Scale tips in favour of prosecution, former pilot could face life in prison

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By Latrishka Thomas

The prosecution predicted that the evidence against the former chief pilot of Caribbean Helicopters Limited (CHL), Colin Murraine, was “so overwhelming that when you weigh that evidence, the scale can only tip in one direction”. And, as 12 jurors concluded, that evidence was in favour of the Crown.

Yesterday, the $1.7-million drug charge was grounded when a guilty verdict was returned in the trial of the embattled pilot.

Murraine could now face a possible life sentence for having approximately 105 pounds of cocaine in his possession, attempting to export it, and the intent of supplying and trafficking the drug.

In the trial, which began on Monday, the prosecution’s case led by the Director of Public Prosecutions Anthony Armstrong was based mainly on testimony presented by several officers from the Office of National Drug and Money Laundering Control Policy (ONDCP).

One officer testified that a teary-eyed Murraine told him that, “I’m afraid for my family. You guys need to help me, I don’t want nothing to happen to my family.”

The officer added that after the ONDCP officers intercepted the plane on February 2, 2018, Murraine requested to speak privately with one of the officers on the strike team and said “that a man gave him two bags to carry” and that he did not know what was in the bag and could “only assume”.

“He said he was only asked to take the bags to Bermuda,” the witness said. 

In his unsworn statement, Murraine said that after he arrived at Gate 7 on the morning in question, he entered a white taxi that drove up shortly after.

He said the vehicle took him to Gate 10, but he had never seen the driver before nor did he have any conversation with him.

Murraine explained that he was escorted to the aircraft and the two suitcases were placed in the plane but he did not say by whom.

He said that after the plane was intercepted, officers ordered him and the other pilots to lay on the ground and one officer told them they had reason to believe there was a controlled substance on board.

At that point, the former pilot said, he told the officer there were two suitcases on board which didn’t belong to him and he asked the officer for protection because he had been receiving threats.

In Justice Stanley John’s summation of the trial, he emphasised that possession means that a person has personal and physical control over the illegal substance and had knowledge that the drugs were present and intended to use or control them.

And the idea that Murraine had no knowledge of what was in the suitcases was a key feature of the argument presented by the defence lawyers Lawrence Daniel and Wendel Robinson.

As the judge advised the jurors, there were only two issues at hand — whether the drug was really cocaine as stated by an expert on the stand and whether the pilot truly had the drug in his possession.

In the end, the jurors decided unanimously on the 32-year-old pilot’s guilt.

According to the law, the convict could receive seven years and a $200,000 fine for possession of the drug; 14 years and a fine for intent to supply; 10 years and a fine for attempted exportation; and life imprisonment and a fine three times the market value of the controlled substance for drug trafficking.

Murraine was remanded to Her Majesty’s Prison where he will await his sentencing on March 17.

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