Antigua honeymoon killers sentence delayed

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Two murderers who gunned down a British couple on their honeymoon may find out next week if they are to face the death penalty.

Kaniel Martin, 23, and Avie Howell, 20, were convicted of murdering Ben and Catherine Mullany last July.

The 31-year-old newlyweds, from Pontardawe, South Wales, were both shot in the back of the head little over a fortnight after their marriage.

Their killers - known by the street names of Sample Dan and Demon - were due to learn their fate this week, after the prosecution previously stated it would not rule out sending them to the gallows.

But a delay in completing psychiatric reports meant the sentencing did not go ahead as planned.

It has now been rescheduled to take place at Antigua's High Court next Monday - though questions remain about when one of the most expensive legal cases in the Caribbean island's legal history will finally draw to a close.

A spokesman for the Royal Police Force of Antigua and Barbuda said: "The sentence was not done this week, due to the fact that all the reports requested by the court were not available.

"The matter is now set for October 3, but it is still not clear if the sentence will be done on that date."

University of West England student Mr Mullany and his wife, a doctor at Morriston and Singleton hospitals, had been honeymooning in Antigua in July 2008.

On what was supposed to be their final full day there, the couple were attacked in a dawn raid.

After blasting the pair in the head at point blank range, Howell and Martin stole former South Yorkshire police officer Mr Mullany's mobile phone, a cheap digital camera and a small quantity of cash.

Former Ysgol Gyfun Ystalyfera pupil Mrs Mullany died instantly, while her husband succumbed to his injuries a week later - after being flown home to Wales on a life-support machine.

A few days later, Howell and Martin then went on to murder local shop-keeper Woneta Anderson in almost identical circumstances.

Following the completion of Martin and Howell's two month long trial last July, Antiguan prosecutors said they would "reserve judgment" on whether they would seek the death penalty.

Many on the island are keen for capital punishment to be carried out, as locals fear the killing of the Mullanys has tarnished Antigua's reputation as a holiday paradise.

Tourism, which accounts for more than half of its GDP, has suffered following the high-profile killings of the Mullanys and the fall-out from the global economic downturn.

However, the process of carrying out an execution is far from straightforward.

Following an intervention by the Privy Council in London in 2000, all death sentences in Antigua must be carried out within five years of conviction.

But with the appeals process always taking longer than that, it means the death sentence has not been carried out since the 1990s.

There is also a potential diplomatic row with UK officials, who reportedly sought assurances from the Antiguan Government it would not carry out a death sentence - in exchange for assistance by British police in the murder investigation.

And to complicate matters further, Martin and Howell face three more charges of murder.

The families of Mr and Mrs Mullany reacted philosophically to the delay in sentencing.

Sources close to the couple's parents said they were not unduly worried at the prospect of waiting longer.

A family friend said: "They were aware that sentencing could be postponed because of the need to prepare psychiatric reports on Martin and Howell.

"They are content knowing the pair are currently behind bars, hopefully this will be for life."

In the meantime, friends and family of the Mullanys plan to press ahead with their efforts to creative "a positive legacy" for the couple through the charity established in their memory - The Mullany Fund.

It provides financial assistance to UK students studying medicine or physiotherapy.

The latest fundraiser will take place on Saturday, October 8, with a four mile sponsored walk starting at Cwmgors RFC - the rugby side Mr Mullany played for as a youngster.