Murder trial faces further delays

THE widow of Tony Fetherston was last night given an apology by the authorities in St Kitts for the delays in bringing her husband's alleged killer to trial.

THE widow of Tony Fetherston was last night given an apology by the authorities in St Kitts for the delays in bringing her husband's alleged killer to trial.

Dennis Merchant, director of public prosecutions, said he was sorry that the scheduled trial date of June 16 had been put back and he understood that the delays would be frustrating for Margaret Fetherston.

But he admitted, in an exclusive interview with the EADT, that the next trial date of July 7 would also have to be postponed because the main forensic scientist witness from England was not available.

Mr Merchant is now hoping the trial of decorator Joseph Hazel, who has denied murdering Mr Fetherston, 65, on January 26, 2000, will take place in September. But this date is only provisional and it depends on whether the prosecution and defence teams can agree on which British witnesses are required for the trial.

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Mr Merchant stressed that the St Kitts government would pay the necessary costs running into thousands of pounds to bring witnesses to the trial.

"We will have to pay. We did ask the Foreign Office for some assistance but it does not seem they can provide any assistance. A lot of money is involved but St Kitts will pay - the cause of justice is costly.

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"We are pretty anxious to get this matter up and going and dispatched with. "You can appreciate the difficulty with so many witnesses that are not resident in St Kitts and trying to do it with the minimum of inconvenience," said Mr Merchant.

He said that St Kitts had paid for the cost of bringing the leading forensic scientist Dr Kamala Souza to the preliminary hearing. This included her

airfare, hotel accommodation and £900 for each day that she was not available to work in England.

Mr Merchant said that the DNA evidence in the trial was crucial but he did not agree with the defence team's last-minute request to have all forensic scientists present at the trial.

He added: "We were hoping to have the trial on July 7 but even that seems impossible now because Dr Souza has indicated her non-availability for the month of July. What we are now trying to do, if we can agree with the other side, is to get it listed early and have it underway in the third or fourth week of September."

Robert Jeffers, the police deputy commissioner, has been involved in the investigation since Mr Fetherston was shot dead when he disturbed a masked intruder at the couple's holiday home in Basseterre, the capital of St Kitts.

He said: "The DNA is crucial to the case. If we do not have the expert forensic scientist there at the trial then we can not get anywhere."

But the defence team lead by Dr Henry Browne, who was unavailable for comment yesterday, want all the forensic scientists present.

Mr Merchant said the defence wanted to ensure that the evidence had not been tainted while it had been transferred among different people.

Mr Fetherston was born in Frinton, Essex and lived with his wife in a mansion on the banks of the River Deben near Woodbridge.

He was deputy chairman of the Thomas Meadows international freight forwarding company before he retired at the age of 52.

The couple spent several months every winter at their small bungalow in St Kitts.







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