–as Appeal Court commutes their 202-year sentence for the murder of young Neesa Gopaul
BIBI Shareema Gopaul and her ex-lover, Jarvis ‘Barry’ Small, who were convicted and sentenced to a total of 202 years for the 2010 murder of 16-year-old Neesa Gopaul, had their sentence reduced to 45 years by the Court of Appeal on Tuesday.
In 2015, the pair was found guilty of the teen’s murder at the Georgetown High Court by a jury, and sentenced by Justice Navindra Singh to 106 years and 96 years respectively.
Small was sentenced to 60 years for the offence of murder, with 10 years added for premeditation; another 10 years for brutality; an additional 10 years because the victim was a child; and finally another six years for domestic violence.
Gopaul was also sentenced to 60 years for the capital offence; 10 years for premeditation; 10 years because it was a child; 10 years for brutality; another 10 years because it is her daughter and she did not protect her; and six years for domestic violence.
The appeal was filed by Attorney-at-law Nigel Hughes and Associates on behalf of Small, while Gopaul was represented by Attorney-at-Law Arud Gossai.
The attorneys asked the court to reverse and/or set aside the conviction. They also argued that the sentence was too severe, given the circumstances of the case. The attorneys also argued that the trial was unfair, and that the judge erred in law.
The appeal was heard before Chancellor (ag) of the Judiciary, Yonette Cummings-Edwards, and Justices of Appeal Dawn Gregory and Rishi Persaud. The State was represented by Prosecutor Stacy Goodings.
Delivering the ruling of the court, Justice Cummings-Edwards said, among other things, that the trial judge did not err in law as the couple’s attorneys would have us believe when the jury brought them in guilty, since the evidence against them was admissible.
Where he did err, however, she contended, was in his imposition of the lengthy jail sentences he did, which was a contravention of established sentencing guidelines.
In the circumstances, the Appeal Court upheld the conviction, but commuted the duo’s initial 202-year sentence to 45 years.
Prior to the murder, Barry Small and Bibi Gopaul were in a relationship, and at one time Small had even lived with Gopaul at Leonora, West Coast Demerara, along with her two daughters. Neesa Gopaul was the elder of Bibi’s two daughters.
The body of Nessa Lalita Gopaul was found submerged in a suitcase in the Madewini Creek in the vicinity of the Emerald Towers Resort on Saturday October 2, 2010, at about 14:00hrs, and at the time was believed to be headless.
However, after a post mortem examination it was revealed that the body was not headless, but was instead clobbered beyond recognition.
Dumbbells similar to those found in a gym owned by Small were found tied to the suitcase in which the body was found.
In addition to the body, a passport bearing the name Neesa Lalita Gopaul was also found. The teenager was reported missing just days before the gruesome discovery was made.
Subsequent to the discovery of the body, Bibi Gopaul and Small were arrested and charged for the crime.