Thackoor Boodram's killers return to court for new sentences

- File photo
- File photo

THE nine men convicted of the brutal beheading of Thackoor Boodram, brother of drug kingpin Dole Chadee, in 2017, have appeared before a High Court judge for resentencing.

Boodram, a pig farmer, was kidnapped from his home on December 20, 1997. His abductors demanded a ransom, but ten days later his head was found in a whisky box at the Caroni Cremation Site.

On Monday, the nine – Michael “Rat” Maharaj, Samuel Maharaj, Damien “Tommy” Ramiah, Bobby Ramiah, Seenath “Farmer” Ramiah, Daniel “Fella” Gopaul, Richard Huggins, Leslie Huggins, and Mark “Bico” Jaikaran – returned to the High Court.

The judge is considering what sentence they should receive in place of a life sentence.

Presiding over the exercise is Justice Geoffrey Henderson, who ordered the prison authorities to prepare bio-social reports for each prisoner by May 5.

Henderson also ordered the four-year reviews of each prisoner to be shared with their attorneys and adjourned the resentencing exercise to May 19.

According to prison rules, authorities must do regular four-year reviews on prisoners serving life sentences to consider the possibility of their release.

In February, the Privy Council allowed the men's appeals against their life sentences and quashed them.

They had initially been sentenced to death by hanging, but that sentence was later commuted to life in prison.

Lords Briggs, Leggatt, Burrows, Stephens and Lloyd-Jones further ordered that their resentencing take place “expeditiously,” and advised the High Court to consider each man's case individually, taking into account the full range of sentences available.

In October 2021, the Privy Council dismissed the men’s appeal of their conviction. They had petitioned the Court of Appeal to reopen their case because of “new evidence” that emerged after they were found guilty of murdering Boodram.

That evidence was based on an alleged admission by the State’s star witness, Junior Grandison, who swore in a statutory declaration in 2011 that he had fabricated evidence against the group.

Grandison's evidence did not implicate a tenth man, Junior "Heads" Phillips, who was also convicted on the basis of evidence from another witness.

The London-based court agreed that Justices of Appeal Alice Yorke-Soo Hon, Rajendra Narine (retired) and Prakash Moosai carried out a proper and robust analysis of the appeal before dismissing it in 2018.

While their appeal was against both conviction and sentence, the latter part was adjourned, since it was dependent on the findings of a death-penalty case involving Naresh Boodram, another brother of Dole Chadee (Nankissoon Boodram).

That appeal to the Privy Council was taken there by the Attorney General in a constitutional claim which asked the Law Lords if a court could substitute a sentence other than life when the death sentence is commuted.

In May 2022, the Privy Council confirmed that prisoners in Trinidad and Tobago who can no longer be executed because of long sojourns on death row are not limited to sentences of life imprisonment.

Naresh Boodram was convicted of murder on November 27, 1996, and sentenced to death for murdering Anthony "Tooks" Greenidge and Stephen “Bulls” Sandy in 1992.

In 2007, he filed to have his death sentence quashed and to be re-sentenced by the High Court. His sentence was commuted to life on the basis that the court did not have the discretion to re-sentence him. Boodram appealed and the Court of Appeal held that the High Court was not constrained to impose a sentence of life imprisonment and can re-sentence with clearly defined prison terms. It sent the case back to the High Court to consider an appropriate sentence.

The Court of Appeal’s ruling benefited some 82 death row inmates at the time. The court held sentencing judges had a full range of sentencing powers available to them and the discretion to impose prison terms other than life.

However, the AG argued that the only appropriate sentence, after it became unlawful to carry out the death penalty, was one of life, as the next most serious penalty that reflected the gravity of the offence. Although the State accepted crimes of murder covered a wide range of circumstances, its argument was that all murders must be treated as equally grave.

Maharaj and the others were represented by attorneys Rajiv Persad, Ajesh Sumessar, Daniel Khan, Kelston Pope, Peter Carter and Jagdeo Singh. Representing the State is prosecutor Ambay Ramkalawan.

All but two of the prisoners, Leslie and Richard Huggins, appeared virtually at Monday’s hearing. Those two are both at Carrera Island Prison.


"Thackoor Boodram’s killers return to court for new sentences"

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