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Soldier gets 15 years jail for killing ‘best friend’

August 28th, 2018 | Tags:
The convict Allister Woolford in handcuffs. Photo: Guyana Chronicle
Guyana Chronicle

GEORGETOWN, Guyana, SA - DISCHARGED soldier Allister Woolford, was on Monday (August 27, 2018) afternoon sentenced to 15 years imprisonment for the 2014 manslaughter of his best friend, Devon Howell.

The sentence was handed down by trial judge Sandil Kissoon, who started at a base of 25 years but made some deductions for a favourable probation report and the tender age of the accused being a young father when the incident occurred.

After the judge made the deductions he then sentenced the 24-year-old Woolford to 15 years’ jail time.

Following the sentencing, as he was being led away to the penitentiary, a bewildered Woolford cried openly, as relatives of both the deceased and the accused were engaged outside the Demerara High Court in a heated verbal exchange.

As members of both sides exchanged harsh words at each other, they attracted the attention of passers-by and court staffers and the police had to ask the warring group to disperse.

PROBATION REPORT

Probation and Social Services Counsellor Anand Kumar, who gave an early history and family background of the accused, told the court that Woolford is the only son for his single parent mother who is a hairdresser/pastry maker, while on his father’s side he has two siblings.

He added that the father of the accused never played any meaningful role in his son’s life and was in prison since 2009. Woolford resided with his mother, step father and two sisters at Lot 100 D’Andrade Street, Kitty.

Kumar related that the accused was a member of the Guyana Defence Force (GDF) attached to the G2 Branch and was trained in the use of a weapon. Following the incident he was discharged from the army.

He further stated that when the accused was employed he had contributed to his home and family and had benefited from a formal secondary education. However, he had to exit the school system when his mother went through a financial strain due to a divorce.

Woolford was then employed in the construction industry and at age 18, he enlisted in the army.

Kumar stated that the convict had admitted that on the day in question he was smoking marijuana and the deceased was like a brother to him.

The probation officer added that Woolford also admitted that he pointed the gun and squeezed the trigger.

He was however, described as a person who ‘talked up’ and a bit troublesome.

IMPACT STATEMENT

Kumar told the court that the mother of the deceased, Allison Howell, a security officer attached to Federal Management, stated that the Devon Howell was her only son and she was unable to forgive the accused.

The probation officer also told the court that Woolford have since expressed regret, and related that there was no bad blood between himself and the deceased, and he had all intentions of uplifting himself as a soldier.

The convict is a father of one and his current girlfriend is two months pregnant.

Meanwhile, Howell, who was present in court, was called to take the stand by state prosecutor Abigail Gibbs. She said that the accused and her son were friends and that she was unable to forgive him because she last saw her son alive when the accused came to her house and asked her to wake up her son who was sleeping, stating that he had something to tell him and they left together.

Howell related that no relatives of the accused had ever apologised to her.

Justice Sandil Kissoon said that in the evidence the deceased was ‘like a brother to the accused’, he was sorry for what happened but that the act was irresponsible and reckless on the part of the accused.

In the trial, the judge said the accused admitted to pointing a gun to the head of the deceased and squeezing the trigger and at the time he claimed he was just joking around.

Justice Kissoon told the court that the actions of the accused had cost the life of his best friend, and as a trained member of the armed forces who had a responsibility to conduct himself appropriately he has failed himself and society.

A few weeks ago, a 12-member jury after deliberating for hours returned with a guilty verdict for the former soldier, Allister Woolford.

Relatives of both the deceased and the accused were present and after the verdict of 10-2 was announced by the foreman, some of them were moved to tears.

The court was told by state prosecutor Mandel Moore, that the accused, Allister Woolford, on November 21, 2014 while armed with a gun, shot and killed his friend, Devon Howell. Howell had succumbed to his injury on December 8, 2014 while a patient at the GPHC.

Government Pathologist Dr. Nehaul Singh had testified after being deemed an expert in the area of forensic pathology that he performed a post-mortem on the body of Devon Howell on December 10, 2014.

He related that the body had a circular wound on the right side neck and the bullet exited through the left side.

Dr. Singh gave the cause of death as respiratory failure as a result of fractures.

More than 10 witnesses testified in the trial before Justice Sandil Kissoon and a 12-member jury which lasted just over a week.

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