South West Wales

Mullany murders: Honeymooners' killers jailed for life

Two men who murdered a Welsh couple on honeymoon on Antigua have been given three consecutive life sentences but have escaped the death penalty.

Avie Howell and Kaniel Martin shot dead Ben and Catherine Mullany, who were 31 and from Pontardawe, Swansea Valley.

Justice Richard Floyd said the "cold-hearted killers" had acted with "extreme violence" but the murders were not the "worst of the worst".

Martin, 23, and Howell, 20, also shot dead a shopkeeper two weeks later.

The pair now face two more murder charges but Justice Floyd said the crimes they have been found guilty of did not justify the death penalty because they were not the "rarest of the rare or the worst of the worst".

The Mullanys were attacked in their hotel bedroom in July 2008 on the last day of their honeymoon.

Antigua's High Court, in St John's, heard that Dr Mullany died almost instantly after she was shot in the back of the head during the robbery at the Cocos Hotel.

Mr Mullany, a student physiotherapist and former soldier and policeman, was flown home to Swansea but died a week after the shooting.

Image caption Kaniel Martin, 23, and Avie Howell, 20, also killed a shopkeeper on Antigua

They had been married for two weeks.

The couple were buried in the grounds of St John the Evangelist Church, Cilybebyll, near Pontardawe - the church where they had married.

The month following the killings, Martin and Howell were charged with their murders and that of 43-year-old Jamaican shopkeeper Woneta Anderson.

During their two-month trial earlier this year at which more than 90 witnesses gave evidence, the jury heard a bandana with Howell's saliva on it was found at Mrs Anderson's shop.

Bloody footprint

It was her murder - again by a single shot to the head - that led police to the killers.

As well as Howell's DNA evidence, a bloody footprint and ballistics tests showed all three victims had been shot with bullets fired from the same gun.

Stolen mobile phone SIM cards were traced to the defendants and in turn to a phone which had belonged to Mr Mullany.

Recordings found on Mr Mullany's stolen Nokia phone were replayed, in which one of the voices identified himself as "Sample Dan" - an alias used by Martin.

Image caption Ben and Catherine Mullany were on the last day of their honeymoon

An inquest in Swansea in October this year heard that the killers forced the newlyweds to kneel beside their bed before shooting them.

Neighbouring holidaymakers heard screams and gunfire at about 5am local time.

Three spent cartridges were found on the floor of their chalet.

Britain's Metropolitan Police helped Antiguan detectives with the investigation.

Det Supt Keith Niven, who led the Met team, said he believed Howell and Martin had set out to kill the couple.

The pair had forced the door of the chalet and were in possession of a Glock .380 automatic weapon which they had stolen during a burglary on 26 May 2008, he said.

Speaking after the guilty verdicts in July this year, he said: "The level of violence inflicted upon their victims in order to steal such low-value property was incomprehensible and leads me to believe that murder was their primary intention.

"Ben and Catherine must have been terrified when they were awoken and confronted in their room by two strangers pointing a gun at them.

Death penalty 'not warranted'

"Throughout this investigation and throughout the trial the two defendants have shown no signs of remorse - not even to Ben and Catherine's parents who have been present in court."

Martin and Howell had faced the possibility of the death sentence - something which has not been carried out on the island since the 1990s.

At first it was thought Howell was automatically exempt from the death penalty, but this month it emerged there was a mix-up over his age and he was 18 at the time of the killings.

Delivering his sentence over about two hours, Justice Floyd said there was no evidence over who led the attacks or what roles each had undertaken.

"I am moved by the tragic loss of life of these senseless killings," he said.

"The victims were in closed quarters. The court can only imagine the horrible events that took place. They must have been terrified before being dispatched."

Mullany Fund

The judge added: "The murders were repugnant and distasteful."

Martin and Howell are now to stand trial for the murders of mechanic Tony Louisa, 43, a Syrian national and student Rafique Kareem Harris, 24.

Mr Louisa was shot in the head after confronting burglars at his home, and Mr Harris was found dead about 50 yards away from his aunt's home on the island. Police believe he was killed during a robbery.

Two months after the Mullany murders, almost 900 people attended a memorial service at Llandaff Cathedral in Cardiff, including the Duchess of York.

The couple's families have set up a charity which aims to widen participation in the field of medicine and physiotherapy by offering grants to students.

'Closure'

The Mullany Fund awards two £1,000 prizes each year to a physiotherapy student and a medical student at UWE and Swansea University's School of Medicine.

Shadow Welsh secretary and Neath MP Peter Hain said: "This is a sort of justice at last for the families after the vicious murder on their honeymoon of Ben and Catherine.

"A fantastic Swansea Valley couple who had so much to give and so much life to live, their murder was an unspeakable tragedy in every way.

"At least this is some sort of closure for their parents, relatives and many friends."

More on this story

Related Internet links

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites