Convicted murderer freed after 24 year prison term in Antigua & Barbuda

The content originally appeared on: Antigua News Room

Double murder convict  Steadroy McDougal walked away from the High Court of Justice in Antigua and Barbuda right back into society after 24 years behind bars. CLICK HERE TO JOIN WHATS APP GROUP

On the 10th of, October 2000,  McDougal was found guilty of the murder of his ex-lover Louise Torrens, 24, and her new boyfriend,Mitchell Melins, 22, on Christmas Day 1998.

He was sentenced to what was then regarded as the only possible sentence, a sentence of death.

Early on the morning of Christmas day 1998, a fire was started at the Navigator Apartments in English Bay, St Paul’s Antigua.

Two bodies were later discovered in adjoining apartments, each on the respective beds of those apartments.

Murder victims Louise Torrens and Mitchell Melins.

It was revealed that these persons had been beaten with a hammer before the fire was started.

One died of the injuries before the fire. The other died from the injuries and the effects of the fire.

Investigations led to the arrest of the defendant who in a written statement denied this offence.

Shortly after he admitted in an oral statement to setting fire to the bodies and the building but at the trial denied ever making this statement.

The prosecution’s case was that he had been involved in a stormy relationship with the deceased Torrens for several months.

She had broken off this relationship and evidence showed that the defendant who had been violent to her stalked her and was seen during Christmas Eve’s night at one of the places where the deceased Torrens and the deceased Melius and a friend were spending time.

The three of them were ‘bar crawling’ that night and much of it was spent consoling the deceased Torrens who was crying on and off that night over her relationship with the defendant. It appeared that the deceased Torrent was very friendly with Melius who she had met after she broke up with the defendant.

The defendant initially effectively told the police that he was nowhere near English Harbour but was in town liming.

The judge at McDougal’s trial in 2000 told him he had been convicted on overwhelming circumstantial evidence.

Jurors believed that he committed the heinous crime after a string of witnesses painted a picture of him as a jealous control freak who battered the woman and left her terrified.

Upon his conviction and sentence of death, he was placed in maximum security in the prison.

No steps were ever taken to execute the defendant, but he spent some 15 years in maximum security partly because of his general behaviour and the fact that he had escaped once in 2002.

Just in 2015, an assessment was made by the incoming superintendent of prisons that his risk level had been reduced and he was placed in the general population.

In 2014, the State filed proceedings to regularise his status in prison and the His Lordship Justice Cottle declared that the original sentence of death was unconstitutional and was accordingly quashed.

It was also ordered that he be re-sentenced for the crime.

His is a re-sentencing exercise commenced on the 19th of September 2016. At the end of the hearing, a sentence of life imprisonment with a review after 35 years in accordance with section 3B of the Offences against the Persons Act, Cap 300, was considered in all of the circumstances of this case to be the appropriate sentence with regards to the defendant.

McDougals review date came in February this year when the prison discounted ⅓ off his sentence as typically done for convicts.

Today, Justice Colin Williams heard from Acting Superintendent of Prison Jermaine Anthony who testified to the defendants positive development.

The Judge expected to hear from other character witnesses but the prosecution said they were unable to get in contact with any others.

McDougal’s lawyer Wendel Robinson asked the Judge to rule today because “the order of the court should have been obeyed…especially where the freedom of a prisoner weighs in the balance.”

And since the date for the review hearing was set since last November, Justice Williams proceeded to free the murderer since he heard no reason as to why he should remain behind bars.

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