Feb 29, 2020 News
Sentenced to life imprisonment for the Sophia triple murders, 51-year-old Gavin Graham yesterday launched an attack on State Prosecutor Tiffini Lyken, dousing her with a non-corrosive liquid substance.
The assault occurred at around 15:30 hours in the courtroom of Justice Sandil Kissoon. Justice Kissoon, who is presiding over criminal trials at the Demerara Assizes at the Georgetown High Court, had just finished imposing sentences of life imprisonment on Graham, when he (Graham) decided to lash out at the State Attorney.
The man, who stood in the prisoner’s dock just a few metres away from the Prosecutor, hurled insults at her before picking up the bottle of liquid within his hand reach and tossing it across the courtroom in her direction.
Drenched in the substance, Prosecutor Lyken fled the courtroom, as police ranks standing nearby the dock sought to restrain the infuriated prisoner. He nevertheless continued to shout threats and insults in the direction of the Prosecutor and the Judge as the officers sought to restrain him. The outburst caused members of the jury and others present at the hearing to flee the courtroom.
Even as he was shackled and taken to the holding area for prisoners at the lower level of the Supreme Court, Graham continued threatening and cursing State Counsel. The ruckus drew a crowd of Court staff and curious onlookers. The attack on Lyken, however, did not stop there, as Graham’s mother, who was also present at the proceedings, trailed the lawyer to her car where she continued to pour more of the substance on her.
The woman, who is said to be in her seventies, was detained for the assault and taken to Brickdam Police Station.
Graham, of Lot 16 River Valley, Wismar, Linden, was convicted on three counts of murder for the unlawful killing of his ex-lover, Tabola Abrams, her boyfriend Shawn Whyte and stepfather, Clifford Sampson. The three persons died of injuries they sustained after their home at Lot 636 ‘C’ Field Sophia was set ablaze by Graham.
During the trial, State Prosecutors Tiffini Lyken, Tuanna Hardy and Nafeeza Baig presented the case that Graham set fire to the two-storey house which was at the time occupied by Abrams, her paramour and stepfather, and about 10 other individuals including children, after the woman ended their six-year relationship.
In her testimony, the victim’s sister Candacy Buelow had described the address as a “family yard” where several relatives occupied a two-storey property. In recounting the events leading up to the fire, she said that on the day in question she arrived at home around 18:15hrs and went to her sister’s home to borrow a DVD player. She said that her sister told her something and she warned her about Graham. On another occasion, Buelow said her sister received a phone call from Graham, and again, she issued her a warning about the man.
According to the witness, her boyfriend arrived at home around 22:00hrs and they got into a heated argument. After things calmed down, Buelow said she heard the dogs barking in the yard and ventured outside to see what was wrong. The woman said she looked around the yard and saw no one. As a result, Buelow said she went back inside of her home and secured the doors. She said awhile after, she heard a loud explosion and went outside, only to see her sister’s home on fire.
Buelow told the jury that she began calling out for her mother and sister for them to wake up, because everyone was sleeping. In tears, Buelow said that as the house was on fire, she heard her sister screaming, as efforts were being made to open the door to her home. When the door finally opened, the witness said that her sister, her sister’s boyfriend, her niece and other relatives ran out of the house.
When her sister came out of the home, Buelow said her nightgown was on fire, and relatives had to scramble clothing from a nearby line for her. She recounted “We had to lash the fire off of her.”
Graham had denied all charges. And even in the face of unanimous guilty verdicts by a mixed twelve-member jury panel for all three deaths, the man maintained that he had nothing to do with the death; that he was set up.
“I don’t know anything about this case here,” Graham told the Judge in response to the guilty verdicts.
Attorney -at -law, Ravindra Mohabir sought to provide the court with a plea of mitigation on behalf of the convicted felon.
He failed in his attempt, as Justice Kissoon found that there were no mitigating circumstances in the facts provided to the Court. The Judge handed down a decision in keeping with the appeal made by the State Counsel. Lyken told the Court that Graham had rightfully been found guilty of the crimes. She noted that three innocent lives had been lost at the account of Graham, who premeditated on the act before committing it. The Prosecutor noted that it was a clear case of murder.
“Imagine waking up and finding yourself trapped in a fire in your own home. A fire caused by this man!”
“ I am saying that he wilfully committed the act; he premeditated, left his home miles away, purchased gasoline and travelled to Sophia , where he doused the home of his ex- lover and her family before setting it alight with the occupants inside,” Lyken said
The Prosecutor noted that not only did he cause the loss of life for three adults but he could have killed more people, including children, who were also occupants.
“This is a clear instance of domestic violence, it tore an entire family apart; children have been left without parents “the prosecutor added
She asked the Court to impose a sentence which would send a message to society that such acts would not be condoned.
Additionally, Lyken called on a female relative of the deceased to provide the Court with a victim impact statement. The woman told the court that their family was severely impacted by the incident.
“We are still trying to heal and find closure and we are glad that some type of justice has been served,” the woman said, moments before Justice Kissoon sentenced Graham to life in prison with a possibility of parole after serving 30 years for each murder. The Judge noted, however, that the sentences will run concurrently.
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