Freedom for 8 men in decades old murder of Dole Chadee’s brother

Home*Cover Story*News

Freedom for 8 men in decades old murder of Dole Chadee’s brother

Eight men who were convicted of the murder of the brother of deceased drug kingpin Dole Chadee, were release last evening, after spending close to three decades behind bars.

Michael “Rat” Maharaj, Samuel Maharaj, Damien Ramiah, Bobby Ramiah, Seenath Ramiah, Daniel Gopaul, Richard Huggins and Mark Jaikeran was the culmination of years of litigation that ended in them being re-sentenced by High Court Judge Geoffrey Henderson yesterday.

A ninth man, Leslie Huggins, was also re-sentenced alongside the group, but did not earn his immediate release, as he is still serving a separate life sentence for the 1996 murder of his cousin, Clint Huggins, whose testimony, after his death, led to the conviction of Chadee and members of his gang for murdering four members of a Piparo family and their eventual executions.

The nine men and a tenth man, Junior Phillip, who is also serving a life sentence for murdering Huggins after he left witness protection to visit relatives and celebrate Carnival, were accused of murdering Thackoor Boodram in December 1997 and were convicted of the crime in 2002.

Huggins will earn his release after he is re-sentenced for his cousin’s murder, while Phillip still has to be re-sentenced for both.

Guardian Media reports the eight men were released from the prisons where they were being kept hours after the order.

Boodram, a pig farmer, was kidnapped from his home in south Trinidad on December 20, 1997. A ransom was demanded by his abductors, but ten days later his head was found in a whiskey box at the Caroni Cremation Site.

In 2006, the mandatory death penalties the men received upon their convictions were commuted to life imprisonment based on the landmark Privy Council ruling in the Jamaican case of Pratt and Morgan, which stated that capital punishment could only be carried out within five years of conviction.

In June 2011, the State’s main witness in their case, Junior Grandison, gave a sworn statement in which he claimed to have been coerced by Boodram’s other brother, Pandlal, into implicating all the men except Phillip, who was identified by another witness.

The two allegedly met in prison, while Grandison was awaiting trial for the murders of Ian George and Walter Regis and the attempted murder of Courtney Reid.

The charges against Grandison were dropped in exchange for his testimony against the group.

In 2014, the President referred the matter to the Court of Appeal to consider whether Grandison’s new claims could be admitted.

The Court of Appeal refused to admit the fresh evidence, as it noted that Grandison refused to testify before them during a hearing of the appeal in 2017.

They also rejected recorded telephone conversations between Michael Maharaj and Grandison, which the men were contending proved that Grandison had admitted to fabricating the case.

While the judges agreed that it was Grandison in the recordings, they said he was being led on by Maharaj.

In October 2021, the Privy Council rejected their appeal over the Court of Appeal’s decision.