Wait agony for gun deaths trial

Former Sheffield policeman Ben Mullany and his new wife Cath, murdered on honeymoon in 2008
Former Sheffield policeman Ben Mullany and his new wife Cath, murdered on honeymoon in 2008
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The families of a former Sheffield policeman and his wife, murdered on honeymoon almost three years ago, will find out today if their long wait for justice shows any sign of drawing nearer.

Former South Yorkshire police office Ben Mullany and his wife Catherine, both 31, were shot during a botched robbery in Antigua in July 2008. Catherine, a GP, died instantly, and Ben a week later after falling into a coma.

Relatives have been anxiously waiting for the trial of two Antiguan men accused of shooting dead the newlyweds in their chalet at the five-star Cocos Hotel.

Avie Howell and Kaniel Martin were charged back in 2008 - but have remained in the Caribbean island’s prison in St John’s as a series of delays has repeatedly stalled legal proceedings.

Howell and Martin are also accused of killing mechanic Tony Louisa, 43, student Rafique Kareem Harris, 24, and Woneta Anderson Walker, a 43-year-old shopkeeper.

Their trial is scheduled to start today, but an 11th hour request from the prosecution could see the Mullany case pushed back further - the prospect of which has caused more distress to the couple’s family.

The uncertainty has also meant Mr and Mrs Mullany’s families have been unable to book flights or accommodation to Antigua in order to sit in on the trial.

Mr Mullany’s uncle Michael Meredith, 58, described the past three years as being extremely difficult.

He said: “We are still no clearer when the people accused of murdering Ben and Cath will stand trial. In the families’ eyes, this has been too long to wait.”

The couple lived near Swansea, South Wales, and were buried in the grounds of the same church where they had married just four weeks previously.

Ben, who served in the Army before training as a PC, left South Yorkshire Police after he found elements of the job “too distressing”.

He was a talented rugby player and was pursuing a career in physiotherapy at the time of his death.

Howell and Martin were initially expected to stand trial in 2009, but legal issues saw the date pushed back.

Last January, a judge on the Caribbean island confirmed they would stand trial on May 23.

But earlier this month, the two defendants’ legal team applied for their clients to face the five murder charges separately - casting doubt on when a verdict in the Mullany case would be made.

Defence lawyer Maureen Payne-Hyman, a former chief magistrate, is scheduled to leave the jurisdiction by mid-July - and is therefore unavailable for the entire trial even if it were to start as scheduled.

During a court hearing in Antigua, she told a judge she wished to make a submission to have separate trials for each of the murders.

The request irked Antiguan prosecutors who said it would be unfair to witnesses and victims’ families, especially those travelling from overseas.

Judge Mr Justice Richard Floyd said he understood the arguments of both sides, but the court would make a decision today as to how the trial would proceed.

Since their deaths, the couple’s loved ones have set up a charity in their name - The Mullany Fund - of which the Duchess of York Sarah Ferguson has became a patron.