Justice at last for murdered Briton's family

Phil Davison reports on the long path to convicting a millionaire's killers
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The Independent Online
The millionaire British businessman Howard Bates came to Miami on 6 February, 1991, to sack Maggie Carr, the young chief accountant of the American surgical supplies company he financed. He had discovered that around $1m of the money he invested had gone missing.

Mr Bates, a 43-year-old former RAF pilot and father of three, arrived at the north-west Miami headquarters of Bolden Products straight from Miami International Airport but was lured to a dark office by the then 27-year-old Carr and the company's chairman, Albert Lucio. There he was gunned down by Carr's former lover, Wayne Merced, while the other two looked on.

After more than four and a half years of investigation, trials and one mistrial, Carr, now 31, was finally convicted of first degree murder by a Miami court at the weekend and automatically sentenced to life imprisonment. Under local law, she will serve 25 years before parole is even considered.

Prosecutors in Florida's Dade County, where a jury convicted Carr, described her as "Bonnie" to Lucio's "Clyde", in the light of the cold-blooded way they organised the killing. However, unlike the historical gangsters, they were not lovers, although Carr and Merced, the man who pulled the trigger, had been once.

Merced, a 28-year-old gas repair man, now serving 43 years in jail after handing himself in, told the county court he had killed Mr Bates on Carr's behalf because he had been "in a gallant mood". He had hoped to win back the woman who had called off their wedding, describing him as a "ditch digger" who couldn't satisfy her sexual needs. Lucio, serving 40 years, did not testify at Carr's trial.

Mr Bates's disappearance remained a mystery for two years until Merced came forward. He claimed his conscience was troubling him but may have had an eye on avoiding the death penalty by collaborating against Carr and Lucio. The latter had been chairman of the surgical supplies company, Bolden Products, in which Mr Bates was the chief investor. Together, Carr and Lucio had embezzled close to $3m from their backers.

When Carr first got wind of Mr Bates's suspicions, she sent Lucio to kill him in England before Christmas 1990. She sent a .357 Magnum pistol, disguised in a large package of hair dryers, to Lucio at the Heathrow Sheraton hotel.

When Lucio went to Mr Bates's home, the businessman wasn't in and he lost his nerve. A maid at the Sheraton discovered the pistol and 49 bullets hidden in his room.

On February 6, Lucio and Carr lured Mr Bates to an unlit office at Bolden Products, where Merced crouched in a corner.

Merced shot Mr Bates with a 9mm pistol and wanted to leave but, according to his testimony, Carr told him: "He's alive and suffering. You're going to have to shoot him again." Merced did so before helping Lucio dispose of the body.

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