“Yankee” convicted of 2016 murder of Parika fuel dealer
Curt Thomas, 44, was on Thursday found guilty by a 12-person jury for the April 30, 2016 murder of Parika, East Bank Essequibo (EBE) businessman Seeram Singh, who was shot twice to the head and hip during a robbery.
The verdict was unanimous following a trial before Justice Navindra Singh at the High Court in Demerara.
Following the verdict, Thomas was sent back to prison pending sentencing for which no date has been fixed. A probation report on Thomas will also be presented to the court then.
It was reported that Singh, 52, of Lot 40 Parika Outfall, was stabbed to his abdomen and shot twice to his head and hip. The bullet to his head was shot at close range, and may have been the fatal shot.
Media reports at the time stated that Singh was on his mobile phone when he was attacked and stabbed.
In an attempt to raise an alarm, the injured man ran towards a shop, but the gunman gave chase and caught up with him. A scuffle ensued and it was then that Thomas discharged two rounds at Singh.
Reports are as the businessman fell, the gunman relieved him of two gold chains and escaped. Singh was rushed to the Leonora Cottage Hospital, West Coast Demerara, where he was pronounced dead.
Following the announcement of the verdict by the jury foreman, Thomas, who appeared in court virtually from the Lusignan Prison, jumped out of his seat and hurled a series of expletives. In fact, the convicted killer maintained that he was innocent of the crime.
A visibly upset Thomas told the court that he has no need to get involved in robberies as he worked hard to make an honest living.
“I didn’t come back to Guyana for this. I come back to build a house,” the angry man shouted to prison officers, who were trying to handcuff him.
In a plea of mitigation, the killer’s lawyer, Lyndon Amsterdam said his client respects the verdict of the jury, although he is obviously disappointed. The lawyer said that Thomas’s reaction to the verdict is based on his conscience, the evidence, and what he believes is the truth.
According to the lawyer, while he understands that murder is a heinous crime, his client is a first-time offender, and he begged the court to temper justice with mercy. This, he noted, would allow his client to return to society and have time to reflect on the verdict “which suggests that he did something to contravene the law”.
On behalf of Thomas, Amsterdam rendered an apology to the family members of the dead businessman. In his expression of remorse, the lawyer said it is not easy to lose a family member, especially where it has been proven that violence was used.
On Wednesday, State Prosecutor Tuanna Hardy urged the jury to convict Thomas of the crime during her closing address them. The prosecutor told the jury that she was able to meet the burden of proof.
As a matter of fact, Hardy insisted that it was Thomas who shot and killed the businessman. In doing so, she pointed to the testimonies of witnesses for the prosecution, including Rajmohan Autar, who positively identified Thomas during an identification parade.
The Prosecutor was keen to point out to the jury that the forensic analyst testified that the clothing said to be worn by the accused on the night of the shooting which was submitted for testing tested positive for gunpowder residue. The Prosecutor told the jury that the witnesses called by her were credible.
She said the witnesses were able to remember facts about what they observed in connection with the murder although it occurred four years ago. According to State Prosecutor, Hardy while attempts were made by Thomas’s lawyer, Lyndon Amsterdam to discredit the prosecution’s witnesses, he did not succeed since the witnesses’ testimonies were believable.
Hardy reminded the jurors that they were the sole arbiters of the facts. She told them that with the guidance from the trial judge in relation to aspects of the law, they must be fair and impartial and remove all emotions.
In examining the unsworn testimony Thomas gave in his defence, Hardy pointed out that he brought no witness to disprove the prosecution’s case. Instead, she submitted, the witness whom he called to testify on his behalf placed him at the location where the robbery/murder occurred.
During his virtual testimony from the Lusignan Prison, Thomas testified that he was nowhere at or near the crime scene, nor did he know Singh.
He alleged that one of the lead detectives in the case was trying to frame him for the murder. His reasoning was that his girlfriend and the officer had previously shared a relationship. Dorothy Pratt, the mother of Thomas’s girlfriend, testified on his behalf. The woman told the court that on the night in question, Thomas was at her home at 21:00h.
Under cross-examination, however, Prosecutor Hardy challenged her evidence. Pratt, when questioned by the Prosecutor, was unable to account for Thomas’s whereabouts any time before or after that time. Against this backdrop, Prosecutor Hardy implored the jury to look at the evidence, for in doing so, they would arrive at the inescapable conclusion that it was Thomas who shot and killed the fuel dealer.
“Look at the evidence, it will paint one picture. It was Curt Thomas who was there on the night, who shot and robbed Seeram,” the Prosecutor said to the jury. According to Hardy, Singh was murdered in cold blood by Thomas who had no regard for the eventuality of other persons being injured as there were people in close proximity to where the shooting occurred.
She said as Singh lay on the ground helpless, Thomas relieved him of his gold jewellery, and shot him not once, but twice.