Robbery suspect on the verge of release from detention

POSTED: 02/5/15 6:00 PM

St. Maarten – The Common Court of Justice contemplates the suspension of Robertson Craig Peter’s detention, but only if the 29-year-old meets specific conditions. He will have to provide the court with an address on the Dutch side of the island and with a written statement of an aunt, who lives at that address, that he is welcome to stay there until his trial continues in June. Peter also has to surrender his passport and report weekly to the prosecutor’s office.

Peter has been jailed for three years by now, partially in St. Thomas – where he was fighting his extradition to St. Maarten until his options ran out in 2013, and from March 2013 in Pointe Blanche.

In April of last year, the Court in First Instance acquitted him from the murder of businessman Haresh Dayalani on May 26, 2009, but it convicted him to 8 years of imprisonment for his involvement in two successive armed robberies at the former Pelican Resort (now Simpson Bay Resort and Marina) on May 13 and 14, 2009.

In November of last year, the appeals court upheld the acquittal for the murder charge, but it ruled that the investigation into the Pelican Resort robberies was incomplete.

The evidence against Peter for these robberies rests on the testimony of two women, who were also suspects in these same crimes – Candice Eliane P. (42) and Cindy W. (35). The appeals court summoned these women to appear in court as witnesses yesterday, but they did not show up, in spite of the fact that the French side authorities had served them the summons.

The court ruled yesterday that it still wants to hear these witnesses and it adjourned the trial to June 3.

That was reason for defense attorney Shaira Bommel to ask the court to either lift or suspend her client’s detention. Solicitor General Dounia Benammar objected, citing flight risk. “It is not unthinkable that he will flee to St. Thomas where his children live. He has done his utmost to resist extradition at the time, this is why this has taken so long. From 2009 to 2012 he has done everything to stay out of the hands of justice. I do not feel for this at all.”

The three justices however arrived at a different conclusion. The court denied lifting Peter’s detention altogether but noted that there are ways to limit flight risk with special conditions attached to the suspension of the detention. “Those special conditions are put in place because in the past you have evaded justice. Your promise not to flee is insufficient.”

The court therefore ruled that Peter has to provide a valid address on the Dutch side of the island, and that his aunt, who lives there, has to put in writing that he is welcome to stay there until the trial in June.

“As long as you do not meet these conditions the detention will not be suspended,” the court ruled. Once Peter does meet these conditions, he will have to report every week to the public prosecutor’s office and he has to surrender his passport.

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