By Lesroy W. Williams Observer Reporter
” (Basseterre, St. Kitts)-William Benjamin was found guilty for the 2006 murder of Michelle Weekes-Benjamin and Shervin “Squeaky” George guilty of accessory after the fact to murder for his role in helping to dispose of Weekes-Benjamin’s remains. A 12-member jury, seven women and five men, took less than two hours of deliberations on Oct. 24 to deliver a unanimous verdict of guilty for both men in what was case #33 for 2008. “Justice Francis Belle said that both men will be sentenced in December. Mr. Benjamin’s sentencing hearing will begin on Dec. 17 after a social and psychiatric enquiry report and Mr. George will be sentenced on Dec. 3 after a social enquiry report. Four men were charged for the murder, but two were released on an application made to the Deputy of Public Prosecutions, Pauline Hendrickson, for nolle prosequi. Leroy Benjamin Jr., husband of Weekes-Benjamin and Khoy “Red Rat” Jeffers, walked free when the court opened for its new assizes on September 23. The DPP concluded that the law was unwilling to pursue the charge against them at this time. A reason was not given to the general public for their release. Monday Online Code for Issue # 731 is LID Mrs. Weekes-Benjamin went missing on Oct. 30, 2006. Her body was found three days later on November 1, in a septic tank of a three story building on Rosemary Lane, Basseterre, that was under construction. Her body was found after a “funny smell” alerted Arnold Paul, a building contractor, who had worked on the three-story house at Rosemary Lane, to suspect that something was wrong. The foul scent led him to the septic tank where he saw something wrapped in a sheet. He alerted the authorities and a body was discovered in the septic tank wrapped in a multi-colored sheet with hands and feet bound, mouth covered with duct tape, and a plastic over the face. Forensic tests proved that it was the body of Michelle Weekes-Benjamin. Barbados Forensic Pathologist, Dr. Stephen Jones, conducted a post mortem on Nov. 3, 2006, and pronounced that she died from “asphyxia secondary to smothering”. According to Jones, her eyes were bulging, tongue protruding, lips swollen, body bloated and she showed signs of moderate advanced decomposition. She was murdered at her home in Carifesta Village, St.Peters, and her body transported and dumped in the septic tank. Concerns were raised by co-workers at the Nation Bank Branch at the Pelican Mall in Basseterre, where Weekes-Benjamin worked, when she did not turn up for work on October 30. Her husband, Leroy Benjamin Jr. reported that he last saw his wife at about 11 p.m. on Oct. 29, 2006. A statement given by William Benjamin, brother-in-law of Weekes-Benjamin, to a police officer after he was arrested and taken into custody was used as the main piece of evidence in the court proceedings against him. In that statement, Benjamin admitted to committing the offence because he saw Weekes-Benjamin spit in his food. Defense lawyer Reginald W. James, who represented the accused, argued that his client was provoked, leading to him being confused and frustrated (feelings that Benjamin admitted to having at the time) and murdering Weekes-Benjamin. “We must exam his mind, the mental element at the time, given his maturity,” James said. Mr. Benjamin was 19 years old when he committed the murder. Prosecutor Sir Richard Cheltenham QC of Barbados, told the court that provocation in Law means more than a provocative act. Provocation in Law is qualified by the characteristics of a sudden loss of control and the retaliatory act must be proportionate to the provocative act, Cheltenham said. Cheltenham pointed out that both of these qualities were missing in Benjamin’s actions. “Provocation is no defense in Law,” Cheltenham said. “An ordinary and reasonable minded man would not have reacted to that incident of provocation in the manner in which Benjamin responded,” Cheltenham said. “His actions were purely excessive, purely irresponsible and purely disproportionate.” Even if one gives Benjamin the benefit of the doubt that Weekes-Benjamin spat in his food, the fact that he confessed taking five minutes to look for a weapon to no avail, tip-toed about the house to make sure that no one was awake and then went into the deceased bedroom, put her in a submission hold and smothered her for several minutes, speaks to the case that the argument of provocation is no argument, Cheltenham said. “He had time for second thoughts,” Cheltenham said. “If you could kill people and claim provocation then most of us would be dead.” “Her life was snuffed out, it was not a pleasant death, she died in torturous circumstances. She must have experienced the gates of hell before her death,” Cheltenham said. “Even in death she was stripped of her dignity by throwing her in a septic tank.” When asked why he killed Weekes-Benjamin, Mr. Benjamin said that he was confused and frustrated at the time but that afterwards he felt sorry because he had no intentions to kill her. “Your sympathy has no appeal,” Cheltenham said to Benjamin’s saying he was sorry. William Benjamin went to live with his brother Leroy, and Leroy’s wife, Michelle, in a three-bedroom house, upon his return from England in 2004. According to Benjamin, the relationship between him and Michelle were cordial when he first went there to live but according to witnesses, the relationship broke down between them when Weekes-Benjamin challenged Benjamin about his lifestyle and the kind of friends that he brought to the house. The relationship between Weekes-Benjamin and her husband, Leroy, had also collapsed. With respect to Shervin “Squeaky” George, the Prosecution argued that he had intimate knowledge of the building site because he went there frequently, while work was in progress, to beg for cigarettes. George lived in an alley close to Rosemary Lane where the body was found in a septic tank in a three-storey building under construction. Benjamin testified that George did not help him to dispose of the body. George also testified that he knew nothing of the incident. “I was not at Carifesta Village on the 29th or 30th of October 2006. I did not know that William Benjamin had murdered Michelle Weekes. I did not assist William Benjamin in disposing of the body and mattress of Michelle Weekes. I did not impede anybody’s arrest,” George said. In his statement to the police on November 7, Benjamin had called George’s name as one of two persons who helped him to dispose of Weekes-Benjamin’s body. However, when Benjamin took the stand he denied that George had anything to do with it. “Squeaky should have called the police or the mortician, since he was dealing with a corpse,” Prosecutor Cheltenham said.” Lawyer Hesketh Benjamin, who represented George, said that the prosecution’s case is weak since no one can prove that George assisted Benjamin in getting rid of Weekes-Benjamin’s body because no one saw him. However, in a statement to the Police when George was arrested and charged for murder he said “Mi charge ain’t suppose to be so big if I give a hand.””” Lawyer Benjamin tried to raise doubt in the minds of the jury.” “The Prosecution has failed and failed miserably. They started this case with four persons, now it’s only two. They started this case wrong and they have ended it wrong.” The jury was not convinced.