Ex-Guyana Defence Force (GDF) officer, Alistair Woolford, was on Monday sentenced to 15 years in prison at the High Court for the shooting to death of his friend Devon Howell, who met his demise at the former soldier’s D’Anrade Street, Kitty, Georgetown residence.
The sentence was handed down by Justice Sandhil Kissoon nearly one month after Woolford was found guilty by a 10-2 jury proportion. However, it was high drama as family members exchanged words after an emotional Woolford was escorted by Police ranks on Monday
Police stationed at the court were called in to settle tensions as the two sides traded barbs; both outside the courtroom and on the court’s South Road entrance. During the trial, the 24-year old discharged soldier never denied that he killed Howell but instead claimed that he was only “joking around” on the day in question – November 12, 2014.
It was believed to be a game of Russian roulette was being played based on reports that Woolford, Howell and others were taking turns feeling the GDF service weapon that former soldier, Jonathon Williams obtained from Army headquarters at Camp Ayanganna.
Justice Sandil Kissoon, who handed down the sentence for the manslaughter charge, called the offender’s actions reprehensible, reckless and unbecoming of a trained GDF officer. The Judge opined that Woolford, by way of his conduct, failed his mother, society and himself.
Howell died on December 8, 2014, just weeks after being shot. The Judge considered that Woolford is a father to one and is expecting another child. He was out on bail prior to being found guilty.
The Judge started at a base of 25 years but subtracted six years for a favourable probation report and four years for his young age and other mitigating factors.
“The death is indeed tragic and unfortunate. You were irresponsible and negligent,” Justice Kissoon observed.
The probation report disclosed that Woolford’s father has been incarcerated for the last nine years. It also unearthed that even though the offender left school in Third Form, his fellow ranks described him as having to potential to go very far in the Army.
Woolford shed a few tears as he was being led away but his friend’s mother, Allison Howell told this media group that she is extremely upset that Woolford or his relatives never apologised for her son’s demise. She made similar remarks when she took the stand at Monday’s sentencing.
The still grieving woman told the court that she can never forgive Woolford for his actions.
However, the jailed officer’s mother, Feona Edwards later on responded that she will continue to support her son as she maintained that the two males were good friends.
In an unsworn statement to the court last month, her son said he was only joking around when he squeezed the trigger and the gun went off.
Williams had however claimed that he was in the washroom at the time the weapon was fired. The prosecution’s case was that Woolford discharged the loaded firearm with intent to murder Howell. State Counsels Abigail Gibbs and Mandell Moore prosecuted the case. (Shemuel Fanfair)