Privy council refuses Phillip new evidence

Warrington Phillip

Appeal dismissed, life in prison continues

By Monique Washington

Four months after approaching the privy council in London for an appeal, Warrington Phillip’s conviction of the 2007 murder of his estranged wife, Shermell Williams-Phillip, stands.

Phillip, who was sentenced to life in Her Majesty’s Prison for the murder, made two appeals to the Eastern Caribbean Supreme Appeal Court, both of which have been dismissed. His application to the Privy Council was his last resort to void his conviction. Both Valston Graham, director of public prosecutions for St. Kitts and Nevis, and Prosecutor Dane Hamilton QC journeyed to London to represent the Crown.

Lady Hale, Lord Reed, Lord Carnwath, Lord Hughes and Lord Hodge heard the appeal in London in January and the judgment was handed down May 16.

According to the official judgment, “The appellant was convicted in November 2008 of the murder of his estranged wife, Shermelle. She had been killed on Friday 16 February 2007. His appeal to the Eastern Caribbean Court of Appeal against his conviction was dismissed on 15 March 2012. The present further appeal to the Board was lodged on 9 October 2015, and leave to appeal was granted in March 2016 on three grounds. Before the Board, application has been made to argue further grounds, and to adduce fresh evidence in support of one of them.”

Part of the “fresh evidence” submitted was the claim that the investigating officer might have touched Phillip with contaminated hands from the crime scene: “Some eight or nine months after leave to appeal to the Board had been sought and obtained, the appellant tendered for the first-time fresh evidence which he applied to the Board to admit. It consisted of statements from the appellant himself and from his two sisters, Ilena and Bonnilyn, together with a report from a well-known English expert in forensic science including DNA analysis. 21. If credible, the evidence of the appellant’s sisters would be of dramatic effect. The appellant had been told of his wife’s death during the evening by two workmates. He had collapsed and been taken to hospital. The police found him in the emergency ward and arrested him there. Having been taken to the police station, his hands were swabbed, which examination revealed DNA matching the deceased; a random match was extremely unlikely. Now, it is asserted by his two sisters that they were both in the hospital with the appellant when the officer in the case, Corporal Caines, arrived to see him. They assert that they both saw that Caines, who had come from recovering the deceased from her car, was noticeably contaminated with blood. More, they assert that Ilena protested strongly to Caines that he could not deal with the appellant in that condition, because she was concerned about contamination. Clearly, if credible, these assertions would be highly relevant to the possibility of accidental transfer to the appellant of the DNA of the deceased.”

On examining such new evidence, the board “refused to admit this evidence. It was quite satisfied that it was not credible” and concluded “for all the foregoing reasons, the Board will humbly advise Her Majesty that this appeal should be dismissed.”

The Observer contacted Ordett Williams, the mother of Shermell Williams-Phillip, on May 16. She said that she was beyond happy with the verdict.

“When I got the message, I started to cry,” she said. “I am relieved; my happiness is beyond words. I feel good. With all that was tried, God prevailed; justice came through. With all the unsolved murders, my daughter’s murder is solved.”

However, she did say she wished Phillip’s punishment for taking the life of her daughter was greater.

“After this verdict, he has nowhere to go,” she said. “That is it for him. He has the rest of his life [to spend] in prison.”

Williams expressed her gratitude to everyone who prayed and called her during this time. She also expressed her appreciation to Graham, who kept her up to date on her daughter’s case.

The last criminal case that was before the privy council for St. Kitts and Nevis was that of Travis Duporte, who was convicted of murdering Sattora “Shakabee” Williams of Newtown in 2004. Duporte was sentenced to death, which was subsequently commuted by the Court of Appeal to life imprisonment. In 2015, the privy council dismissed his appeal.