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Former detective recalls questioning of Claude Bird in Caribbean police station

Bronx resident Claude Bird, a 42-year-old Jamaican national,

Bronx resident Claude Bird, a 42-year-old Jamaican national, is scheduled to go on trial Monday in Mineola on six armed robbery counts. In this photo released Monday, May 17, 2010 by the Nassau County Police Department, he is shown in photos from 1993, left, and from his mug shot after being arrested. Credit: AP

The police station on the island of Jamaica where he questioned bank robbery suspect Claude Bird two decades ago was run-down, with bad lighting, a dirt floor and broken windows by the holding cell, a former Long Island detective testified Thursday.

"It was unlike any facility in Nassau County," retired Nassau Det. Thomas Goodwin said at Bird's trial in Mineola.

Authorities have alleged Bird, a 42-year-old Jamaican national, fled home after acting as a gunman in a March 1993 Lake Success stickup that netted $241,000 -- Nassau's biggest-ever bank robbery. Police arrested Bird in 2010 after, they said, he spent years on the run after escaping a Jamaican jail before he could be extradited. The defense claims a Jamaican judge released him after not getting adequate justification for his detention.

Back in April 1994, authorities in Jamaica notified Nassau police they had Bird in custody, and Goodwin was one of two detectives who flew there to question him. Goodwin said yesterday that Bird, who now lives in the Bronx, seemed "glad that it was over" when confronted about the heist.

But Bird's attorney, Toni Marie Angeli, claims her client's alleged confession to Nassau police was illegally obtained. A hearing judge previously threw out a confession Bird allegedly gave Jamaican police in the same facility, saying it was given under conditions "that shock the judicial conscience."

Goodwin also testified yesterday that when he interviewed Bird with Steven Skrynecki, now chief of department for Nassau police, they did so in an office at the police station where Bird had been held in a cell.

Goodwin said Bird agreed to speak with them after hearing his Miranda rights. He said Bird then confessed to being a masked gunman who went into the bank with a 9-mm gun before escaping with money from the vault.

The detective said Bird also identified himself in a bank surveillance photo that authorities said showed him and another robber casing the bank's location, along with a snapshot police found in a getaway car. Goodwin said Bird's interview lasted about 30 minutes, before Skrynecki -- whom guards called out of the room -- was told Bird had a lawyer. Then they stopped questioning him, Goodwin said.

But the former detective acknowledged during cross-examination that evidence had been lost, including a sneaker print and bank video surveillance footage.

State Supreme Court Justice George Peck allowed a still photo from that footage to become part of the nonjury trial, overruling a defense objection.

But the defense got Goodwin to acknowledge a couple of inconsistencies between his direct testimony and statements that a teller -- who later went to prison for her inside role in the robbery -- gave police.

For example, the detective testified the teller said Bird was the suspect who jumped a bank counter and robbed the vault, but agreed later that teller told police she wasn't sure if Bird was the suspect who came into the vault.

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