In T&T: 28 years in prison for five who buried woman alive

(Trinidad Express) More than 11 years after she was kidnapped at gunpoint from her San Juan business place, severely beaten and then buried alive in a shallow grave in a cashew field in Claxton Bay, five of the men who were charged with the murder of Samdaye Rampersad, were each sentenced to 28 years in prison yesterday.

It was two months ago at the Hall of Justice in Port of Spain that a 12 member jury found the men – Phillip “The Boss” Boodram, Roger Mootoo, Ricky Singh, Kervin Williams and Aaron “Arc Eye” Grappie – not guilty of the capital charge, but instead guilty to the lesser count of manslaughter.

They now join Vivian Clarke, 36, Steve McGilvery, 27, and Pernell Martin, 29, who were each sentenced to 30 years’ imprisonment in 2009 after being found guilty of murdering the woman.

In passing sentence at the Fifth Criminal Court yesterday, Justice Norton Jack said the gruesome manner in which Rampersad was killed and the seriousness of the offence cannot be overlooked.

A gruesome death:
Samdaye Rampersad

“I emphasise that the evidence led in this court was that Samdaye Rampersad was kidnapped at gunpoint, bundled into a waiting vehicle, handed over to Kervin Williams in the darkness of night at Bobby Hill, bound, gagged and was struggling with a rag in her mouth and blindfolded. She was forcibly put on the tray of a waiting pickup, still bound, gagged and blindfolded and driven away. She did not go willingly. The violence of the kidnapping which preceded the handing over of Samdaye Rampersad to Phillip Boodram at the cashew field in Carolina Village cannot be overstated. The beating and torture of Samdaye Rampersad which occurred at the hands of Phillip Boodram prior to the violent severing of her vertebral column was surpassed only by the violent force required to completely transect her backbone.

“The fear into which the deceased was put by the violent sequence of events and the personal contact required for such actions speak to the unmitigated trauma endured by the victim. The seriousness of this offence cannot be exaggerated. This was a stranger snatched from her home, tortured and killed all in the name of the recovery of money related to the sale of illicit drugs.”

The trial was the third faced by the five following the 2009 trial as well as another in 2012 which resulted in the juries being unable to arrive at unanimous verdicts. Since being charged with the crime, the five had been in custody for just over 11 years. This time will be subtracted from the 28 years imposed, therefore, they will serve just about 17 more years in prison before being released.

It was the State’s case that Rampersad was kidnapped on the night of November 26, and that the motive for doing so was to recover the proceeds of illicit drugs which Boodram entrusted to someone described as “a Rampersad man” to take to the United Kingdom. The State contended that the victim was believed to have been the man’s mother. However, Rampersad had no children.

Despite telling the men this, she was still beaten and interrogated as to the whereabouts of the “Rampersad man”. During the beating, Boodram sat on her back and pulled her chin back until a “crack crack” sound was heard. Once she had stopped moving, her body was then dragged about a 100 yards and buried in a shallow grave.

Her body was unearthed from the grave in Springvale, Claxton Bay by police on January 5, 2005.

An autopsy performed by pathologist Dr Hughvon Des Vignes concluded that the cause of death was asphyxiation secondary to aspiration of dirt and suffocation associated with live burial.

The prosecution was led by State attorney Tricia Hudlin-Cooper while attorneys Evans Welch, Wayne Sturge, Delicia Helwig-Robertson, Danielle Rampersad and Kelston Pope appeared for the defence.

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