British death row inmate could be freed after 33 years as lawyers reveal new evidence ‘that proves his innocence’

Krishna Maharaj was jailed in 1987 for murders of father and son businessmen – but lawyer says Pablo Escobar’s gang did it

Colin Drury@colin__drury
Saturday 04 January 2020 14:03
Krishna Maharaj in 1987
Krishna Maharaj in 1987

A British man, who has spent 33 years imprisoned in the US – 10 of them on death row – could be freed after judges agreed to hear an appeal that lawyers claim will prove his innocence.

Krishna Maharaj was jailed in 1987 for the double murder of father and son businessmen Derrick and Duane Moo Young.

The Trinidad-born food importer – who had moved to Florida after making his fortune in Peckham, London – was found guilty of shooting the pair in a Miami hotel room in a dispute over money.

But the now 80-year-old, who owned four Rolls-Royce cars at the time of his arrest, has always maintained his innocence.

Now, a lawyer who has spent more than 20 years working on the case, says he has irrefutable evidence that the killings were actually ordered by the notorious drug cartel kingpin Pablo Escobar.

Clive Stafford Smith, founder of the human rights group Reprieve, said Mr Maharaj was framed by the Colombian mob, which itself wanted the Moo Young men dead because the pair had been stealing money they had been tasked with laundering.

Crucially, Mr Stafford Smith will argue that evidence which would have proven Mr Maharaj’s innocence was repeatedly suppressed at the original trial – including the fact that six key witnesses were never called.

He said: “I have never seen so much suppression of evidence favourable to the defendant as I have in Kris’s case. The guy is unadulteratedly innocent. The evidence is staring the American courts in the face.”

Speaking to the i newspaper, he added: “For 26 years, I have been saying to myself I cannot believe that he is going to be in prison for another month. So I am not going to make any prognostications.”

So apparently compelling is the evidence he has compiled, indeed, that a judge sitting in a lower court has already said that, should it have been presented at the original trial, “no reasonable juror” could have found Mr Maharaj guilty.

Key among the new facts to be presented will also be the fact that a Colombian photographer working inside Escobar’s operation had informed US intelligence that the drug lord planned to take out the Moo Youngs.

The latest glimmer of hope follows more than 20 years of campaigns on Mr Maharaj’s behalf.

In 1997, the original death sentence was overturned in a Florida court, whil, in 2001, almost 300 British politicians, church leaders and judges wrote a letter to then governor of Florida, Jeb Bush, asking for a retrial. It was rebuffed.

There is, nonetheless, now increased hope that the latest development could see him released in 2020. Certainly that is the hope of the man himself.

Writing from his Florida cell where he now needs a wheelchair to move around, he said: “My hopes are the same as ... every day since I was arrested on October 16, 1986 – that I will finally be set free from this awful place and be able to go home to England to live my last years with my wife, Marita.”

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