OVER the last three decades, there have been very brutal and gruesome killings in this country which will always be remembered by the citizens. Murders come and murders go, but there are some which remain indelibly in the minds for a long time. In the seventies, the killings of English socialite Gale Ann Benson and Belmont barber Joseph Skerritt stand out. In the eighties, the murders of bank employee Leslie Ann Girod and her seven-month-old son Gregg will never be forgotten. In the nineties, the ruthless killings of Westmoorings housewives Candice Scott and Karen Sa Gomes remain as evidence of evil, while so far this decade, the murders of three people at Cascade in 2001, tell the extent to which violence has reared its ugly head.
In 1971, the residential and quiet area of Christina Gardens, Arima, was rocked by the discovery of two bodies in a shallow grave. The house was owned by Abdul Malik, also known as Michael de Freitas and Michael X. A fire destroyed Malik’s house and it was while firemen and police officers were on the scene, they discovered a sinking flower garden at the back of the house. When the area was dug up, police found the bodies of Benson and Skerritt there. By that time, Malik had long fled Trinidad and was hiding out in Guyana. A party of policemen headed by Sgt Norton Regist went to Guyana and brought back the wanted fugitive.
Malik and Stanley Abbott were charged with both murders. The evidence from an accomplice witness showed that both Benson and Skerritt were chopped and thrown in the grave. Still alive and bleeding profusely, they were buried and the flower garden re-laid. Both Malik and Abbott were later executed for their crimes. Edward Chadee who was also convicted of murder and sent to death row, was pardoned by the President on August 31, 1987.
On January 1, 1987, James Girod, his wife Leslie and seven-month-old son Gregg, went to the racing circuit at Waller Field. While there, they were attacked by two men - Lincoln Guerra and Brian Wallen. The Girod family was robbed by Guerra and Wallen. But the story did not end there. Guerra and Wallen slit the throats of the three persons and left them for dead. Leslie and Gregg died in the Waller Field bushes, but miraculously James survived. He crawled out of the bushes onto the roadway where he was spotted by a truck driver. He was taken to the Arima District Hospital where he remained critical with a slit throat.
By that time, a police party began searching for mother and son. Their bodies were eventually found. Guerra and Wallen were arrested some time later driving Girod’s car. They were both charged and convicted in the Port-of-Spain High Court. They lost their appeals in the local Court of Appeal and the Privy Council. Attempts were made to hang them, but they filed constitutional motions. Because of the time spent on death row, Guerra and Wallen were the recipients of a commutation as a result of the Pratt and Morgan judgment in November 1993. As fate would have it, Wallen died a painful death in prison, while Guerra remains at Carrera Island Prison.
On July 11, 1994, Chuck Attin, 16, and Noel Seepersad, 25, stormed a house at Westmoorings and attacked Candice Scott and Karen Sa Gomes. They stabbed both women in front of their children. They also assaulted the maid but did not kill her. She returned three years later to give evidence which convicted Attin and Seepersad. Because Attin was under 18 at the time of the offence, he was ordered to be detained at the President’s Pleasure. Seepersad was sentenced to death. His sentence was later commuted because he had spent more than five years on death row. Attin’s sentence was later discovered to be unlawful as he should have been detained at the Court’s Pleasure and not the President’s Pleasure. A re-sentencing hearing was ordered and Attin was jailed for 25 years by Justice Herbert Volney earlier this year.
On December 13, 2001, the bodies of Maggie Lee, 83, Lynette Pearson, 51, and John Cropper, 59, were found in the bathroom at a house at Mount Anne Drive, Second Avenue, Cascade. It all started that morning when house keeper Agnes Williams arrived at the house only to find the front gate wide open, the lights on, the car missing from the garage and the house ransacked. Williams made several telephone calls to relatives who arrived on the scene. The bodies of the three persons were found in the bathroom. Their throats had been slit. A number of items from the house were missing. Police visited the scene and began investigations into the three murders which rocked the peaceful Cascade area. Daniel Agard, 21, was arrested on December 14, 2001 and Lester Pitman, 25, five days later. After an eight-week trial, Agard and Pitman were found guilty last Wednesday of murder and sentenced to death by Justice Volney. The mixed jury took more than an hour to bring in the guilty verdicts on all three counts.