Jaipaul Hitlall, a 45-year-old fisherman formerly of Sea View, Anna Catherina, West Coast Demerara (WCD), was on Thursday sentenced to 20 years’ imprisonment for the October 2016 unlawful killing of 65-year-old Bibi Keniez.
Initially indicted for the capital offence, Hitlall, also known as “Latta”, had opted to plead guilty to the lesser count of manslaughter.
Arraigned before Justice Navindra Singh at the Demerara High Court earlier this week, Hitlall had pleaded not guilty to the charge. A 12-person jury was empanelled and his trial commenced. The court had to conduct a voir dire, and it was during that procedure that Hitlall made certain statements. As a result, he opted to plead guilty to the lesser count of manslaughter.
It was reported that when Bibi Keniez was found, the mother of three, who had lived in a one-bedroom house made of zinc sheets in the Cornelia Ida Squatting Area of the West Coast of Demerara, had 21 stab wounds about her body. Her skirt was pulled up to her neck, and her underwear was missing. Her son had found her body in a hammock in the home after he had gone there to take food for her.
During a sentencing hearing, the dead woman’s son told the court that his mother did not deserve to die in the manner in which she did. The young man was very emotional during his address to the court.
In his address, Hitlall said he was very sorry for what he had done, and he begged the family of the deceased for forgiveness.
State Prosecutor Tyra Bakker asked the court to impose a sentence that would reflect the nature and gravity of the offence. She pointed out that Hitlall was known to the elderly woman, and that she had been violated in the sanctity of her home.
In the end, Justice Singh sentenced Hitlall to 20 years’ imprisonment and made no deductions for time spent on remand.
In 2019, Hitlall was sentenced to 20 years in jail after he was found guilty of raping a woman in her mid-20s back in 2016. He had committed that crime also at Cornelia Ida, WCD. The media had reported that on the day in question, the woman was making her way home when she stopped at the seawall along Cornelia Ida to wash off dog faeces from her footwear.
Hitlall attacked the woman from behind and dragged her into the ankle-deep waters, where he and the woman were involved in a scuffle, during which she stabbed him with a pocket knife she had in her possession.
Hitlall, however, overpowered the woman and had sex with her against her will. The man then threw the woman into a boat and had sex with her again. He subsequently realised that he knew the woman, and begged her not to make a report to the Police.
Hitlall even accompanied the woman to the roadside after she agreed not to tell anyone. However, she made a report to the Police station on the following day.