How low could we as a nation get; that it is socially acceptable for us as a people to refer to another as ‘Batty Shine’,” were the opening words from Justice Brassington Reynolds on Friday at the Berbice Assizes as he prepared to hand down a sentence on Omar Bacchus, 29, called ‘Batty Shine’ of Bloomfield Village, Corentyne, Berbice, for the murder of Chandradat Hemraj called ‘Sugar Boy’ and ‘Dry Shrimp in 2008 at Bloomfield.
Earlier, Bacchus had confessed to the lesser count of manslaughter after being charged with killing the mentally ill Hemraj, between August 30 and September 3, 2008.
The case for the prosecution was that sometime at Bloomfield Village, Corentyne, Berbice, Bacchus murdered Hemraj, 34, of Third Street, Bloomfield, Corentyne, Berbice.
The victim was found dead, days after he went missing, with his face down in a ditch at the back of a yard behind an abandoned house. He had left his home at Letter Kenny about three days earlier to attend a religious function a few villages away, but failed to return home.
It is understood that he had returned to his home village, but instead of going home he stopped at a birthday celebration a few houses from where he lived.
While he was there he was asked to purchase some cigarettes and was given a bicycle and $1000 to run the errand. He never returned. It was reported that during that time he was attacked and beaten to death and was allegedly sexually assaulted. The $1000 was stolen.
When his body was found it was semi-nude with visible marks of violence. There were indications that he was also sodomised. However, no marks could have been seen at the time due to the decomposed state of the body. He had no shirt on and his pants and briefs were around his knees.
During the night of the beating, a neighbour testified to seeing the accused beating Hemraj. The incident occurred about 23:00h in front of her gap. She had turned on her veranda light after hearing the sound of someone being beaten. Blood was evident at the scene and from all indications Hemraj was dragged and thrown into the ditch.
A post mortem performed by Dr Vivekanand Bridgemohan gave the cause of death as asphyxiation due to drowning and multiple injuries.
Before handing down the sentence Justice Reynolds heard from a probation report that the defendant was an alcoholic and supported his parents who were both alcoholics along with an elder sibling. The report also noted that he was a frequent user of marijuana.
Bacchus had been remanded since 2008, making him the longest remanded prisoner at the New Amsterdam Prison.
He told the court that despite his guilty plea, he did not kill Hemraj who he referred to as a friend. Bacchus said he entered the plea because of the extended period during which he was awaiting trial.
Meanwhile, Attorney Perry Gossai in a mitigation plea said everyone has a right to a fair trial in a timely manner and in Bacchus’ case it was not timely.
Gossai said the system failed Bacchus because in his eight years in prison he could not have been taught to read or write.
He said that Bacchus was the breadwinner of his home and the fact that none of his relatives were present in court was because they could not have afforded to attend the sentencing session.
Justice Reynolds said while he took all that Gossai said into consideration and despite the guilty plea and Bacchus maintaining his innocence, a life was lost and that was his main concern.
The Judge said the crime attracted a 25-year jail sentence but taking into account the time Bacchus has already spent in prison, the fact that he did not waste the court’s time, and all that was said about the defendant, he imposed an 11-year sentence.