THE 93RD HEARING IN THE SARAH GROVES MURDER TRIAL

THE 93RD HEARING IN THE SARAH GROVES MURDER TRIAL

The State of India -v- Richard de Wit

Media Release - Released by Vic Groves, Wednesday 3rd May 2017, Guernsey - for Immediate Use

This Media Release relates to hearing number 93 in the above trial which took place today in the District Court, Srinagar.

First Evidence Heard Since 29th September 2015.

Prosecutors Determine to Expedite Proceedings:
Today’s hearing was the first in which evidence was heard since 29th September 2015 – a period of more than nineteen months during which time 37 hearings were scheduled, none of which heard evidence or progressed the case in any way.

The witness heard today was Dr Manzoor-ul-Haq, a member of the medical team that conducted the post mortem on Sarah. He confirmed what was already known – that she had suffered as many as 45 stab wounds. 

A detailed copy of the doctors’ report was submitted to the court. The police added to that report that Richard de Wit had purchased a knife identical to the one allegedly used in the attack just two days beforehand.

Despite all efforts to secure legal representation for the defendant, it appears that none was present in court today.  Surprisingly, therefore, and in a departure from previous protocol, the defendant was granted the court’s permission to cross-examine the witness himself.

He challenged the autopsy report and reiterated that ‘he was being framed by the local police’.  He drew sighs of anguish from the crowded courtroom when he asked about specific details of the autopsy.

Afterwards the Prosecutor, Mr Syed Maqbool, gave his reaction to the day’s proceedings:

“It was a bit of a joke, really.  I mean we know that de Wit is trying to slow the whole hearing down. First, he refused to have a lawyer, now he is cross-examining witnesses. Today was the beginning of producing witnesses. More witnesses will be produced before the court in the next hearing and we want to expedite this case.”

De Wit asked the court to release money that was ‘confiscated’ from his possession at the time of his arrest shouting “I need the money back”.  He also repeated his earlier demand to move the hearing to a higher court. The demand was rejected. Finally, he requested bail, which was again immediately denied.

There were clear signs that Richard de Wit’s physical and mental health have deteriorated.

Significance of Today’s Hearing:
The 37 lost days in court were caused by:

Defendant without legal representation (17)
Defendant’s Mental Health (7)
Civil Unrest (10)
Witnesses did not show up (2)
Judge unavailable (1)

Disruption due to civil unrest is unavoidable but the other reasons given are unjustifiable. Richard de Wit has now had legal counsel imposed on him. Two lawyers have been identified as:

Advocate Mahira Bhat
Advocate Mushtaq Ahmad Dar as amicus curiae (an impartial adviser)

Despite their non-appearance in court today, Richard de Wit will not be able to summarily dismiss these legal representatives and steady progress in the trial should now be possible. There are expectations, however, that his mental health will once again become an issue which could have a severely detrimental effect on the trial.

The summary of the case to date is as under:

Date trial commenced: 3rd June 2013
Scheduled Hearings (93)
Productive Hearings (26)
Prosecution Witnesses Listed (46)
Prosecution Witnesses Heard (24)

Legal Teams:
Second Judge (shortly to retire to be replaced by third judge)
Third Prosecutor
Fourth Defence Counsel

The next hearing date has been set for 22nd May 2013.

Authenticity:
The source of the above material is Caters News Agency.  Further information is being sought about today’s hearing and a further media release will be sent out if anything significant is learned.

Images:
Richard de Wit being escorted from court to the prison bus. All imagery provided courtesy of Caters News Agency; any further use must contain an acknowledgement to Caters News Agency.

THE 91ST HEARING IN THE SARAH GROVES MURDER TRIAL

THE 91ST HEARING IN THE SARAH GROVES MURDER TRIAL

The State of India vs. Richard de Wit

This Media Release relates to hearing number 91 in the above trial which took place earlier today in the District Court, Srinagar.

Civil Unrest Prevents Hearing:
Renewed civil unrest, following the killing of three youths by the security forces in the Budgam district of Srinagar yesterday, resulted in a lock-down of the city. This, in turn, prevented the court from sitting.

In the summer of 2016 civil unrest was sparked by a similar incident.  On that occasion the case was effectively suspended for a period of ten weeks. Hopefully, this renewed occurrence will not lead to similar delays.

Date of Next Hearing:
The next hearing date has been set for Monday 17th April 2017

Authenticity:
The source of the above material is the Foreign & Commonwealth Office in London following contact from the British High Commission in Delhi with additional information from Caters News Agency. Further information is being sought about today’s hearing from the Prosecutor and a further media release will be sent out if anything significant is learned.

SARAH'S PARENTS TALK TO RICHARD DE WIT

SARAH'S PARENTS TALK TO RICHARD DE WIT

Released by Vic Groves, Thursday 16th March 2017

At the 87th hearing of the case held on 31st January, the defendant stated that he wanted ‘to talk to Sarah’s parents’ because he had a ‘secret’ to disclose.  He claimed to have new information that he didn’t want to disclose to anyone else.

After some difficulty, we were able to speak to Richard de Wit by phone on 23rd February with the permission of the Jail Superintendent in Srinagar.

It was an unsatisfactory call from which we could understand his reasons for wanting to talk to us.  The details must remain confidential but we can reveal that the statements he made were without foundation and confirmed the wisdom of our decision not to travel to Kashmir in order to hear his revelations.

At the last hearing on 1st March in which the judge appeared to grant him permission to represent himself, we knew that this was not a realistic proposition.  Based on the nature of our phone call with him, our deduction was that he is just about ‘fit to stand trial’ but certainly not ‘fit to represent himself’.

Today’s developments come as no surprise and we welcome the decisive action taken by the court in taking the matter completely out of his control.  The tail has been wagging the dog for too long and we have been advocating these measures for well over twelve months.  Hopefully, progress can now be made as there are still 23 witnesses to give evidence out of the 46 listed.

The source of the above material is predominantly the Foreign & Commonwealth Office in London following contact from the British High Commission in Delhi with additional information from an in-court representation.  Further information is being sought about today’s hearing from the Prosecutor and a further media release will be sent out as and when anything significant is learned.

Pictures courtesy of Caters News Agency who must be acknowledged in any reproduction or re-use.

THE 90TH HEARING IN THE SARAH GROVES MURDER TRIAL

THE 90TH HEARING IN THE SARAH GROVES MURDER TRIAL

Released by Vic Groves, Thursday 16th March 2017

Judge Refuses Richard de Wit Permission to Represent Himself

This Media Release relates to hearing number 90 in the above trial which took place earlier today in the District Court, Srinagar.

At the last hearing on March 1st, the accused submitted a letter to the court stating that he wanted to represent himself.  The court had offered to appoint a lawyer for him but he refused to accept third party involvement.

This presented the judge with the opportunity to unblock the logjam that has been in place since September 2015, since when no witnesses have been processed.  In anticipation of de Wit being able to represent himself three witnesses were summoned to today’s hearing and all three were in attendance.  They were two doctors and one police officer.

At today’s hearing, Richard de Wit was incapable of representing himself as planned and witnesses were not processed due, once again, to no alternative legal representation being in place.

As a result, the court dismissed his request to represent himself and the Public Prosecutor, Mr Syed Maqbool Ahmad made an application to the court to engage legal representation on his behalf.  The court immediately upheld the application.

Consequently, the Court has now appointed two lawyers – Mustaq Ahmed Jha and Mahira Bhatt – to act as defence counsel for Richard de Wit.

All three witnesses in attendance today will be cross examined by the newly appointed defence lawyers on Wednesday, 29th March 2017.

Pictures courtesy of Caters News Agency who must be acknowledged in any reproduction or re-use.

THE 89TH HEARING IN THE SARAH GROVES MURDER TRIAL

THE 89TH HEARING IN THE SARAH GROVES MURDER TRIAL

Richard de Wit decides to represent himself.

This Media Release relates to hearing number 89 in the above trial which took place earlier today in the District Court, Srinagar.

At the last hearing on February 16th, the accused requested access to court papers which he has now read, although we understand he is not altogether happy with the content.  The pictures provided with the last media release clearly show him clutching those papers as he was returning under police escort to jail from the court.

At today’s hearing, he submitted a written letter to confirm that he doesn’t need a lawyer and that he wishes to defend himself. The court had offered to appoint a lawyer for him but he refused.

Also, as stated in the last media release, the judge refused to call witnesses until some form of legal representation was in place.  As expected, no witnesses were present today. 

However, as the result of Richard de Wit’s decision to represent himself, two Prosecution Witnesses have been summoned to appear in court at the next hearing, which is set for Thursday March 16th 2017.  They are PW26 S.I. Kuldeep Koul and PW27 S.I. Bashir Ahmad.  Both are police officers who attended the scene of crime. 

Mr Bashir was the last witness to take the stand on 29th September 2015, i.e. seventeen months ago. At that time, his evidence was examined but not cross-examined. This will represent Richard de Wit’s first opportunity to defend himself when he cross-examines S. I. Bashir Ahmad.

Authenticity: The source of the above material is predominantly the Foreign & Commonwealth Office in London following contact from the British High Commission in Delhi with additional information from the Public Prosecutor, Mr Syed Ahmad Maqbool.  Further information is being sought about today’s hearing and a further media release will be sent out as and when anything significant is learned.

THE 88TH HEARING IN THE SARAH GROVES MURDER TRIAL

THE 88TH HEARING IN THE SARAH GROVES MURDER TRIAL

Released by Vic Groves, Thursday 16th February 2017, Guernsey.

Judge Losing Patience with Man Accused of Sarah’s Murder

This Media Release relates to hearing number 88 in the above trial which took place earlier today in the District Court, Srinagar.

This was another unsatisfactory hearing although there were signs that the judge is becoming progressively more impatient with the defendant’s ‘delaying’ tactics.

The medical report referred to at the last hearing appears to have been glossed over. The Jail Superintendent recommended that Richard de Wit should receive psychiatric help. Although the current Superintendent is relatively ‘new in post’, this is a statement of the obvious which has been known throughout the trial.  Richard de Wit has refuted this prognosis and refuses to accept any form of medical treatment.  It would appear, therefore, that he is deemed fit to continue standing trial.

The major problem remains his lack of legal representation.  In court, he requested copies of all court papers relating to the prosecution witnesses heard so far.  He claims to be able to represent himself in court provided he has a full understanding of the case history.  In his own words ‘I am mentally strong but physically weak’.

The judge ordered the court to share all the documents of the case with him so that he could either find a lawyer or prepare a case for himself. (He can be seen leaving the court with the papers in the attached images). The consensus is that he is not mentally capable of defending himself, which will perpetuate the logjam now faced in this trial unless an outside lawyer is appointed. The judge ordered him to resolve this matter but these are empty words as such orders are never enforced.  He also implied that without a lawyer, the case could well go against him.

He went on to suggest and name a local human rights lawyer who may be able to help but Richard de Wit countered by saying that he trusts no-one and that previous lawyers have not represented him well. There is considerable truth in this assertion as the standard and level of witness cross-examination has been lamentable.

At the last hearing on 31st January, the defendant stated that he wanted ‘to talk to Sarah’s parents’ because he had a ‘secret’ to disclose.  He claims to have new information for our ears only.

Since then, we have been trying to establish the nature of the information he has.  We have decided that, whereas we are anxious to know the details, we cannot afford the time and cost of going to Kashmir ‘on a whim’.  In other words, we are willing to go out at very short notice (visas have been renewed) provided we will learn something new.

It is proving very difficult to communicate with the authorities and with the accused in order to establish the facts.  In a conversation with the jail Superintendent, we can visit him in jail (we both have the court’s permission to do this) but we cannot speak to him by telephone.

In a discussion with the Public Prosecutor immediately after today’s hearing, who feels that Richard de Wit is being very un-cooperative, we have since established that he can apply to the court for an order that will allow a telephone conversation to take place.  Efforts will now be made to enable this to happen and a further release will be put out in the event of significant developments.

The next hearing is scheduled for Wednesday, March 1st 2017 but witnesses will not be summoned unless legal representation of some kind is secured.

Pictures provided by kind permission of Caters News Agency who must be fully acknowledged in any reproduction and / or media use.

For further information: +44 (0) 7781 156743