Sean Luke.

Akeel Mitchell and Richard Chatoo, the two men convicted of brutally murdering six-year-old Sean Luke as teenagers over 15 years ago, have been sentenced to 17 and a half years and 11 and a half years in prison, respectively.

High Court Judge Lisa Ramsumair-Hinds set the minimum mandatory terms for the duo, who she found guilty of the heinous crime on July 23, during a virtual sentence hearing, a short while ago.

Justice Ramsumair-Hinds began the sentencing exercise by explaining that the mandatory death sentence for murder could not be applied to Mitchell and Chatoo as they were 13 and 16-years-old when Luke was killed in March 2006.

In passing the sentences on the duo, Justice Ramsumair-Hinds explained that they would only be eligible for release on licence after serving the periods in prison if a judge is convinced that they have been sufficiently rehabilitated and are no longer a threat to society.

She noted that the mandatory minimums can be reduced if there is exceptional evidence of their rehabilitation during periodic sentence reviews, which will take place every three years.

“Even when you are released on licence, you have not served sentence which will continue for rest of your life,” Justice Ramsuamir-Hinds said.

She also advised the duo that they had work to do to earn their eventual release.

“The nature of the appalling circumstances suggests that reintegration and rehabilitation, though a possibility, are a long way to go. You have a lot of work to do. May God have mercy on your souls,” Justice Ramsumair-Hinds said.

In calculating the mandatory minimums for the duo, Justice Ramsumair-Hinds began with a starting point of 35 years for Mitchell and 33 years for Chatoo.

Mitchell’s starting point was increased by five years based on his actions in Luke’s murder, which included him placing himself near Luke’s mother after the murder to give him an alibi.

“It is the chilling realisation of the absence of remorse, worry and fear in someone so young. I know children who are terrified of being caught,” Justice Ramsumair-Hinds said.

However, Justice Ramsuamir-Hinds reduced his sentence by seven years due to his age at the time of the murder and the fact that he had a positive report from prison in terms of disciplinary infractions and participation in programmes.

Chatoo did not receive an uplift in his sentence but was afforded a six-year reduction based on his age and positive prison record.

After the time they served in prison awaiting trial and after they were convicted was deducted from their sentences, they were left with sentences of 17 and a half years and 11 and half years.

Luke, of Henry Street, Orange Valley Road in Couva, went missing on the evening of March 26, 2006, and his decomposing body was found two days later.

An autopsy revealed that he died from internal injuries and bleeding arising out of being sodomized with sugarcane stalk.

Chatoo, who was 16-years-old at the time, and 13-year-old Mitchell, who is the stepson of Chatoo’s brother, were charged with the crime.

During the trial, State prosecutors led the evidence of two teenagers Avinash Baboolal and Arvis Pradeep, who claimed that Chatoo had invited Luke to accompany them on a fishing expedition.

Both Baboolal and Pradeep claimed that they saw Luke, Chatoo and Mitchell enter an abandoned sugarcane field, where Luke’s body was eventually found, with only Chatoo and Mitchell emerging.

However, while Baboolal claimed that they entered the field on their way to the river, Pradeep claimed the diversion came when they were returning.

In convicting the duo, Justice Ramsumair-Hinds also considered a video-recorded confession statement, in which Chatoo implicated himself and Mitchell.

In the recording, Chatoo claimed that Mitchell, who was spending time at his home, requested that he (Mitchell) have sex with him.

According to Chatoo, after he refused, he reluctantly agreed to Mitchell’s request to introduce him to Luke, who was his (Chatoo) neighbour.

Chatoo claimed that he merely held Luke’s hands and covered his mouth as Mitchell raped him and sodomized him with the sugarcane stalk.

However, Chatoo elected to testify in his defence during the trial and claimed that he fabricated the confession as he was threatened and coerced by homicide detectives.

Chatoo denied any wrongdoing and claimed that Mitchell did not accompany the group on the fishing trip. He also sought to suggest that Baboolal may have been the perpetrator.

Prosecutors also led DNA evidence which showed that Mitchell’s semen was found on Luke’s discarded underwear.

A partial DNA profile, not linked to Chatoo, was found on the sugarcane stalk and on anal swabs taken during Luke’s autopsy.

Chatoo and Mitchell have already signalled their intention to appeal their convictions.

Mitchell is being represented by Randall Raphael and Kirby Joseph, while Evans Welch, Kelston Pope and Gabriel Hernandez represented Chatoo.

Sabrina Dougdeen-Jaglal, Anju Bhola and Sophia Sandy-Smith are prosecuting.

Reporter: Derek Achong