Accused silent, defence lets dead man’s actions tell tale
Not once during his defence did Mohamed Sail utter a word.
Instead, he let the conduct of Muhab Sultan, his 23-year-old companion on the night Jeremy Cook, 18, was shot to death, do all the talking.
Sail, 26, has pleaded not guilty to seconddegree murder — and only he, Sultan and Cook would know who fired the .40-calibre bullet into the Brampton carpentry apprentice’s chest after he’d tried to retrieve his lost cellphone that he’d tracked to Sultan’s car.
While the Crown built a case, during the last week, pointing to the car’s passenger, Sail, as the shooter, the defence has gently suggesting Sultan could have done it, too.
Wednesday, that suggestion got louder, although never said outright, when the defence opted to call evidence in the Superior Court jury trial, none of it from the witness box.
And Sultan, it appears, is an easy longtime criminal at whom to point the finger.
For starters, he drowned in the Rideau River in Ottawa while trying to evade the police, 10 days after Cook was gunned down.
What he left behind was a paper trail of misery. The jury was told of his criminal past and Ottawa police reports of what happened in the moments before Sultan was lost in the river.
Sultan had an unenviable criminal record, replete with entries for failing to comply with court orders, possessing drugs and resisting arrest.
One entry from January 2011 described how police were called to a London variety store where Sultan was swearing and yelling at a woman across the street.
Sultan’s brother explained the driver’s side window of their car was smashed during an argument. Sultan was arrested for causing a disturbance, but fled on foot. He was rearrested with a cellphone and $1,400 in his pocket.
Sultan’s brother drove away when Sultan was arrested. Police later arrested the brother. A handgun and 15 rounds of ammunition were found in a backpack on the front seat. Also found were crack cocaine and a digital scale.
A gun charge against Sultan, defence lawyer Sharon Jeethan told the jury, was eventually withdrawn by the Crown.
The defence pointed to Sultan’s frantic, suspicious behaviour after Cook was shot. Within hours, he was on a Greyhound bus to Toronto. The jury already heard of text messages on his phone to his brother to back up a false alibi and to his father asking for money and informing him that the phone number was being changed.
A Canada-wide warrant for his arrest for second-degree murder was already out two days before he drowned when he bumped into Kerron McLean, then of Gatineau, in an Ottawa Money Mart.
McLean wasn’t called to testify before the jury, but Sail’s defence team played a videotaped police statement of McLean describing his brief and shocking association with a guy he knew as Hassan from Scarborough.
McLean had gone to the Money Mart to get a loan for a motorcycle. He was joking about the people in the store with Sultan, who was there picking up a money
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the McLean, interview who that told he the gave officer Sultanin his cellphone number. The next day, they hung out at McLean’s apartment smoking weed and playing video games.
The day of the drowning, Sultan showed up at McLean’s again and offered to drive him to work in a car he’d picked up for $200.
The Ottawa police reports read to the jury pick up what happened to Sultan after that.
Two officers on bicycles spotted a green Toyota Corolla that had pulled up in front of a Salvation Army shelter to drop off a male passenger, later identified as McLean.
McLean was picking up some things he had stored with a friend at the agency. Sultan was in the driver’s seat and had “a surprised look,” when he saw the police officers and sped away, Const. Stephen Brown wrote.
The officers thought the behaviour suspicious and Brown wrote the licence plate number on his forearm.
Five minutes later, they saw the car again. It turned onto Cumberland Street and pulled over. Const. Adrian Benjamin pulled up to the driver, while Brown rode up near McLean, who was walking up the street and getting into the car.
Sultan, who kept looking around during the conversation with Benjamin, was asked why he was trying to avoid police. He answered he was parked and waiting for a friend.
He told the officer he didn’t have his driver’s licence, but was a valid driver. He said his name was Mustafa Elamin from Brampton.
Asked for his current address, Sultan was unable to give the proper spelling of the street name. Sultan was shaking as he retrieved documents from the glove compartment. The car was registered to an Ottawa owner.
Brown moved to the driver’s side when Benjamin stepped away to call dispatch. Sultan suddenly reversed the car, squealing the tires, and Brown was hit in the rib cage by the driver’s side mirror. Sultan continued to reverse at about 40 km/h, narrowly missing other drivers and pedestrians.
Brown drew his gun, but the car made a U-turn and headed south toward him. Brown tried to jump out of the way, but his arm, with his hands holding the gun, went inside the driver’s open window and he injured his hand pulling it back.
Several people at the Salvation Army had to get out of the way of the speeding car.
Const. Christian Destrempes picked up the chase after a report of a man running through backyards toward Range Road and Rideau River.
The officer followed up with witnesses and ended up at Dutchy’s Hole park, where several people said a man was in the water. He heard screaming in the river and saw a man “who was thrashing and screaming ‘help.’ ”
Police officers went into the river, which was about three metres deep, to save Sultan. They found his shoes in the murky water, but Sultan had disappeared.
McLean told the officers that while in the car, he was terrified. He got out as soon as the car slowed and spoke to police.
“I was in a (expletive) situation. I am also a victim because I couldn’t get out of that car,” he told the officer.
McLean said when he demanded Sultan let him, Sultan’s reply was “Chill, chill.”
“I don’t know what was in his mind at that moment,” McLean said.
Sultan’s body was found July 29, 2015. A warrant for Sail was issued on July 6,2015.
Sail turned himself into London police four days later.
Closing arguments are expected Monday. email@example.com twitter.com/JaneatLFPress
This image, surveillanceright, introduced in evidence, shows Muhab Sultan ordering at a drive-thru.