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Death row millionaire may be set free

  • @iburrell

New evidence will be presented to a Florida court today which could help to free a British millionaire from death row.

Kris Maharaj, a once flamboyant businessman and racehorse owner, is facing death in the electric chair for shooting dead two Miami business associates in a hotel room in 1986.

But The Independent has learned that fresh evidence will be produced which, Maharaj's lawyers claim, links the killings to the brother of two men jailed for life for one of Britain's most notorious murders, when the wife of a newspaper executive was killed and her body fed to pigs in 1970.

Arthur and Nizamodeen Hosein each served 20 years for the murder of Muriel McKay and their notoriety was such that their waxwork images were displayed in Madame Tussaud's Chamber of Horrors.

Documents put into court in Miami show that lawyers representing Maharaj will say that a third Hosein brother, Adam, should have been the primary suspect in the assassinations of the two businessmen, Derrick and Duane Moo Young.

Clive Stafford-Smith, the New Orleans-based British lawyer who specialises in representing death row prisoners, is preparing to unravel a complicated tale of drug-dealing and double-crossing which he believes will free Maharaj.

He said last night: "The more work we have done on Kris's case, the more obvious it has become that he was rail-roaded. I am convinced that we can show that he was not the killer."

Mr Stafford-Smith has gathered evidence which he says will demonstrate that Maharaj, now 58, was cleverly framed.

He says he will show that Adam Hosein, who was a business associate of the Moo Youngs, ran a business with Nigel Bowe, a high-powered Bahamas- based lawyer who, in addition to his other business interests, was also working for the Medellin drugs cartel.

Bowe has since been jailed for drug trafficking, and Maharaj's legal team will argue that the murder of the Moo Youngs was the conclusion to a row over the laundering of drugs profits.

Maharaj's lawyers claim to have established that Mr Hosein, who was in debt to the Moo Youngs, went to the hotel on the day of the killings armed with a silenced automatic pistol. They say they have also traced a telephone call he made that day to the room where the murders were carried out.

Like Maharaj he is Trinidad-born, of Indian extraction, and, according to the court papers, used to pose as Maharaj when he lived in England, in order to gain free entry to racecourses.

Adam Hosein was questioned but not charged over the McKay killing, which stemmed from a bungled attempt to kidnap the wife of Rupert Murdoch. Instead the 55-year-old wife of the newspaper executive Alick McKay was abducted.

Adam was with his brother Nizamodeen on the day of the murder and, after being called as a prosecution witness, told the court that Arthur had been sick in bed that day.

Arthur, now 58, is still being held in Britain and treated for mental problems while Nizamodeen has been released and has returned to Trinidad, where Adam is also believed to be living after leaving America.

The main evidence against Maharaj was provided by Neville Butler, who claimed that he was forced into being an accomplice to the crime.

The prosecution claimed the double murder was carried out because Maharaj believed the Moo Youngs had cheated him in a $400,000 property deal.

Maharaj said he had been lured to the hotel by Butler on the morning of the killing for a supposed business meeting. He said he was back at his office by the time the murders took place but an alibi witness was not called at the trial.

Following Maharaj's conviction, investigators from William Penn Life Insurance - the Moo Youngs had taken out $1m life insurance policies - inquired into their deaths. They concluded that the killings were connected to a quarrel over the laundering of drugs money and that Maharaj had not been involved.

Following representations by Geoffrey Robertson QC, the leading British human rights lawyer, the Florida Supreme Court accepted that there were entirely unfair and improper procedures at his trial, during which the judge was arrested on bribery charges.

Two years ago a Channel 4 documentary, Murder in Room 1215, cast further doubt on the conviction and prompted a plea to the Supreme Court from more than 100 MPs.

Today the new evidence will be provided at a post-conviction hearing in Dade County, Florida. The judge has the power to order a re-trial.

After 11 years on death row, Maharaj now has nothing to his name except his cheap watch and a few changes of underwear. He once owned a five-bedroomed house with a swimming pool and two and a half acres in Fort Lauderdale.

He lived in Britain for 25 years after arriving from the Caribbean and set up a fruit import business which by the end of the 1960s was a multi-million pound concern.