Trio gets 19 years for 2009 manslaughter

-also jailed for attempted murder of cops, High Court arson

Three men were yesterday each sentenced to 19 years in jail after pleading guilty to a series of 2009 crimes, including manslaughter, the attempted murder of policemen and setting a section of the Supreme Court on fire.

Randy Mars, called “Ratty,” Jafar Simpson, and David Anthony Watson, called “Tupac,” pleaded guilty to a charge of manslaughter for the November 4, 2009, unlawful killing of Woodette Roberts. Although they were charged with murder, their plea to the lesser charge was accepted by the court.

They were each sentenced to 19 years for the unlawful killing by Justice Navindra Singh at the High Court in Georgetown.

Woodette Roberts

The men were also charged with attempting to murder two police officers. They accepted guilt for discharging a loaded firearm at Police Constables Damintra Intrapaul and Rajindra Singh at the Brickdam Police Station, also on November 4, 2009.

They also pleaded guilty to the attempted murder of Roopchand Gopaul, whom they tried to suffocate.

The convicts were sentenced to 15 years each for attempting to kill the policemen, and an additional 15 years each for trying to take Gopaul’s life.

In addition, the men also accepted that on the same day, they maliciously set fire to the court building, for which they were each handed a 15-year sentence.

For discharging firearms at the two officers, the men were also sentenced to five years’ imprisonment each. They accepted that they shot at the lawmen, with intent to cause grievous bodily harm or maim, disfigure or disable them.

The convicts also pleaded guilty to two counts of wounding the officers, with the intention of causing them bodily harm. For these charges, they were each handed a five-year sentence.

Finally, they also admitted to having a grenade and 24 rounds of 7.62 ammunition in their possession without licences. For these charges, they were sentenced to three years each.

Charges for all the crimes are still pending against at least two other men.

Justice Singh informed the three men that their sentences would run concurrently, meaning that they would not serve more than 19 years each. He also informed them that the prison will make calculations of the deductions to be made from their sentences for the time they have so far spent in prison awaiting trial.

The judge told the convicts that it has always been the principle of his court that mercy will be extended to anyone who wants to accept liability for their actions.

Justice Singh said that from reports he received, they each have been model prisoners. He admonished the men, who nodded in agreement, to continue being well-behaved, as these are all factors which are taken into account for parole consideration.

The judge told the men that they each “have truly been given a second chance,” and expressed the hope that they make “good use” of it by making valuable contributions to society after they would have completed their sentences.

Mars, who was moved to tears, thanked the judge, as did his accomplices, before they were escorted from the courtroom. Their cases were called at the Supreme Court in Georgetown, after yesterday morning’s opening of the April session of the Demerara criminal assizes.

Representing Mars was attorney Melvin Duke. Meanwhile, Simpson and Watson were represented by attorney Mark Conway.

The indictments were presented by Prosecutor Siand Dhurjon, in association with Tuanna Hardy.

The attack

Roberts, called ‘Buckman’ and ‘DJ Stress,’ left his home at around 9 pm on November 4 2009 in a gold coloured Toyota Tacoma pick-up land cruiser, GLL 7171, driven by Roopchand Gopaul, 38, with Sean Embleton, called ‘Deportee Sean,’ 25, as the other occupant. They were reportedly on their way to an area called ‘Frenchman’ to mine gold and diamonds.

The three men were intercepted at around 0015hrs the following day in the vicinity of Loo Creek, Linden/Soesdyke Highway, when a white Toyota wagon and a silver grey motor car overtook them and flagged them down using a red triangular reflector like the ones used by police. The police subsequently reported that eight men, dressed in black clothing resembling police uniforms, and bullet-proof vests including one marked ‘Police,’ exited the vehicles and identified themselves as policemen searching for arms and ammunition. During that time, two persons dressed in civilian clothing and driving a grey Carina motor car, approached and spoke to the men in uniform and went off in the direction of Dora. The armed men duct-taped and handcuffed the three men and placed them in the tray of the Tacoma pick-up and drove off. The men were then deposited at separate locations and the perpetrators left the area in the vehicle.

Gopaul, who reportedly ran all the way from Dora to Kuru Kururu, and Embleton managed to escape from their captors, while Roberts was later found dead just off a trail at Dora. He died from suffocation.

Puzzling’

According to the police, the hijacked pick-up was later used to launch armed attacks on the Brickdam Police Station, the East La Penitence Police Outpost and the High Court. However, Woodette Roberts’ mother, Carmen Roberts told Stabroek News then that this link still puzzled her. “Ay want fuh know how it reach town and then reach up back hey,” she said. “It puzzling me because you mean fuh tell me no patrol on the highway or the East Bank ain’t see this vehicle?”

She added that the police theory didn’t make sense to her but was convinced that one day the truth would be revealed.

From the police force’s official account, around  02:30 hours,  three men dressed in dark clothing, armed with guns and wearing toques, went to the West La Penitence home of Clayton Westford, one of the men who had been charged with a Health Ministry fire. He had been released on bail.

The man’s mother Pamela opened the door after the men claimed to be police ranks. They then handcuffed and took him away, ending up in the La Penitence Cemetery. There, the man was assaulted after claims that he was “talking too much and giving evidence against them.” Westford later managed to escape.

At about 02:55 hours, three armed men also wearing dark clothing and toques, approached the female RK Security Guard at the High Court in Georgetown and told her not to be alarmed. One of them remained with the guard, while the others went to the Registry and later a fire was seen in the area. All three men then left in a gold-coloured Tacoma pick-up vehicle, which from all appearances was the one taken from the men on the highway. The fire caused damage to records and a part of the building. A quantity of channa was later found in the building.

At 03:00 hours a group of armed gunmen in the gold-coloured Tacoma vehicle proceeded to the Brickdam Police Station, where they threw a grenade at a police vehicle as it was being driven into the compound. However, the grenade failed to explode.  The men then shot  the sleeping quarters at the station, resulting in injury to some ranks.

About fifteen minutes later, while Westford’s father, Clifton, was making a report at the East Ruimveldt Outpost in relation to the incident involving his son, the same Tacoma pick-up along with a white motor car bearing registration number plate PLL 6081 approached and shots were discharged at the station. No one was injured.

Later, at approximately 03:30 hrs, the Richard Ishmael Secondary School was set on fire but it was put out as a result of the quick action by public-spirited citizens and the fire service.

Following the attacks the police recovered a white wagon at Houston with three bullet holes on the hood and windscreen which was believed to have been one of the vehicles used by the gunmen.

The day after the incident, a burnt Tacoma pick-up was discovered at Millie’s Hideout, on the outskirts of Linden, with ammo and explosive material. It was later positively identified by its owner as the one hijacked on the highway.

When quizzed about the police’s claim that the two incidents were linked, Crime Chief Seelall Persaud had said then that there was evidence to show the connection. While Persaud had not gone into details, a senior police officer had said that the link was made through eye-witnesses, who not only identified some of the gunmen but identified the gold coloured Tacoma. However, it appeared that those eye-witnesses later recanted.

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