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50-Year Murder Sentence Upheld

By NICO SCAVELLA

Tribune Staff Reporter

nscavella@tribunemedia.net

THE COURT of Appeal has affirmed a man's 50-year prison sentence for murdering his girlfriend because she refused to continue a relationship after calling it an "appropriate" punishment for a "most brutal and cold-blooded crime".

Former Court of Appeal President Dame Anita Allen, along with now-departed Justices Abdulai Conteh and Neville Adderley, dismissed Douglas Pratt's appeal of his half-century sentence for murdering Shande Cartwright in 2010.

Pratt, the father of Ms Cartwright's children, was convicted on April 24, 2014 of the November 22, 2010 murder of Ms Cartwright, who was a client service representative at the Royal Bank of Canada (RBC).

He was subsequently sentenced by then-Senior Supreme Court Justice Jon Isaacs to 50 years imprisonment.

According to the ruling, on the night of November 22, 2010, Pratt, bleeding from his arms, knocked at the Rahming family's door in Adelaide Village and upon being let inside, told that family he and his girlfriend were robbed and stabbed by two men dressed in dark clothing.

The police were called and Pratt was taken away from the Rahming home by Emergency Services personnel. Thereafter, the Rahmings, the Cartwright and Pratt families began searching for Ms Cartwright.

The search took them to a building known as the 'farm' and to a beach nearby. It was there they found Ms Cartwright's lifeless body lying on its back. At the right side of her body was a blanket, a pizza box and bottles.

Pratt was arrested for Ms Cartwright's murder a day later.

While in custody he allegedly told police he and the deceased went to Adelaide, and that while discussing their relationship on the beach and his plea to restore their relationship, Ms Cartwright took out a knife and stabbed him in his arm and chest because she was not open to the suggestion.

He then allegedly told the police that he was able to get the knife from her and stabbed her in the neck and chest. He also further told the police that he drove her car and parked it "a ways off" and threw the knife away as he drove from the scene.

However, after the incident in question, and while being seen by Dr Rickey Davis at the Accident and Emergency section of the Princess Margaret Hospital (PMH), Pratt, in explaining what he claimed were the causes of his injuries, told the doctor that he and his girlfriend went for a drive and ended up on Adelaide Beach.

While there, they were approached by two individuals, one with a gun and the other with a knife. The one with the gun asked them where the money was and Pratt told him it was in the car. At the same time, the man with the knife started stabbing his girlfriend.

Dr Davis said Pratt told him he pushed the gunman away, fought with the man with the knife and escaped.

Dr Davis' diagnosis of Pratt's condition was that his wounds were superficial, and that it was possible for them to have been self-inflicted. The doctor further said he found only two lacerations, but no bruises "as he would expect to find on the body of someone who was in a struggle with an assailant".

Meanwhile Dr Caryn Sands, a forensic pathologist, said the deceased had nine sharp force injuries to her face and neck, six of which were stab wounds and three cutting wounds. The doctor also found seven sharp force wounds to the chest, including a cutting wound and at least three stab wounds that entered the left chest cavity that she said were fatal without medical attention.

Also identified as fatal wounds were those to the neck that involved two major blood vessels that caused bleeding over the brain, and eventually caused the deceased to bleed out.

The doctor also described the cutting wound to Ms Cartwright's right thumb as a defensive wound, and was of the view the deceased's assailant had to be "very close, within arm's length".

At the close of the Crown's case, Pratt opted to remain silent, and was subsequently convicted of Ms Cartwright's murder. He was sentenced to 50 years on July 23, 2014.

Pratt subsequently filed an appeal against his conviction and sentence.

The hearing was heard on September 1 and 3, 2015, however, his appeal against both his conviction and sentence was dismissed on the basis that there was "no merit" in any of the grounds.

In the written ruling, the appellate judges noted that in consideration of Justice Isaacs' reasoning, and that he took into account "all of the relevant circumstances as they pertained to the offence and the offender", they are "satisfied" he committed "no error in principle".

They added that as Pratt's sentence was "appropriate" for the punishment of a "most brutal and cold-blooded crime", they "did not interfere".

"It was for all of the above reasons that we dismissed both the appeal against the conviction for murder and that against sentence; and affirmed the conviction returned by the jury, and the sentence imposed by the learned judge," the appellate judges wrote.

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