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Prison authorities confirm death in custody

Oct 13, 2011, 1:17 PM | Article By: S.M.K. Marenah & B. Samateh

The prison authorities have confirmed the death of one of the accused persons on trial at the Banjul magistrates’ court in connection with the multi-million dollar cocaine case involving nine foreign nationals.

News of the death of one of the accused persons, remanded in custody at the State Central Prison Mile 2, came to light in court yesterday after the defence counsel, L.S. Camara, enquired about his client, and the court was later informed that Dennis Wilgo Winter, a Dutch national, passed away in prison custody.

Camara told the presiding magistrate that judgment could not take place in absence of any of the accused persons, because they were all jointly charged.

In response, the Director of Public Prosecutions, M. Abdullahi, told the court that he would find out from the prison authorities why he was not in court.

The trial magistrate, Sheriff Tabally, consequently ordered the prison authorities to explain the circumstances surrounding the non-appearance of the accused person, to listen to the judgment.

At that juncture, a senior prison officer was called to shed light, and he told the court: “Your Worship, I do not know why the accused is absent from court”, adding that they will consult the Director General of Prisons.

The DPP then urged the matter to stand down, so that he could find out.

When the court reconvened, a prison medic at the State Central Prisons Mile 2 who identified himself as one Babucarr Jatta, told the court: “I am sent by my Director General of Prisons to inform the court that the 4th accused died on Sunday 9th October 2011, at night.”

He added that the body of Dennis Wilgo Winter is currently at the mortuary at the RVTH in Banjul, and that correspondence would be sent to the National Drug Enforcement Agency.

After it was confirmation that Winter had passed way, the DPP told the court that they were shocked by the news, and applied for the name of the deceased person to be struck out and omitted from the charge sheet.

The application was granted without any objection from the defence counsel.