T&T lawyer gets 19 years for attempting to murder former secretary

Attorney Joseph Melville was yesterday sentenced to 19 years in prison for attempting to murder his former secretary Patricia Cox in 2001.

Melville, 62, from Sangre Grande, received the sentence from Justice Maria Wilson in the Port-of-Spain High Court, almost two months after he was convicted of the crime for the second time in 13 years.

He was given a 19-year sentence for attempting to murder Cox, 14 years for kidnapping her, nine years for conspiring to murder her and four years for assault occasioning actual bodily harm. Melville will only serve the highest sentence, however, as the sentences were ordered to be served concurrently.

He is also expected to be released in less than 14 years, as the four years and nine months he spent in prison awaiting his appeal after his first conviction in 2004 was deducted from his sentence.

Joseph Melville

In passing the sentences on Melville, Wilson noted that there were no mitigating factors to his benefit except that he had a clean criminal record prior to the incident.

Wilson said the aggravating factors in the case which helped determine his sentence, included the fact that he was in a position of trust as Cox’s employer, that he was the mastermind of the crime and that he participated by instructing Cox to go with the men he had hired to kill her.

Melville sat silently in the prisoner enclosure of the court as the sentence was being read and waved to relatives and friends in the public gallery as he was being led away by police officers.

During his trial before Wilson, State prosecutors relied on Cox’s testimony, as well as that of Ainsley Alleyne, who along with Hilton Winchester and Jason Holder were hired by Melville to kidnap and kill Cox.

Alleyne was made a State witness in the case and testified against Melville in his preliminary inquiry. However, he died shortly after and his witness statement detailing the crime was read to the jury. Holder was initially charged with the crime but was freed of the charges during the inquiry. Winchester was convicted alongside Melville in 2004 and was sentenced to 10 years in prison. Winchester did not appeal his conviction.

Alleyne had claimed that on June 28, 2001, he was approached by Melville, through mutual friend Holder, and was offered $40,000 to kill Cox.

“He said she (Cox) was talking his business with the police and Fraud Squad was getting close,” Alleyne said.

Cox, in her testimony, had admitted that she had threatened to report Melville after she learned that he (Melville) had cashed in two insurance policies and failed to pay them to his client.

Alleyne testified that he, Holder and Winchester got instructions from Melville to drive to and wait by his office at Pembroke Street, Port-of-Spain, where Cox would meet them for what she believed would be a drive to collect legal documents at a client’s home. He said after Cox got into the car, Winchester drove to Cumberland Hill in St James.

Before reaching the location, Alleyne “locked” Cox’s neck while Holder stripped her of her clothes and jewellery. He admitted to attempting to sexually assault Cox in the car, but claimed to have stopped after she said she was on her period.

Alleyne said upon reaching the location, they took Cox out of the car and placed her to sit on a boulder next to a precipice, as they pondered how they would kill her as they had no knives or guns.

“He (Holder) picked up a stone and said it would be the fastest way to do it,” Alleyne said.

He said Cox was begging for her life and he informed her that it was Melville who had hired them to kill her. Cox then offered to pay them a larger sum to forgo killing her.

“I asked her if she wanted to hide out and pretend to be dead and we would split the money with her when we got paid,” he said.

Before they could respond to her proposal, she jumped off the precipice and ran into a forested area. Holder found her but was forced to let her go after a man who was hiking in the area saw the incident through his binoculars and raised an alarm. Cox said she hid for a while and then hiked through the forested area through the night until she reached a housing development the next morning.

Alleyne said hours later he and Holder went to Melville’s home at Sangre Grande, where he told Melville he had strangled Cox with his vest but could not say if she was dead as he and Holder were forced to quickly push her over the precipice because they had noticed a car approaching them.

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