Convicted murderer begs victim’s family for forgiveness

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Victim [inset]: Ganesh Ramlall

Describing him as one of the “chief architects” in the 2015 killing of mall owner Ganesh Ramlall, Demerara High Court Judge Simone Morris-Ramlall on Monday sentenced convicted killer Kurt Erskine to 23 years’ imprisonment.

Erskine, a 41-year-old father of four and poultry farmer, formerly of Grove, East Bank Demerara (EBD), was indicted earlier this month for the July 15, 2015 murder of the 48-year-old businessman who was killed during a robbery at his La Jalousie, West Coast Demerara (WCD) home. A 12-member mixed jury, however, found him unanimously guilty on the lesser count of manslaughter.

Released on time served: Fazeel Bacchus
Ganesh Ramlall, a father of one, who was the owner of the popular Regent Multiplex Mall at Regent Street, Georgetown, and other businesses, was shot eight times about his body, including once to his head, at around 00:10h.

Reports are that the businessman had just returned home from a barbeque with friends when he proceeded to use an outdoor bathroom at his premises. But as he walked into his yard, he was pounced upon by four men who opened fire on him. His wife raised an alarm, and neighbours fired shots at the bandits, but the men shot at Ganesh Ramlall before escaping with his jewellery and wallet.

The injured man was rushed to the West Demerara Regional Hospital, where he was pronounced dead on arrival. His relatives quickly posted a $5 million reward for anyone with information that would lead to the arrest of his killers.

Shortly after, Police raided a house in Craig, EBD, where 27-year-old Fazeel Bacchus and Lennox Roberts, 39, along with several others, were arrested. When interrogated, they confessed that, along with Erskine, they hatched a plan to rob the businessman.

Erskine was jointly charged for the businessman’s murder along with Roberts called “Rabbie” and “Soldier Man”, formerly of Tuschen, East Bank Essequibo (EBE) and Bacchus called “Javed” of Cornelia Ida, WCD. Roberts and Bacchus, however, opted to plead guilty to the lesser count while Erskine went to trial. Two Wednesdays ago, Roberts, whom the evidence disclosed was the mastermind, was sentenced to 12 years in prison, less the time he has already spent in pre-trial custody.

Bacchus, on the other hand, was handed a six and a half years’ prison term. He has already been released on time served, as his prison sentence was fully served by the time he had spent on remand.

Meanwhile, a sentencing hearing for Erskine was held on Monday during which he apologised, particularly to the dead man’s wife, Chitrakha Ramlall and his daughter, Sharmila Ramlall, 25, both of whom appeared in court via Zoom. But despite the jury’s guilty verdict, Erskine continued professing his innocence.

“I’m very sorry for the loss of your husband and father. I’m so sorry and I’m asking for your forgiveness. I’m in constant prayers for the deceased’s family… May God give them strength and guidance…” a crying Erskine told the women.

The convicted killer labelled Ganesh Ramlall’s killing as being a “shameful, senseless and foolish” act. He further beseeched Justice Morris-Ramlall to give him a chance to return to society and be a father to his four minor children. “I am begging your honour for your leniency and mercy to return back to society to my family. Please give me a chance to return to society to demonstrate that I am a good person,” he pleaded as he burst into tears.

Meanwhile, the dead man’s widow said that these three men are responsible for the pain her family is going through. Recalling the night her loved one was murdered, Chitrakha Ramlall said that his killers trespassed into their home and breached their sanctity, safety and peace.

“Some greedy and covetous men destroyed all of our happiness. Our home has not been the same since my husband was taken away from us. No birthday, no Christmas, no Phagwah is the same anymore. The sad reality that he was brutally murdered keeps playing in my mind. I still live in fear for my life. I’m afraid for my daughter’s life. Sometimes it feels like I’m living a nightmare daily. I don’t think I will ever be able to find peace and recover from this,” the grieving woman cried.

At a sentencing hearing for Roberts, Ganesh Ramlall’s daughter, Sharmila Ramlall, expressed that the death of her father, whom she described as her “best friend” and a “gem”, has shattered her life and dreams.

“My life, my dreams, they were all shattered. My father was my everything. He was my best friend, my shoulder, my strength, my biggest supporter. For as long as I can remember myself, my father was holding my hand or fetching.”

She added, “Yes, I have taken therapy, and I am still in therapy. The sad thing, though, is that my father, around whom my world revolved, being murdered isn’t something I can come to terms with. It pains the core of my being to know how life was snatched from him. I hurt for him, because he worked so hard and he was such a good person”.

“My father didn’t just die; he was murdered cold-bloodedly and very cruelly. The terror of my father’s screams, the sound of the bullets while being locked in a room haunts my thoughts ever so often. Seeing my father in blood torments my mind daily. There has not been a proper sense of happiness or peace since July 5th, 2015.”

She noted that the persons who killed her father have no value for life, and no remorse for the life they took. Despite being hundreds of miles away, Sharmila Ramlall disclosed, she is constantly jittery in fear, restless at the onset of night when she is not in her home, and paranoid about her security.

“Fireworks terrify me. I stayed away from my family for years because home now terrifies me. I feel like I am imprisoned. Emotional torment wasn’t even half of the overturn. I had always wanted to become a doctor specialising in cardiothoracic surgery. All of my life, my parents and I prepared happily for it.”

“My father was the head of our home. I always said if there were a hundred parts to a family, my dad would be 98 and my mother and I one each. His presence, his being, was so magnanimous, loving and compassionate. Family meant everything; he took all the burdens of the business and finances.”

“I do not know how to live or trust. I need everyone to understand that my father’s life was valued. He was an asset. I need the peace of knowing the perpetrators are being punished as I have been. I should have never lost my father, my person,” the still grieving young woman said.

For her part, Justice Morris-Ramlall in her sentencing remarks, said that the offence was a serious one which resulted in the loss of life. She noted that not only was Erskine one of the “chief architects”, but also the one who organised persons to subdue Ganesh Ramlall, with one of them fatally shooting him.

In arriving at an appropriate sentence for the convict, the Judge also considered the fact that he was present at the scene, that he was an “educated adult” who was capable of being cognisant of the consequences of his actions, as well as the impact the man’s passing has had on his family.

The Judge began her sentence for the killer at a starting point of 25 years from which she deducted two years for mitigating factors. In the end, a 23-year prison term was imposed on him, less the time he has already spent in pre-trial detention.

Roberts and Bacchus were represented by Attorneys-at-Law George Thomas and Mark Conway, respectively, while Erskine was represented by Attorney-at-Law Lyndon Amsterdam.

Attorneys-at-Law Konyo Sandiford and Narissa Leander were granted a fiat by the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), to present the State’s case.