Director of Prisons Welton Trotz yesterday confirmed that child killer Ravindra Deo was granted a presidential pardon late last week and is now a free man, even as the child’s parents have expressed dissatisfaction with the move.
Trotz could not say if former president Donald Ramotar granted the request which was made by petition last Friday or Saturday. Asked if Ramotar who ceased to be president on Saturday had pardoned any other convict, he said “I don’t know about any other person.”
Under Article 188 1 (A) of the Constitution, the president has the power to grant any person concerned in or convicted of any offence under the law of Guyana a pardon either free or subject to lawful condition.
Deo, now 39 years old, was convicted of murdering eight-year-old school boy Vishnu Bhim between November 29 and December 1, 1994. Deo was convicted in December 1995 by a jury and sentenced to death by Justice Claudette Singh. The child was on his way to school when he was kidnapped and taken via a bicycle to the backlands of La Bonne Intention (LBI) where he was bound, gagged and murdered in a crime which had grabbed national attention.
According to the evidence in the case, Deo had claimed that Kresho, the other person who was implicated, gave him the bike with a wooden bar and told him to take the child to LBI. Kresho was never found. Bhim was taken down the LBI estate road in the vicinity of a trench surrounded by bush where his shirt was torn and used to bind him.
A note was then sent to his parents requesting ransom of $1 million for his safe return.
According to evidence given in the trial, Deo had later taken the police to the backlands where the child’s swollen and battered body was found floating in a trench partly obscured by bushes. The cause of death was given as asphyxiation due to a fracture of the hyoid bone.
One lawyer yesterday questioned not only the release of a person who was convicted of murdering a child but also the timing. It was explained to this newspaper that some time ago Deo was one of many sentenced to death who had approached the High Court asking for his sentence to be commuted to life in prison. Based on the information gathered by this newspaper, Acting Chief Justice Ian Chang granted this request in 2012. It is not known when Deo subsequently petitioned to be pardoned.
Stabroek News was unable to made contact with the child’s parents as they live abroad but was told that they have expressed their dissatisfaction with the presidential pardon saying that it was unfair and that they were never consulted or informed.
They are expected to arrive in the country before the end of the week when they would express their concerns about what has happened.
Within recent times there have been other similar acts, but none of the persons pardoned had committed as grave an offence as the one Deo was convicted of. Former president Bharrat Jagdeo had pardoned treason accused Phillip Bynoe in 2008. Bynoe’s co-accused Mark Benschop, who turned himself over to authorities, received a presidential pardon in 2007 while awaiting a retrial.
On July 3, 2003, the Office of the President was stormed resulting in the deaths of two persons. Bynoe and Benschop were later named as the persons who led the violent protest. Benschop turned himself in Bynoe did not. Instead, Byone remained on the run but in 2007 began writing to the president expressing remorse while appealing for clemency. Bynoe the former leader of the People’s Solidarity Movement was charged in absentia with the capital offence while Benschop went to a trial which ended in a hung jury.