Murder accused acquitted after 8 years on remand

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Thirty-seven-year-old Neville Chandrawattie was acquitted of a murder charge on Wednesday after Justice Jo-Ann Barlow upheld a no-case submission and directed a jury to return a formal verdict of not guilty.

Chandrawattie, called “Sunil”, of Sparta, Essequibo Coast, was initially charged in December 2013 and remanded to prison for the murder of gold and diamond dealer Dharam Chanmangra, which took place on April 21, 2007.

Media reports are that on the day in question, gunmen carried out a robbery at El Dorado Trading at Port Kaituma, Region One (Barima-Waini). The company was owned by businessman Tamesh Jagmohan. During the ordeal, Chanmangra was shot and killed. It was reported that the men escaped with cash and millions of dollars in raw gold.

Following a Preliminary Inquiry (PI) in 2017, a city magistrate ruled that there was sufficient evidence against Chandrawattie to put him on trial for the capital offence of murder. As such, the then murder accused was committed to stand trial at the Demerara High Court.

Chandrawattie, when arraigned before Justice Barlow on November 24, 2021, pleaded not guilty to the murder charge. Led by Senior State Counsel Lisa Cave, the prosecution called several witnesses as the man’s trial progressed. When the prosecution closed its case, Chandrawattie’s lawyer, Siand Dhurjon, presented a submission of no case to answer.

The lawyer told this publication that, in the submission, he requested that the oral confession allegedly given to the Police by his client be omitted from the evidence. According to Dhurjon, the Judge, after omitting the confession, found that the no-case submission must succeed, since the prosecution had no other evidence against his client.

Justice Barlow thereafter informed Chandrawattie that he was free to go. The Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), Shalimar Ali-Hack, SC, has since given oral notice of her intention to appeal the man’s acquittal.

In May 2016, Chandrawattie pleaded guilty to a gold heist that occurred at the El Dorado Trading Company in November 2013. Reports indicate that he was identified as the mastermind in that robbery.

He was charged with robbery- under-arms, wounding, and gun and ammunition possession. He was sentenced to four years’ imprisonment on each of the first two charges, and five years’ imprisonment on each of the other two charges. The sentences were ordered to run concurrently.