Fidelis Munyoro Chief Court Reporter—
THE murder trial of a man who is accused of killing his business partner took a new twist last week after the High Court rejected a statement made to the police by the accused saying it was made under duress. George Francis Lovell allegedly killed Allan Lawrence Banks and stashed his body in the boot of his car. In the course of his trial, the prosecution sought to produce extra-curial statements recorded from Lovell. The defence led by Advocate Thabani Mpofu challenged the admissibility of the statements.
A trial within a trial ensued and Justice Joseph Musakwa presiding over the case ruled in favour of the defence.
“A cumulative assessment of factors raised by the accused person in challenging the admissibility of the statements raises serious doubts that they were recorded without undue influence and without the accused having been denied some fundamental rights,” said Justice Musakwa.
“Accordingly, the statements are held not to be admissible.” Justice Musakwa said police officers involved in the investigations should have attended the handing down of his ruling. This, he said, would have enabled them to appreciate aspects relating to the rights of accused persons.
“In the alternative, they should get a copy of this judgment,” said Justice Musakwa. The judge said Lovell gave a more detailed account of torture which other accused persons appearing in the High Court had previously failed.
Lovell explained that with his hands cuffed in front, an iron bar was placed behind the knees, before he was suspended between two desks. While suspended, the court heard, he was assaulted under the feet, on the buttocks and on the face.
Justice Musakwa said when Lovell was taken for indications at the corner of Mazowe Street and Herbert Chitepo Avenue, he was made to fake signing the caution when recording of the video commenced.
“However, the truth was that the signing had already been made under duress off camera,” he said. “He had difficulties walking down the steps and had to hold to the balustrade for support. This is because he had been assaulted on the soles. The main weapon was a baton.”
The trial of Lovell (31) of 88 Glenara Avenue, Hillside, and also owner of Invollata Mining Group, began in May 2014 before Justice Musakwa, sitting with assessors Mr Tennyson Gweme and Mr Gilbert Chakuvinga. Lovell was on the run since July 2012 after allegedly committing the murder.
He is alleged to have also made off with $20 000.
He was arrested in April 2013.
When the trial started, Lovell, denied the murder charge. He claimed that his statement to the police was made under duress. This prompted the court to order a trial within a trial to establish the circumstances under which the statement was recorded from Lovell by the police.
According to the charge sheet, Banks and Lovell were acquaintances and both were gold dealers. On July 1, 2012 and at around 11am, Banks left his shop Goodlife Appliances situated in Rhodesville, Greendale, intending to meet his brother Gordon at an unspecified venue, the court heard.
It is alleged that Banks had a satchel containing $20 000 and was driving a Toyota Corolla, registration number ABV 3685. At around 12pm, Lovell sent his maid, Letwin Ganzwa, to buy cigarettes at Clyde Shopping Centre, about four kilometres away, thereby leaving him alone at the house.
On her return, the maid found a car similar to Banks’ parked adjacent to the study and facing the main gate, it is alleged. The maid handed over cigarettes to Lovell who got into Banks’ car and headed to an unknown destination.
On July 15, the car was found parked at the corner of Herbert Chitepo Avenue and Mazowe Street, with Banks’ body which was in the early stages of decomposition stashed in the boot.
On April 8 last year, Lovell was arrested in connection with killing Banks by striking him with a crow-bar on the head.
Lovell allegedly led police officers to the recovery of the crowbar, which will be produced in court as an exhibit.
The defence seeks to prove that Banks was murdered by unidentified criminals acting on the instructions of unnamed senior members of the society.
Adv Mpofu is being instructed by Mr David Ngwerume of Mubangwa and Partners while Mr Albert Masamha of the Prosecutor-General’s Office is prosecuting.