The owner of the Campus Trendz clothing store on Tudor Street took to the witness stand for the first time this afternoon, as the murder trial of Jamal Dewayne Orlando Bynoe resumed.
Bynoe is accused of causing the deaths of six young women who perished in The City store when it was robbed and fire-bombed on September 3, 2010.
Dressed in black slacks, a black coat and black and white inside top, store owner Bibi Ally showed early signs of nervousness as she appeared before a courtroom filled with spectators.
A jury of seven women and five men, along with no fewer than four prison officers and three police officers also looked on in anticipation, as the store owner came face-to-face with the accused murderer for the first time since the horrific incident nearly six years ago.
As she struggled to compose herself, the witness was seen swallowing hard, and there were long pauses as she was asked by Principal Crown Counsel Alliston Seale what she recalled about the fateful night, with the accused man sitting about 30 feet across from her in the dock.
At one point, Justice Michelle Weekes and a female court officer tried to console her, as she fought back her tears, but throughout her testimony today the nervous witness hardly made any eye contact with Bynoe, who is representing himself.
She recalled that it was around 6.20 p.m. on September 3, when she was sitting next to the cash register talking with her daughter Naseena, when a man in a mask entered her store by flipping over, and stopped about ten feet from her.
She said while looking at him, a second man came and stood “right in front of me”.
“I stopped looking at the one that flipped over. The other one said to me, ‘give me de money, give me de money’. He started poking me. I got nervous and started shaking. I told him the money is not a problem. I told him to calm down,” the store owner said, her voice breaking with emotion.
“The man with the mask was short. I didn’t pay him any mind after the man in front of me was thumping me. He was tall, fair-skin . . . near to six feet,” Ally added.
Admittedly, the whole ordeal had her so shaken that she could not open the cash register to hand over the money and her daughter had to shout instructions to her.
She said it was only after the intruder got the money and left the store that she noticed it was on fire.
Not seeing her employees, Ally said she appealed for help in locating them, suspecting that they might have gone into the bathroom. However, as the fire raged more intensely, she was forced to abandon her search and rush out.
Ally said she only realized that she had been stabbed after she went outside and felt her clothes soaking wet. She was taken to hospital for treatment.
“While I was at the hospital I wanted to go back to the store . . . a doctor came and told me that three of my employees had died along with three customers,” the prosecution witness informed the court.
Under cross examination by Bynoe, the store owner assured the court that the statement she gave to the police shortly after the September 3, 2010 disaster and her testimony today were all “true and accurate”.
Pressed by the accused, Ally admitted that she could not recall all the details of what she told the police in the immediate aftermath of the incident which she described as a “traumatic” experience.
However, she recalled taking part in an identification parade at a police station and telling the officers she was not sure if any of the men in the line-up fitted the description of the alleged assailants.
Two other prosecution witnesses were called today – police constable Patrina Bryan who said she accompanied a Two Sons Funeral Home vehicle with five body bags to the funeral home – and retired principal of the nearby St Mary’s Primary School Jennifer Robinson, who confirmed that Bynoe attended the school.
The prosecutor also served notice he would be calling at least two more witnesses.