A CCTV video clip lies at the heart of a trial currently underway in the Supreme Court in Luganville, Santo.
Criminal Case No. 18/2506 is between complainants and elderly couple and a local businessman. Steve Quinto, 83, and his wife Nicola Quinto, 77 have accused defendant Nigel Giltrap, a New Zealander living in Santo of assaulting them as they left a local restaurant.
Mr Giltrap has categorically denied punching them, causing them to fall down.
He claimed through his Defense Counsel, Mark Hurley that he bumped into Mr Quinto in the restaurant, while Mrs Quinto poked him in the back as shown on the video which caused him to turn around quickly to see who it was that did it, and his sudden reaction startled her to recoil and fall backward on her own without him connecting with her at all.
The Quintos, through Prosecutor Ken Massing, claimed Giltrap had punched and pushed them to fall down causing Mrs Quinto what she claims is a likely permanent injury to her right hip, and her husband, bruises and pain to his chest.
However, the claim of “permanent injury” was rejected by the Defense who argued with words to the effect that the phrase “permanent injury” belonged to Mr Quinto who suggested it to Dr. Vocor when the doctor was asked to prepare a medical report for Mrs Quinto.
Dr. Vocor agreed that Mr Quinto made the suggestion.
However, after a number of medical reports, the doctor also concluded that at her age, Mrs Quinto could run the risk of permanent injury from the fall.
The reports said she fell down and hurt herself at the same spot where she’d had a fractured bone to her hip fixed by doctors in Noumea, New Caledonia, with the help of special metal and screw exactly one year ago to the fall.
The presiding Judge, Chief Justice (CJ) Vincent Lunabek made sure Mrs Quinto was comfortable in court.
When she was asked to leave the court while her husband was called to the witness box, CJ Lunabek asked the Court Clerk to make sure she had a chair to sit on because her husband was concerned that his wife would not stand up throughout the rest of the morning outside the court as she was in pain.
The court heard that at 7 o’clock in the evening of March 20 2018, Mr Giltrap went to the Chinese restaurant for dinner at about 7pm and placed his order.
The complainants also went to the same restaurant for dinner where Mr Quinto met Mr Giltrap.
The restaurant was empty of other diners except for two Chinese men at the counter – the owner Kenny Wang and a friend.
Speaking from the witness box in answer to the question as to what the conversation on the video clip was about, Mr Quinto said it was about an invoice which he said was already paid.
He said the defendant immediately began to harass him about $5,000 which he said he owed him.
“I told him that I already sent him a cheque and that if he was not happy with what I sent him then he should seek legal advice on it,” he said.
The complainant said the amount he paid by cheque was Vt221,000.
Unknown to them, what happened was captured on CCTV.
The complainants indicated things happened fast which explains why no one could see anything to confirm the allegations by them against the defendant, apart from them falling.
The video footage did not pick up what they were saying but it was clear that Mr Quinto and Mr Giltrap were talking to each other.
Both told the court the conversation concerned a bill that the defendant’s shipyard (former Dinh Slipway) sent to the complainant for payment.
It was at the counter that the video clip showed Quinto falling to the floor and the Giltrap walking away from him.
Quinto insisted Giltrap punched him and his wife.
Prosecution witness Kenny, who owns the restaurant, said he did not understand what they were saying in English, but it seemed the defendant either pushed or elbowed Mrs Quinto and she fell to the floor and lay there with her eyes closed.
Asked if he saw the complainant Nicola Quinto’s hand touch the defendant, he answered with hesitation that he was not really sure.
Quinto said Giltrap was a strong man and he was concerned that his wife was lying on the floor so he pleaded with the Chinese to call an ambulance and police to come to help his wife.
However, the ambulance was somewhere at Matantas and a police inspector arrived two hours later.
Mrs Quinto was placed on a chair. The Manager of ProMedical arrived with a wheelchair for Mrs Quinto and she was transported home.
The next day the ambulance transported her to the hospital for a medical checkup.
The defendant has remained adamant through Defense Counsel Hurley that Mrs Quinto, was behind him as he was heading out of the Chinese restaurant and she allegedly poked him in the back with her hand and even scratched him on his elbow, which prompted him to turn around quickly and in that instant, she fell backward, without any physical connection on the defendant’s part.
However, both complainants insisted that what was shown on the video was her hand in motion as she walked behind the defendant while telling him, “You cannot behave like that”.
The CCTV footage which captured the incident was played in court. It showed Quinto and Giltrap talking, followed by Quinto falling and Giltrap walking away.
From the witness box, Mr Quinto said, “In the video when she fell against the counter, you could see the table move, the whole thing actually moved, very heavy piece of furniture”.
Asked how the video clip came about, he said it was from the owner of the restaurant as CCTV was on all the time. “I came to know that afterwards when it was shown to me”, he said.
Mr Quinto said his first reaction was to get help for his wife who was badly injured and she needed help.
One of the two Chinese men in the restaurant helped to lift her up.
Even after lifting her to a chair, she could not walk. “I was stunned, she was stunned, I did not know what to do”, he said.
Quinto said he gave the video clip to Police Inspector Nimo.
Upon cross examination from the Defense Counsel, Mr Quinto confirmed he is also the Founder of Campaign For Justice(C4J), which was established before the current case before the court.
Asked who created the C4J Facebook Page, he said he is not involved but that members investigate topics and write them.
Via cross examination to explain what he said to the complainant in the current video clip, he said at the time, the complainant held up a chair threateningly at him and he said, “I believe I said, ‘F… off you old c…”.
Furthermore, the defendant said as he turned to leave the restaurant he said to the owner, “Get the man out of my restaurant”.
Prosecutions asked Giltrap if he realized the complainant was an old man to which he replied that he was old but strong and seemed capable.
The next day the defendant said he returned to the restaurant to check if he owed any bill and found one Harold Neal who claimed to be Mr Quinto’s employee, in the restaurant.
He asked what Neal was doing and was told he was making an interesting video.
The defendant grabbed the machine from him without realizing that it was a laptop, and tossed it rugby style pass to one of his workers on his truck and the defendant handed over the laptop to a female employee in the Office of the Maritime Regulator.
Mr Giltrap then drove to Santo Hardware where police arrested him and put him in a holding cell. After his release after 24 hours, he claimed he was rearrested and refused legal representation and jailed for a week until he was released on bail.
Some questions remain unanswered. The Supreme Court wanted to have a copy of the original CCTV video clip but prosecution witness Kenny said the iPad machine which had the clip was no longer working.
Somehow the copy of the video clip submitted to the Chief Justice was found by him to be upside down. He asked to be made the exact copy of the one screened in court.
The 3-day hearing took place from Monday to Wednesday last week. CJ Lunabek will make his ruling on the case this afternoon.