Two sentenced to hang for yacht killings

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The Independent Online


Two men were sentenced to hang last night after being found guilty of the cold- blooded executions of four people aboard a British racing yacht in the Caribbean.

The mandatory death penalty was passed on killers Mellanson Harris, 23, and Marvin Joseph, 22, just minutes after a jury returned guilty verdicts in the 1994 murders, on the paradise island of Barbuda.

It took the five-man and four-woman jury just one hour and 25 minutes to reach their unanimous verdicts of guilty to capital murder.

Mr Justice Redhead told both men: "It is the verdict of this court that you should be taken to a lawful place of execution where you will suffer the penalty of death by hanging and upon which your body shall be buried within the prison. God have mercy on your souls."

The only reaction from Harris was a smile, which spread across his face as he nodded his head. Joseph kept staring at the Judge.

The two men had been convicted after an investigation by Scotland Yard officers, who had been drafted in to help local detectives trace the killers of British yacht skipper Ian Cridland and his deckhand, Tom Williams, both from Hampshire, and two American guests, Bill and Kathy Cleaver.

The four were aboard the 65ft racing ketch Computa Center Challenger, which was moored in a remote bay beside the West Indian island of Barbuda - 27 miles north of Antigua - when they were attacked.

Harris, Joseph and a third man, Donald Samuel, 23, boarded the boat in the middle of the night, intent on robbery.

The three men bound and gagged the four sailors and stole several thousand dollars and a number of personal items from the yacht. They then shot them from point-blank range, killing them instantly.

Detective Superintendant Mick Lawrence, who headed the investigation, said immediately after the verdict: "Two years ago, these two men carried out four cold-blooded murders aboard the yacht.

"I am delighted for the sake of the relatives of those who died that we were able to trace, detain and finally convict those responsible for the barbaric murders.

"Today the course of justice was completed with the rightful conviction for a killing which was without reason."

The two killers now have 14 days to lodge an appeal with the East Caribbean Court of Appeal, based in St Lucia.

If they fail to lodge an appeal - which must be based on legal technicalities - there is an automatic review of the case by Antigua's Governor General, Sir James Carlisle, to consider any grounds for clemency.

If they do appeal, the matter would be heard either in June, or more likely November, by the St Lucia court. A final appeal is also possible, to the Privy Council in London.

The killers' disturbing lack of remorse or conscience for the brutal yacht murders - and the lack of motive for the shootings - have been a feature of the most sensational trial in Antiguan history.

The third man involved in the shootings, Donaldson Samuel, who pleaded guilty to manslaughter on the opening day of the trial, was sentenced to 15 years' hard labour.