Murder-accused faces Caribbean court

A TERRIFIED wife barricaded herself inside her holiday home bungalow to stop the man who had just killed her husband from shooting her dead, a jury heard last night.

By Richard Smith

A TERRIFIED wife barricaded herself inside her holiday home bungalow to stop the man who had just killed her husband from shooting her dead, a jury heard last night.

Margaret Fetherston, of Woodbridge, slammed a door shut and bolted it just as the gunman tried to break into the couple's home in St Kitts, West Indies.

The evidence emerged as the trial of 30-year-old Joseph Hazel, who is accused of murdering former East Anglian businessman Tony Fetherston, finally got under way more than four years since his death.

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The jury heard how Mrs Fetherston came face to face through the door with a masked gunman seconds after he killed her 65-year-old husband Tony in the garden of their one-bedroom property in Basseterre, the capital of St Kitts.

A desperate struggle broke out as the killer tugged at the door and demanded money.

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He then fled and Mrs Fetherston rushed into the garden where she found her husband lying on his back with a pool of blood around his chest.

Dennis Merchant, prosecuting, said: "She called out to him. He appeared to be dead."

The trial of Hazel, a decorator, of Fortlands, Basseterre, who has denied murdering Frinton-born Mr Fetherston on January 26, 2000, finally started in St Kitts High Court yesterday afternoon.

The trial, which had already been postponed five times, was delayed two-and-a-half days this week. This was due to the overrunning of a previous trial, then a prosecution witness fell sick and could not travel and yesterday morning there was an adjournment after the prosecution submitted 13 more witness statements.

Mrs Fetherston is not allowed inside the courtroom until she has given evidence. She is expected to be called on Monday. Her daughter Alex, of London, sat through the start of the trial. Also present were a few members of the public.

Mr Merchant, opening the prosecution case, told the jurors the couple had been married 34 years and they had flown to St Kitts on January 10, 2000. Their holiday home had been on the island for 14 years and on January 26 they had had lunch, tea and then supper after which Mrs Fetherston talked on the phone to their daughter.

It was between 7pm and 8pm when Mrs Fetherston heard the doorbell ring and her husband, who used to be deputy chairman of the Thomas Meadows International freight forwarding company in Frinton and Ipswich, went into the garden to answer it.

Mr Merchant said: "He took some time. She heard voices on the outside and after hearing those voices she also heard her husband cry out and then she heard a loud bang.

''She will give evidence that it sounded like a gun shot. She was speaking to her daughter on the phone, and she ran towards the back door and she grabbed that door and pulled it in. By that time someone else was on the outside of that door, pulling on that door.

''She bolted the door and she was able to see the eyes of someone who was pulling on the back door. That person had, she says, hard eyes, that person was wearing a mask and she will say that while that person was tugging on that door something was said about money. Her response was that she had no money.''

After Mrs Fetherston found her husband's body she called out to her neighbours and made telephone calls for help. The first person to arrive was Peter Allcorn, the British honorary consul on St Kitts. A neighbour followed and police officers cordoned off the area.

An ambulance arrived and Mr Fetherston, a former RAF pilot who was a retired wealthy businessman, was pronounced dead at 9.30pm.

Mr Merchant said a maroon cloth with two holes and maroon trousers which had been cut were found.

He described how DNA samples had been taken from Hazel a few days after the killing, and that analysis had originally taken place in Barbados before the mask, trousers and DNA samples were flown to England for tests in laboratories in London.

Mr Merchant warned the jury that they were trying a high profile case that had received a great deal of media publicity and they had to make their decision based on the evidence presented to them.

The first witness was Kamala de Soyza, a senior forensic scientist from London. She has handled nearly 1,000 criminal cases and worked in forensic science for 31 years.

Dr de Soyza told the jury in November 2000 she received the maroon cloth and a pair of maroon trousers with the right leg cut off. The DNA profile of Hazel was established from the roots of hair samples taken from him, and tests were carried out on the cloth, which appeared to be the mask, and the trousers.

The mask was 59cm long and between 22.5cm and 39cm wide. Saliva was obtained from the mask although Dr de Soyza revealed there was ''no information'' on who could have worn it.

This was one of a series of findings presented to the jury. She said she concluded that Hazel had worn the trousers – there was a one in 58,000 possibility that it was not his DNA – and that a small amount of someone else's DNA had also been found on the trousers.

She said there was ''strong support'' for the view that the cloth had come from the cut trousers and there was ''moderately strong support'' that the cloth was worn as a mask.

Henry Browne, representing Hazel, said: ''You found no DNA from Hazel on the mask?''

Dr de Soyza replied: ''That is correct.''

Dr Browne continued: ''It is true to say that the DNA on the trousers came from Hazel and an unknown person, that is your proposition?''

Dr de Soyza said: ''That was one of my propositions.''

The other proposition was that the two sets of DNA on the trousers came from two unknown people, but Dr de Soyza emphasised that there was only one chance in 58,000 that it was not Hazel's DNA on the trousers.

She was then questioned by the foreman of the jury who asked for further clarification of the DNA analysis.

The trial continues.

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