Six life sentences in Barbados mass murder conviction

BRIDGETOWN, Barbados, Monday, August 20, 2012 – Four families in Barbados, one in St Vincent and one in Guyana are coming to terms with the news that at least one of the men responsible for the senseless killing of their daughters two years ago has been jailed for life.

This sentencing was handed down by Madame Justice Elneth Kentish in the Barbados Supreme Court last Thursday when 21-year-old Renaldo Alleyne was found guilty of the unlawful killing Tiffany Harding,  Kelly-Ann Welch, Shanna Griffith, Nikkita Belgrave of Barbados; Kellishaw Olivierre of St Vincent; and Pearl Amanda Cornelius of Guyana, on September 3, 2010, in a horrific fire that shocked a nation.

The six women, all in their early 20s, several of them young mothers, were shopping and working in the city clothing store Campus Trendz when Alleyne and an accomplice burst into the store demanding money from the owner. After committing the robbery Alleyne then threw two ‘Molotov cocktails’ back into the store in his attempt to stop anyone from pursuing them, with deadly consequences.

In fleeing from the fire, the women ran to the back of the store and had locked themselves into a room where they huddled together until they were overcome by smoke inhalation and died from asphyxiation, according to two pathologists reports.

Days later, Alleyne was held by police as his actions had been caught on tape by a store surveillance camera. He was also identified by a former schoolmate while running from the scene.

In sentencing him, Justice Kentish told Alleyne she believed that his actions signaled that he was a danger to society and only life sentences would be appropriate for the gravity and seriousness of the offences.

“Regrettably, neither your co-operation with police, your clean record, your guilty pleas, nor your expressions of remorse, are sufficient to detract from, or neutralize the gravity of the offences and the senseless and horrific manner in which these young women met their deaths,” the Nation newspaper quoted Justice Kentish as saying.

“You took the lives of six very young women, in one fell swoop, in an act of callousness and utter lack of thought that defied understanding.”

She said not only had Alleyne traumatized an entire society, but had specifically traumatized the families of the six girls and had changed their lives forever.

The judge said she accepted that it did not cross Alleyne’s mind that those people would have died, but she said, “and therein lies your danger to society. It is that simple-minded approach that I have earlier described as a frightening aspect of your character.”

“He’s always been very remorseful”, said his attorney Verla Depeiza, who noted that her client had pleaded guilty as soon as he could, according to the Barbados Today. 

She also noted that the crime was unprecedented as Barbados had never experienced an incident such as that one and hopefully never will again, and therefore the sentences had to speak to that.

“It was not unexpected nor is it unwelcomed because if he had got a lengthy sentence there would have been no possibility of commuting it to anything. Whereas life sentences have to be reviewed every four years, that is not to say he will get out in four years … but at least he has that option, no disrespect to the families …,” the attorney said. Click here to receive free news bulletins via email from Caribbean360. (View sample)