Fifteen years for teen taxi driver’s killers

After admitting to the strangling death of 17-year-old taxi-driver Dhanraj Latchman, youths Asaf Alli and Abdool Shazim Razack were yesterday each sentenced to 15 years in jail for the crime.

Justice Navindra Singh handed down the sentences to the two young men after they opted to plead guilty to manslaughter, after initially maintaining their innocence on the charge of murder.

They accepted that they unlawfully killed Latchman during a robbery between June 10 and June 14, 2014.

Dhanraj Latchman

Presenting the facts of the case, Prosecutor Tuanna Hardy said that Latchman and the convicts all grew up in the same neighbourhood. She told the court that both Alli and Razack planned the hire of Latchman to take them to Parika Backdam, where they strangled him.

Hardy said that they then disposed of the young man’s body. She said that it was later found next to a shirt which was identified as belonging to Alli.

The men, who did not contest the prosecution’s facts, each said they were sorry for what they had done. Ali, who conveyed his remorse through constant sobs, appeared to be inconsolable.

Asaf Alli and Abdool Shazim Razack

In mitigation, defence attorney Keoma Griffith asked the court to consider that Ali, now 20 and whom he described as young and “misguided,” was only 17 years at the time of the killing.

Griffith told the court that his clients were throwing themselves at the mercy of the court and asked Justice Singh to consider their admission of guilt at the first given opportunity.

When given a chance to speak, Razack, 21, told his family that he was sorry for the shame and disgrace he caused them.

To Latchman’s teary-eyed relatives, who were in court, the convicts extended their apologies.

The dead man’s mother, however, openly voiced her dissatisfaction with the sentences later imposed. She remonstrated loudly, fell to the ground and began wailing after the matter was heard.

Hardy had labelled the killing as “senseless” and she asked the court to be reminded that Latchman was killed by persons he knew, and stressed that young people needed to be more responsible and not use their age as an excuse for their actions. She asked the judge to consider not only the defence’s submission of the convicts being young at the time of the killing, but also that Latchman was himself young too, when his life was snatched from him.

“He did not get to live a full life,” Hardy stressed, while asking the court to impose a sentence commensurate with Alli and Razack’s actions.

After considering submissions from both sides, the judge sentenced the men to 15 years each behind bars and ordered that deductions be made for time spent on remand.

The state’s case was presented by Hardy, in association with prosecutors Tamieka Clarke and Seeta Bishundial.

After being missing for three days, Latchman, of Lusignan, East Coast Demerara, was found dead in a shallow grave near Parika Backdam. He had been reported missing to the police two days earlier by his parents after he had left to transport two passengers to Parika, and did not return home.

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