The murder of 79-year-old family doctor during an armed robbery sent shock waves in the eastern town of Sangre Grande yesterday.
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Guilty of killing fisherman, stealing boat engine
A man who was on trial charged with killing a fisherman at sea during a robbery pleaded guilty to the lesser charge of manslaughter yesterday.
Anthony Ballai admitted he struck Ronald King to the head and tied him up during the crime which occurred 13 years ago. Ballai, 42, a father of two and grandfather of one, was initially charged together with Lauren Aguillera for the murder of King, also called Jock Yuh Waist.
Aguillera pleaded guilty to murder, under the murder felony rule and was sentenced to 18 years in prison in 2016. The murder felony rule applies where a person is killed during the commission of a criminal offence, in this case, robbery.
The Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) subsequently accepted Ballai’s guilty plea to manslaughter because of the lesser role he played in the incident which led to King’s death. King was last seen alive when he set out from Erin beach in a boat named Unbelievable on May 24, 2005.
Ballai said Aguillera was in his boat when they came upon King out at sea. He said Aguillera told him King was alone on the boat so they could take his engine. They boarded King’s boat and bounded his hands and feet.
Ballai said Aguillera struck King with a piece of iron on his head and he fell down. He said they then went ashore to remove the engine from King’s vessel. When he asked Aguillera what had happened to King, Aguillera told him he threw King overboard before they got to shore.
Ballai later threw the engine in the river because the sun was coming up and he did to want anyone to see the engine in his boat. State attorney Sabrina Dougdeen-Jaglal said King’s boat was found at Cocal beach by a search party the following morning. King’s skeletal remains were found on Beaulieu Beach, Cedros on June 6, 2005. His cause of death could not be determined because of the advanced state of decomposition.
Two days later, Aguillera was arrested and Ballai gave himself up. In his mitigation plea, Ballai’s attorney Ramesh Deana asked Justice Maria Wilson to consider that he did not harm King, he had no weapon and helped Aguillera steal the engine because he was threatened. He said Ballai did not know Aguillera was going to steal King’s engine or kill him.
Deana said Ballai wrote to the DPP since 2010 indicating his willingness to plead guilty in the matter which showed that he was remorseful.
Deana said if his client is released from prison he plans to open a carpentry business. Dougdeen-Jaglal said Ballai first indicated a desire to plead guilty under the murder felony rule but then in 2016 indicated he wanted to plead guilty to manslaughter.
Dougdeen-Jaglal pointed out the seriousness and prevalence of the offence but she also noted Ballai cooperated with the police. State attorney Ambay Ramkhelawan and defence attorney Aaron Seaton were also in the matter. The judge is expected to sentence Ballai on July 25.
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