Thu | May 28, 2020

Chequered Christmas - Freed nine years after being charged with killing her husband, but no celebration as his disappearance still haunts her

Published:Sunday | December 23, 2018 | 12:00 AMBarbara Gayle/Gleaner Writer

For the first Christmas in nine years, yesterday, Joyce Leslie faced the festivities at home without the threat of a lengthy prison sentence hanging over her head, but still, there was no celebration for her.

The 47-year-old Leslie, of a Prospect, St Thomas, address, was last week cleared of a murder charge slapped on her by the police in 2009.

"I am happy to be freed of the murder charge, but I still want the case for which I was charged to be solved," said the 47-year-old, who was charged with the murder of her husband, Andrew, a 34-year-old private in the Jamaica Defence Force who went missing in October 2008.

They had been married for 12 years at the time and had a daughter.

"While some people are celebrating Christmas, I really cannot have any celebration because every day, I remain concerned as to what happened to my husband, and my 18-year-old daughter is worried as to what happened to her father.

"My freedom will never come until I know what happened to my husband," added Leslie.

The prosecution relied on the deposition given by Daniel West, a spiritual leader in St Thomas who claimed that the accused woman confessed to him that she had paid someone to kill her husband.

According to West, Leslie signed a statement in his presence that she had paid someone identified only as 'Junior' $30,000 to kill her husband.

West died shortly after he gave a deposition at the preliminary enquiry, but the original note with the confession, which the Crown alleged the accused had signed, was not available at the trial.

A scanned copy of the note was presented at the trial, but attorney-at-law Hensley Williams said that all the scanned note said was "I, Joyce Irons Leslie, paid Junior $30,000".

The scanned copy of the original led Williams to call on the jury to free Leslie as there was no forensic evidence to prove that his client had had anything to do with her husband's disappearance.

Williams blamed the police for concocting evidence against Leslie and chided them for their failure to investigate the missing case thoroughly.

Evidence was given that the couple was undergoing counselling at the time the husband went missing.

Leslie spent nine months in custody before she was granted bail. Following a preliminary enquiry, she was committed to stand trial, but the case was stalled on numerous occasions because witnesses were not available.

The trial finally started on November 26 and lasted for four weeks. Leslie denied signing a confession statement or being involved in her husband's disappearance.

Following her acquittal last week, Leslie told The Gleaner that she remains sad because she loves her husband and does not know where he is.

"It was not easy to be charged with a crime I did not commit, and although this aspect of the case is over, every day, in my head, I keep wondering what happened to my husband," said Leslie.

She is also angry that the matter dragged through the justice system for nine years before the not-guilty verdict was returned.