After admitting to killing his father-in-law, whom he bludgeoned to the head with an axe, Veeram Dias was yesterday sentenced to spend the next 14 years behind bars by Justice Sandil Kissoon.
Dias was one of three persons charged with murdering Nonpareil pensioner Roger Manikam.
A fourth person, Devon Brown, who had been charged with being an accessory to the crime after he helped dispose of the body walked out the court a free man yesterday after the judge informed him that he would be granted remission for the two years he had been awaiting trial. Two years is the maximum penalty for the crime of being an accessory after the fact.
Both Dias and Brown threw themselves at the mercy of the court yesterday morning, accepting responsibility for their respective roles in the crime.
Dias pleaded not guilty to the charge of murder but admitted instead to the lesser count of manslaughter, accepting that he had unlawfully killed Manikam on April 2nd, 2016.
For his part, Brown admitted that he, knowing that Dias, Nalinie Manikam and another person had murdered Roger, did on that day and thereafter, receive, relieve, comfort and assisted them.
Nalinie is the daughter of the deceased.
Presenting the prosecution’s case, state attorney Mandel Moore said that the now dead Manikam was lured into the kitchen of his 237 Section B Nonpareil house by Dias, Nalinie’s reputed husband, who also lived at the address.
The court heard that there, Dias unleashed blows on the man, hitting him to the head with an axe. Although the man fell, he thereafter continued inflicting more blows.
The prosecutor said that sometime after Dias called his friend Brown to the scene and they both placed Manikam’s body in Brown’s car and drove to the Coldingen Embankment Road, where they dumped the body.
The cause of death, Moore said, was given as severe haemorrhaging, resulting from blunt trauma to the head.
In a plea of mitigation, attorney Latchmie Rahamat, who represented Dias, sought to impress upon the court that while her client takes full responsibility for his actions, there were certain existing circumstances which precipitated the drastic actions he took on the fateful day.
After fully disclosing to the court the circumstances, including the physical abuse of Nalinie, Rahamat, citing case law, begged the court to be merciful to the young first-time offender.
She asked the court to also consider that the 22-year-old had pleaded guilty at the first given opportunity, saving the court considerable time in otherwise having to conduct a trial.
Noting that her client was only 21 years old when the offence was committed, counsel stressed that her client, who turns 23 later this month, not only took responsibility for his actions but has also expressed remorse for those actions.
She said he realises that his actions resulted in loss of life.
Counsel also described her client as being a model prisoner, while noting that he is very active in Bible studies behind bars.
Given a chance to address the court, Dias, in a tearful voice, said that he was sorry, while noting that it was only because of the circumstances to which his attorney had earlier alluded, that he did what he did.
“Please have mercy on me,” he quietly begged the judge.
Meanwhile, presenting his plea in mitigation on behalf of Brown, whom he represented, attorney Dexter Todd said that the father of two, who was 24 years old at the time, had no antecedents.
The lawyer said his client related receiving a call from Dias on the night of the killing requesting a vehicle jumpstart and thereafter proceeded to his friend’s home.
Upon arrival, Todd said that Brown was told certain things, but had at that time been unaware of the killing. He stressed that all his client had been told was that “there was an incident.”
Thereafter, counsel said that Brown, because of his ignorance of the law, proceeded to assist his friend, under the misconception that because he had not been present during the killing, he would not be held responsible for nothing.
Todd said that it was only after his arrest that Brown realized his error and the fact that he should have made a police report.
Noting that his client has had time to think about his actions, Todd pleaded with the court for mercy, advancing that if there is a person fit to return to society, it would be Brown.
Addressing Brown, Justice Kissoon said that statute provides for a maximum of years, but since he had already spent that behind bars, with remission he would be free to go.
The visibly-relieved Brown, moments before his handcuffs were released, expressed his gratitude to the court.
For Dias, however, the judge commenced sentencing at a base of 30 years, explaining that the statute so stipulates for guilty pleas to manslaughter. From that he deducted eight years for the youth’s early plea.
Another five years were deducted for his lawyer’s plea in mitigation and an additional one year was subtracted for the remorse expressed by Dias.
From the remaining 16 years, the court granted remission for the two years he has been incarcerated.
While noting that the court was moved by his attorney’s plea in mitigation, the judge made it clear to Dias that his actions had to be viewed in the context of a civilised society, while adding, “Your conduct cannot be justified.”
Manikam, 65, was discovered near a drain, some five corners from his house, along the Coldingen Embankment Road. There was a chop wound to the back of his head.