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Raphael John uses his hand to hide his face as he is led away to prison on Wednesday, May 17, 2023.
Raphael John uses his hand to hide his face as he is led away to prison on Wednesday, May 17, 2023.
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A 33-year-old man who in 2014 warned the youth that “jail is not an easy place” after he was sentenced for a 2009 killing has been jailed for seven years for an attempting knife point robbery in Glen in 2020.

Raphael “Butter Bread” John will serve a further five years, nine months and 23 days in prison for his crime.

This will bring to seven years the total sentence that he will serve, having spent one year, two months and one week on remand before his sentencing at High Court No. 1, on Wednesday.

When asked what he had to say before his sentence was passed, John told Justice Brian Cottle that he had nothing to say.

John was convicted of attempted robbery of Veunley Jones, of Glen, in his East St. George community on June 14, 2020.

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According to the facts presented by Justice Cottle, Jones was walking to his home in Glen, when, in the area of the St. Vincent and the Grenadines Community College, John approached him and pointed a knife at him.

John demanded that Jones hand over all he had. Jones told John that he only had a bag of bread and John said he did not want that.

He ordered Jones to empty his pockets and Jones did so as he was backing away from John.

Jones managed to get near to his neighbour’s house and called out to her for help. The neighbour came out of the house and saw John with the knife pointed at Jones.

She spoke to John from her porch and was able to convince him to leave the Jones alone.

Jones reported the matter to the Calliaqua Police Station, and the officers who responded immediately took him back in a vehicle to the scene, where they found John hiding in a gutter. A knife was found nearby.

In the presence of the police officers, John said, “If I wanted to rob you, I wudda cut out your belly.”

The judge said a social inquiry report revealed that John is the second of his mother’s seven children. His mother was 16 at his birth and he had a difficult upbringing.

John’s father, who did not live with them, told the social workers that he sometimes lost contact with his children as they moved around.

Sometime years would pass before they reconnected. At one time, the woman and her children lived at Glen in an abandoned house without electricity or running water.

John told the social worker his relationship with father was not ideal and only knew his father’s nickname.

John attended Calliaqua Primary School and reached the senior level, but said that his literacy level is poor. This lack of formal education limited John’s employment prospects.

He was self-employed as a root crop farmer on land belonging to a friend in Owia and would sometimes work as a labourer when waiting for the crops to mature. 

John had no specific home and at the time of his offence was living on the streets. He has a history of alcohol, marijuana and cocaine use, which led to many run-ins with the last.

John had 14 previous, including one for theft when he was 12 years old. His other offences include homicide, dishonestly, and possession of offensive weapons.

His community members spoke of his need to hustle to make a living and some thought he had become institutionalised by his frequent incarceration. They also felt that he needed help with his drug habit.

John told the social worker that he had been attacked previously and carried the knife for self-defence. He denied trying to rob Jones.

He said that although he was intoxicated with cocaine at the time, he only had a normal conversation with Jones and was puzzled as to why Jones said he had tried to rob him.

The judge noted that the maximum penalty for robbery is life imprisonment, the same as for attempted robbery.

He said that fortunately the victim did not suffer any physical harm and there was no indication of serious physiological impact. There was also no financial loss.

He noted that a weapon was used to threaten Jones but no physical force was used.

Justice Cottle established a starting port of six years and identified among the aggravating features of the offence the prevalence of the offence.

He said that Criminal Records Office statistics show that robbery was the most prevalent offence in St. Vincent and the Grenadines in 2020.

The number of knife robberies, though less than firearm robberies, has almost doubled, according to the figures reported for 2021, the judge said.

He said this is a disturbing trend.

The judge found no mitigating feature of the offence.

Aggravating of the offender was his long list of previous convictions, which includes three convictions for theft, one for burglary, one for attempted burglary, two for possession of offensive weapon, and one for homicide.

Mitigating on John’s behalf was his lack of education which limited his prospect, and his substance abuse, which exacerbates it.

The court concluded that the aggravating features slightly outweigh the mitigating factors and moved the sentence up by one year, to take it to seven.

Jailed for manslaughter

In 2014, John, then 24, was sentenced to nine years in prison for manslaughter. As he was being escorted to prison, he appealed to young people to stay away from trouble, saying, “jail is not an easy place”.

He was sentenced for his role in Jan. 22, 2009 the shooting death, at Long Wall, Kingstown, of Ashley “Seymour” Warren, a 29-year-old fruit vendor, of Largo Height.

Three men had initially been charged with murder in connection with the death, but John pleaded guilty to the lesser charge.

John along with brothers Colin David and Junior David, Long Wall, had lured Warren to Long Wall with the intention of robbing him.

They told him that they had a gun for sale and John led him along a track, where Junior David panted a gun at Warren and demanded money.

Warren did not produce any money and Junior David shot him in the neck, leading to his death in hospital.

The trio were charged but the charge against John was withdrawn in April 2009 and he was made a key witness for the state.

Junior David was acquitted at the preliminary inquiry stage and was shot and killed by police inside a business place in Kingstown some years later.

The prosecution offered no further evidence against Colin David after John failed to testify at his trial in November 2012.

John was re-arrested that same month and the murder charge reinstated.