Two get 30 years each for female taxi operator’s murder
Two men, who were accused of killing a female taxi operator along Ogle Road, East Coast Demerara, on February 10, 2006, yesterday each received 30-year prison sentences, when they appeared before Judge Roxanne George-Wiltshire at the High Court.
The sentences for the two 24-year-olds, Anandram Dharamraj of Seventh Street Success, East Coast Demerara, and his co- accused Naresh Boodhoo, of Success Squatting Area, East Coast Demerara, came after the men pleaded guilty to the lesser count of manslaughter.
Three men were initially charged for the murder of 40-year-old Seerajie Singh also known as ‘Lalita’, who operated a taxi service out of her Lot 129 Seventh Street, Success, East Coast Demerara home.
Hemraj Boodwah, the third accused, had luck on his side when the judge freed him from the charge due to what she described as a police “mess up”. He was advised to make something good of his life.
The police said that on the day in question the duo summoned the taxi driver requesting her service. They then robbed and shot her in the mouth before making good their escape with her motorcar.
The accused admitted to killing the female driver. They said they plotted Singh’s death while sitting on a koker near their village.
In Boodhoo’s statement, he said that Singh arrived at Ogle Road with Dharamraj after they had summoned her to take them to that location. A gun was placed to the woman’s belly and she was ordered to stop the car. Dharamraj then exited the car while keeping the gun fixed on the woman.
Boodhoo choked the victim while pulling her out of the vehicle. Dharamraj said in his caution statement that on the first attempt at shooting the woman the gun did not go off. He pulled the trigger again and Singh was shot. The woman then ran to the front of the vehicle, the shooter got into the driver’s side of the vehicle while his accomplice got into the passenger seat next to the driver. They then made off with the car leaving Singh on the roadway.
According to the post mortem report read in court, the victim had died of a gunshot wound to the mouth. The bullet had entered through the mouth and exited through the back of the woman’s head. The gunshot injury caused respiratory inconsistencies that resulted in the victim’s demise.
Prior to sentencing, two separate voir dire were held to determine whether the caution statements given to the police by the accused should be accepted as evidence in the murder trial. The statements were accepted and were later tendered as evidence.
During yesterday’s hearing, a recommended probation report in relation to the two accused was read to the court by a senior probation and social services officer from the Ministry of Human Services. The officer related that her report had been conducted using family members of the deceased, the accused and their families, and persons from the Success community where the accused formerly resided.
During the course of the hearing, one of the victim’s daughters opted to say something and after being allowed by the court, she requested to know why the accused did what they did and how they felt after taking her mother’s life.
Apart from that it was revealed that the eldest daughter of the victim, who was listed as a witness in the murder trial, passed away after she became ill subsequent to her mother’s death. That daughter was the one who took the call from the accused requesting that the woman transport them.
Dharamraj, when given a chance to speak in court, gave a detailed account of what he alleged transpired on the day in question. He informed the court that he and Singh were involved in a relationship and the woman’s death was accidental. He said they had become close, but during a working trip to the interior he met a girl who became pregnant for him. He continued that he brought the girl back to the city but Singh was not appreciative of that.
Dharamraj said that Singh called him one day and they drove to the location where she died. He said the woman argued about the pregnant girl and ordered that she be removed from the village. A scuffle ensued, the accused said. The woman held onto his jersey and during the fracas the gun accidentally went off and the woman was shot. He apologized to the family and said he wished that things did not happen the way it did.
Boodhoo also related his sorrow for the incident and begged the court for leniency.
The court took all the mitigating and aggravating factors into consideration. The Judge referred to the seriousness and prevalence of the offence. She related to the horrific and cold-blooded killing of a harmless person, the purpose of the murder; being for the car and the hiding of stolen property. Also the court noted that it was as if nothing had occurred, since the two men subsequently went to Linden to frolic with women. They clearly showed no remorse, the judge asserted.
The men were initially given 40-year sentences by Justice George-Wiltshire – four years was deducted for the accused pleading guilty to the crime and saving the court juridical time, while another six years was removed because the men had already been in jail for that period. This resulted in each of the accused having to face 30 years behind bars.
The mitigating factors stemmed from the background of the accused; circumstances in relation to their upbringing. The two men were teenagers when they committed the crime.
Tearful relatives of the deceased expressed joy and satisfaction with the stiff sentences.