By Today Newspaper
GREAT BAY – The Court in First Instance sentenced Miguel Obrien Stewart to 4 years of imprisonment yesterday for masterminding and executing an armed robbery on the Trey Wah restaurant in Cole Bay on April 18. Of the sentence, 2 years are suspended and the court imposed 3 years of probation.
Sherwin Anthony Ambrose received an 18-month prison sentence with 9 months suspended as an accessory to the crime. The two men involved three boys, aged 12, 14 and 15 years of age in their holdup.
The sentences are below the demands of prosecutor Karola van Nie, who demanded 4 years against Stewart and 24 months against Ambrose. Attempts by the attorneys of the two defendants, Safira Ibrahim and Shaira Bommel to get an acquittal from the court failed.
The two robbers traveled from Middle Region to Cole Bay on April 18 with three boys on the backseat. In the car, they gave the boys tee shirts to cover their faces, Stewart, armed with a pellet gun, and the 12-year old, brandishing a knife, entered the restaurant around 11.25 p.m. where the youngest robber told everybody not to move, while Stewart jumped over the counter for a grab from the cash register. The other two boys waited outside of the establishment to prevent anyone from making a run for it.
What happened there remains unclear: the restaurant owner claimed that the robbers made off with $100, while Stewart said that the cash register was empty except for some coins and that he had made off with just five dollars.
When the robbers left the place and ran for the car, a witness spotted them. According to the police report issued after the robbery in April, the restaurant owner called 911 with a description of the getaway car and its plate number.
Police spotted the car driving on the G.A. Arnell Road towards Divi Little Bay, but Ambrose did not stop after he saw the flashing lights of the beacon on the police car. A second police car blocked the road near the entrance of Fort Willem in front of the Great Bay Beach Hotel. An attempt by Ambrose to escape via the sidewalk failed and all five suspects were arrested on the spot.
That is the long and short of the story. Judge Maria Paulides noted that Ambrose had changed his statement to investigators several times. One of his stories is that Stewart threatened him with a gun after the robbery and forced him to drive off. Ambrose also claimed that he had no knowledge of the plan to rob the restaurant.
When Judge Paulides asked Ambrose how he knew that the gun Stewart carried was not loaded, he denied that he ever made such a statement to the judge of instruction,. Yet, a statement claiming exactly that, bore the defendant’s signature.
Stewart was more forthcoming when the judge asked him to tell the truth. “The robbery was my plan, and the gun was mine,” he said, adding that he had had the weapon for just a week and that it was indeed not loaded.
Prosecutor Van Nie considered it implausible that Ambrose had known nothing about the robbery-plan, given Stewart’s statement that he had given the boys on the backseat tree shirts to cover their faces in the car. A witness also saw four masked men coming out of the car and running towards the restaurant.
“Stewart came up with the plan. He knew what he was going to do,” Van Nie said, she only considered the fact that Stewart is a first offender into account as a mitigating circumstance, and she left his age – Stewart is just 18 – out of the equation. She demanded 4 years against him.
Against Ambrose, Van Nie demanded 24 months. “Without him they could not have executed the robbery,” she said.
Attorney Shaira Bommel said that there is no proof against her client Ambrose for complicity, nor for being an accessory to the robbery. “Stewart said: Ambrose did not know anything,” she pointed out. “He was going to be paid to take the others to Cole Bay. He did not know about the robbery and there is a lack of intent.”
Bommel asked the court to acquit her client.
Safira Ibrahim also concluded acquittal for her client Stewart. She focused on the fact that it is unclear what exactly has been stolen during the robbery. “The theft of $100 is only supported b y a statement from the restaurant owner. My client says that he took $5. The three boys have said that he took money, but they have not seen that, because they were standing outside.”
Ibrahim said that during the arrest, shortly after the robbery, police officer had not found any money on her client.”
Judge Paulides considered proven that Stewart committed the robbery together with others. “The number of robberies on hardworking Chinese entrepreneurs is dreadful,” the judge said. It is not on to scare those people like this.”
The judge said that the prosecutor’s demand is “fitting” but that she would nevertheless attribute a little bit more weight to that fact that Stewart is a first offender, that he is only 18 and that the gun he used could not fire any bullets,.
The court acquitted Ambrose of complicity but sentenced him as an accessory to the crime. In this case, the judge went below the prosecutor’s demand because Ambrose does not have a criminal record.