Breaking News: Neesa Gopaul’s murder: CCJ frees stepdad; affirms mother’s conviction but reduces her sentence

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The decade-old murder of 16-year-old Neesa Gopaul murder was finally settled on Friday with the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ)—overturning the conviction and 45-year prison sentence of the teenager’s stepfather, Jarvis Small on finding that he was “greatly prejudiced”.
As for the girl’s mother, Bibi Shareema-Gopaul, 50, who had been jointly tried along with her 44-year-old lover, Small, while her conviction was affirmed, the regional court reduced her jail sentence from 45 to 25 years, ordering that she will be eligible for parole not before 15 years.
Shareema-Gopaul and Small were initially sentenced to 106- and 96-years’ imprisonment respectively after they were found unanimously of the teen’s killing following a trial before Justice Navindra Singh at the Demerara High Court in March 2015. They shortly after lodged separate appeals against their convictions and sentences at the Court of Appeal of Guyana, which in August 2021, affirmed their convictions but reduced their prison term to 45 years each.
Delivering its majority judgement, the CCJ held that the sentence imposed by Justice Singh on Shareema-Gopaul exceeded the life expectancy of a human being and was manifestly excessive. It also held that the 45-year sentence imposed on the mother by the local appeal court was also excessive. In the circumstances, the Trinidad-based found that a sentence of 30 years with parole eligibility, not before 15 years would be suitable for Shareema-Gopaul and credited her for time spent on remand which adds up to five years.
CCJ President Justice Adrian Saunders and CCJ Judges Maureen Rajnauth-Lee, Jacob Wit, Denys Barrow, and Peter Jamadar comprised the Bench.
Attorneys-at-Law Ronald Daniels and Nigel Hughes represented Small while Shareema-Gopaul was represented by Attorney-at-Law Arudranauth Gossai. Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) Senior Counsel Shalimar Ali-Hack appeared on behalf of the State of Guyana.
Dissatisfied with the Court of Appeal of Guyana’s decision, the duo had moved to the CCJ which was asked to determine whether their murder convictions were unsafe and whether the local appeal court’s variation of their sentences to 45 years was manifestly excessive.
The decomposed and headless body of the younger Gopaul, a former Queen’s College student, was found stuffed in a suitcase in a creek along the Linden-Soesdyke Highway.
Also discovered were her passport and bank card. The suitcase was wrapped with rope and attached to dumbbells in an apparent effort to keep her body submerged. The girl was found weeks after she was reported missing from her West Coast Demerara (WCD) home.
Neesa Gopaul died from multiple blunt force trauma to the head.