters. The witness mentioned some members including himself, Lamin Cham, Oli Bobb, Kebba Darbo and Pateh Bah. However, he said he could not remember all the names.
When asked if Mama Jabbi was part of the investigation team, the witness said he couldn’t tell because he was in the lead vehicle. Counsel Darboe asked who recovered the gun, to which the witness replied that it was the forensic officers.
Counsel Darboe then asked if anyone informed the witness about seeing a gun in an empty garden. The witness responded that none of the members of the investigation panel had informed him about it. When asked about the type of gun, the witness stated that only a ballistic expert could determine that.
Counsel Darboe put to Commissioner Sowe that the accused Ousainou had never talked to him about using a gun, killing or injuring anyone, arguing that there was no material evidence to that effect other than his words (testimony). The witness disagreed, stating that the accused did talk about it.
Counsel Darboe told Commissioner Sowe that the accused was nowhere near the Sukuta-Jabang traffic lights on 12 September 2023, on the day of the alleged incident. Sowe disagreed saying what the Lawyer stated was not correct
Counsel then challenged the witness to provide evidence that the accused confessed to killing officers. The witness said the written statement of the witness was sufficient.
Counsel Darboe said Ousainou Bojang was in Jululung to seek prayers from a marabout regarding difficulties he was facing, and that was what he told Mama Jabbie. Counsel Darboe argued that the reason why the prosecution did not provide the audio was because what Ousainou told Mama Jabbie, was about the difficulties he was facing and did not make any confession. Commissioner Sowe in his reaction said he does not have knowledge about that.
Counsel H. Farage for, Amie Bojang, cross-examined the witness. Counsel Farage asked the witness when the first accused told him that the second accused person (Amie Bojang) facilitated his escape. The witness replied that Ousainou spoke to him during the interaction from Giboro to Banjulding.
Counsel Farage further inquired about the procedure they followed to take the accused’s statement and the location. Witness Sowe indicated that the statement was taken in the office by way of questioning or interview of the accused person, Ousainou. Sowe said he was the one who wrote the statement of Ousainou Bojang.
Counsel Farage argued that the second accused was informed by the first accused about his problems with his white lady and his desire to go to Darsilama, adding the statement corroborated his own testimony about Ousainou explaining the issue of white lady. DPP objected to the counsel’s statement, saying he should not paraphrase the witness’s words but rather quote him directly. Commissioner Sowe (witness) replied he has no idea about that.
Counsel Farage asked if the sister was interrogated, to which the witness replied that he had a conversation with her, but it was not an interrogation. When asked about the conversation. Sowe (witness) said the conversation revolved around what Ousainou had told her, admitting her help in his escape. Counsel Farage inquired about the sister’s response, and the witness replied that she admitted to helping her brother escape, adding that her cautionary statement was taken.
When asked about the charges against the sister, the witness replied that he did not see the charge.
Counsel Farage put to witness Sowe that the second accused (Amie) denied the charge against her. Commissioner Sowe replied that it was her right to deny the offence alleged against her.
Counsel Farage then presented the voluntary and cautionary statements as evidence, to which there was no objection from the DPP. The court admitted them and marked them as DD1 and DD2.
Counsel Farage asked the witness to read the voluntary statement (DD2) and he did, and it pointed out the denial stated in it. Witness Sowe read “I deny, I did not agree with the charges against me,”
The Lawyer said the second witness had no knowledge of the alleged crime and the only thing she did was to help her brother to go to Darsilami to seek prayers.
The witness was discharged and the case was adjourned to 18 December 2023 for a new witness to appear.