PHILIPSBURG–The Court of First Instance on Wednesday acquitted a 23-year-old suspect of the attempted manslaughter of a woman inside her house on Back Street on December 28, 2015. The Prosecutor’s Office was of another opinion and called for a four-year prison sentence.
The woman was stabbed multiple times by an intruder after he gained access to her house at 6:00am. While sleeping, the woman heard strange noises outside her room. She came out and saw a man with a knife. The intruder stabbed the woman multiple times, threatening to kill her, and ran out of the house.
The woman’s daughter and son were sleeping at the time of the incident and were awakened by their mother’s screams. The police and paramedics were called immediately and she was treated on the scene, then transported to St. Maarten Medical Center, where she underwent a 10-hour surgery.
The case against R.R.M. was postponed in October 2016 on the Prosecutor’s request, as the Prosecutor’s Office wanted to obtain clarity about who was responsible for what was described as a “gruesome stabbing.”
To this effect the Prosecutor commanded additional DNA investigations by Netherlands Forensic Institute (NFI) into cell material that was found on a piece of clothing at the crime scene, and to compare the genetic information with DNA profiles in the Police databank.
Prosecutor Martin van Nes said Wednesday that an NFI report had not provided any evidence of the suspect’s presence at the crime scene, other than that the DNA found on the cloth belonged to a male person.
Van Nes stated that although no incriminating DNA evidence was found, there also was no evidence to prove the defendant’s innocence. Therefore, he called upon the Court to postpone the hearing for a second time to allow for more (technical) investigations, as well as for an assessment of the suspect’s personality.
Lawyer Safira Ibrahim said she was completely surprised by the Prosecutor’s request, as only in December 2016 Prosecutor Danny Hazejager had informed her that the Prosecutor’s Office would request her client’s acquittal.
She vehemently opposed a new delay, which she said was unacceptable. Ibrahim said her client wanted clarity now. “This case must come to an end. In the case file there are insufficient leads to link my client with the crimes.”
She was against any more delays, as her client was first arrested in this case on March 31, 2016. He was released the following month, held again in May, and set free for a second time in July, 2016.
“There is nothing to consider my client a suspect. I suspect that the Prosecutor’s Office does not have another suspect in this case,” Ibrahim said.
Prosecutor Van Nes said the proceedings in this case did not deserve a “beauty prize,” but additional investigations could also lead to suspect’s good name and honour being cleared.
The Judge turned down the request for a postponement as this was deemed irrelevant for the case against M. That case was largely built on the investigation of the victim’s son, who had heard from a patron at a Back Street restaurant that a person from Sucker Garden with the nickname “BB” allegedly had been responsible for the attack on his mother. A Google search led to a Facebook page with photos of suspect M.
These photos were shown to the victim, her daughter and a neighbour, who all positively identified M. as the culprit. The neighbour, however, added that he had never seen the suspect’s face, but added that similar to the suspect, the perpetrator also had facial hair and tattoos on his arms.
M. maintained his innocence, stating he was at home with his mother and girlfriend during the night when the crime was committed. “DNA told the truth,” he said during the hearing.
The Prosecutor found attempted manslaughter proven. Even though there was no DNA evidence, surveillance-camera images or telephone data pointing in the suspect’s direction, Van Nes said the photo identification was sufficient for a conviction. He also pointed to the fact that M. had failed to provide a conclusive alibi.
The lawyer pleaded for her client’s acquittal and said the witnesses had provided differing statements about the suspect’s height, facial hair and hairstyle. She was also very critical of the son’s private investigations, and said her client had “no business at all” in Back Street.
The Judge said he did not think that M. was the perpetrator as there was no link between him and the victim. “It was no robbery, but something personal. The culprit said he came to kill her. It is highly unlikely that the crime was committed by someone who did not know the victim at all. It may also have been a mentally-disturbed person, but there are no indications that this was the case here,” the Judge said.
The photo evidence was thrown out, as the victim and her daughter were influenced by the son’s investigations. Therefore, the Court threw out the unreliable witness’ statements. “The brother followed a thread and drew everyone in, but there is no shred of evidence of M.’s involvement,” the Judge said.