Woman disappears during break in fraud trial
A Corporate Area judge has issued an arrest warrant for a Jamaican woman living in the United States who went missing from the Kingston and St Andrew Parish Court during a short break in her fraud trial on Thursday.
Winsome McFarlane walked out of court during the break and later disappeared, leaving court officials, prosecutors, and her attorney puzzled.
The court waited two hours yesterday, but she did not return.
When the matter was called up yesterday, Parish Judge Simone Wolfe Reece directed that the warrant for McFarlane's arrest be stayed until next Tuesday.
That is when the matter will again be mentioned ahead of the resumption of the trial on Thursday.
"Set a date to continue with or without Miss McFarlane," Wolfe Reece instructed prosecutors and defence attorneys.
"I don't want to hold up Miss Thoms' case," she said, referring to the co-accused in the matter.
In the meantime, the judge has directed that checks be made with the Passport Immigration and Citizenship Agency to determine if McFarlane has left the island.
Wolfe Reece has also given instructions for the Half-Way Tree police to make checks at the Medical Associates Hospital.
Prosecuting attorney Linda Wright told The Gleaner that checks had been made at three major hospitals in the Corporate Area, but there was no sign of McFarlane.
"This is almost bizarre. We are lost. We are not sure what to do in the circumstances," Wright said in court yesterday.
"I'm surprised at what has happened. I am surprised she has not turned up and no one knows what has happened to her," Wolfe Reece said.
McFarlane, who is believed to be the owner of a pharmacy located in St Ann, is jointly charged with Heleen Thoms.
The two women have each been charged with forgery, uttering forged documents, obtaining money by false pretences, and conspiracy.
The allegations, according to Wright, are that they defrauded the National Health Fund of over $600,000.
The trial started in 2013.
Prosecutors have already closed their case and attorneys for both women are expected to make no-case submissions.