`Killers were laughing after slaughter on holiday yacht'

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A man's chilling account to detectives of the 40 seconds it took to execute four people aboard a British racing yacht was revealed yesterday.

Mellanson Harris, a garden labourer, told police that he spoke to all four victims - two Britons and two Americans - to ask their names before they were gunned down with a shotgun in cold blood.

The 23-year-old ignored the desperate pleas of Kathy Clever, a middle- aged woman, who begged: "Please, please, please don't shoot us." They were her last words, a court in Antigua heard yesterday.

The murders of the four - Ian Cridland and Thomas Williams from Britain and an American couple, Bill and Kathy Clever - were detailed in the Caribbean court where Harris and a second man, Marvin Joseph, are accused of the crimes.

Harris has admitted killing Williams, a 22-year-old deckhand from Sarisbury Green, near Southampton, but under Antiguan law he has to plead not guilty in court to murder.

Harris claims Joseph, 22, who is unemployed, had already killed Mr Clever, 55. Joseph has made no admission to police.

Both men face hanging if they are found guilty.

The four victims were aboard the 65-foot racing ketch Computa Center Challenger - owned by a British millionaire businessman, Peter Ogden - two years ago when the attack happened near Antigua's neighbouring island of Barbuda.

Harris, who was born in Barbuda, but grew up in New York, described the killings in a series of interviews to Scotland Yard detectives who were called in to investigate the murders.

He claimed the reason he and Joseph went to the yacht was "because we believed it was a drugs boat and there was cash and drugs on board".

The reality was the Challenger was on a holiday trip to the paradise island with Cridland and Williams as crew and Mr and Mrs Clever as guests.

In one interview with Detective Superintendent Michael Lawrence of Scotland Yard's International and Organised Crime branch, Harris claimed the reason for the killings was "because there would be no witnesses".

He also described how he had tied the hands of the victims behind their backs with rope and then taped their mouths.

He then described how, after the committing the murders, the killers left the yacht "laughing".

In a statement read to the court yesterday by Det Supt Lawrence, Harris said: "Marvin just put the gun in my hand and tell me: `Do it, just do it.' I didn't aim, I just pull the trigger, it was the boy Thomas the gun was point at.

"As one was already dead I didn't see no reason to keep the others alive," he went on. "I shoot him once in the back."

Det Supt Lawrence asked how Williams also had a wound to the back of his head. Harris replied: "Marvin did that, he thought he wasn't dead."

Harris admitted to the senior detective he did not have to shoot the young crewman, but added: "If I didn't shoot him, then maybe Marvin shoot me, I couldn't take that chance."

Det Supt Lawrence told Harris: "I think the reason you took part in the shooting was to enable you both to be equally involved.

Harris replied: "I guess that was it."

The police officer continued: "Having robbed these people you shot them in cold blood?"

Harris then replied: "The older man's hands were loose because he got them untied, they were undone because the tape wasn't sticking."

The trial continues.