Thu | Dec 2, 2021

Campbell-Collymore killer begs for forgiveness

Victims’ families say not so fast

Published:Friday | March 12, 2021 | 12:21 AMTanesha Mundle/Staff Reporter
Campbell-Collymore

A former ward of the State who claimed that he was forced to murder Simone Campbell-Collymore as repayment for a missing gun has now asked the family to forgive him for the immense suffering that he has caused.

He is also hoping that the family of cab driver Winston Walters – who also lost his life in the execution of the evil plot allegedly orchestrated by the businesswoman’s husband, Omar – will also find it in their hearts to forgive him.

Wade Blackwood, who appeared unmoved throughout his sentencing hearing yesterday in the Home Circuit Court, was slapped with two life sentences for the killings and eight and a half years for illegal possession of a firearm. The sentences will run concurrently and he will be eligible for parole after serving 35 years.

In his social enquiry report, the 24-year-old killer said that he was threatened by two men, one of whom he knew, that he would have to pay for a firearm that went missing during his brother’s arrest or he would be killed.

The Duhaney Park, St Andrew, resident pleaded guilty in January to illegal possession of fireman and two counts of murder in relation to the death of the 32-year-businesswoman and the 36-year-old taxi-driver on January 2, 2018 outside Campbell-Collymore’s Forest Ridge apartment in Red Hills, St Andrew.

“I would like to say to the families that I am truly sorry,” said Blackwood in a social enquiry report read before his sentencing yesterday, claiming that immediately after the shooting, he realised that he had done something wrong and was now plagued by regrets.

But the families, who told The Gleaner that they were satisfied with the sentence, have not yet warmed to his plea for forgiveness.

Campbell-Collymore’s sister, Keshtina Bonner, who attended the hearing with her father, Wayne, and spoke on the family’s behalf, said: “With time. I don’t know. It’s too fresh. It’s too early. Never say never.”

Bonner said that she was not convinced that Blackwood’s expression of remorse was sincere but said that at some point, she would “have to let some things go for my own peace”.

Walters’sister, Kerry-Ann, said: “It’s very hard to forgive, but as the Good Book says, forgive, but we can’t forget.”

‘WE CAN’T FORGET’

Walters’ widow, Jewel, who was present with one of their sons, who appeared to be holding back tears and came dressed in one of his father’s blue denim pants, nodded her head vigorously as her sister-in-law spoke.

“We will forgive him, but we can’t forget. Not in this manner,” she added, while noting that she had not yet “found it in my heart to forgive him”.

On the day in question, Blackwood was one of two men travelling on motorcycles who had rained bullets on the cab driven by Walters in which Campbell-Collymore was travelling, killing them both.

Campbell-Collymore was shot 19 times and Walters was shot five times.

In CCTV footage of the incident, Blackwood was seen approaching the front passenger side of the vehicle and firing into the car.

From the social enquiry report, the court heard that Blackwood was raised in a loving family home by his mother and was never in need, but at 13, he was placed in state care after being deemed uncontrollable. He was also well supported by his father, who had tried to teach him the woodwork trade and had employed him in his lumber yard.

The court further heard that his parents and residents in his community were shocked that he had committed murder.

Meanwhile, in the victim report, which was read in court, both victims families said that the killing had left the families traumatised and had destroyed the lives of some family members, some of whom are now struggling financially.

` Omar Collymore is among four other persons charged with his wife’s murder.

According to Jewel Walters, she is currently living at a teachers’ college and is still struggling to meet the financial needs of her three children, and although they are in need of counselling, she cannot afford it.

She said that they still cry from time to time, especially the children when they hear his name mentioned or when Christmas approaches as they know it is close to the time when he was killed.

“Life has never been the same and will never be the same. Sometimes I feel like I am going crazy,” she said. “I don’t think I will ever get over my husband’s death. My heart has eternal sorrow and sad memories.”

Wayne Campbell said that his daughter, Simone Campbell-Collymore’s death had also changed the lives of her family and that it was like they were living in a never-ending nightmare.

Her death has left her two children, now traumatised, and her siblings and parents are all going through a very difficult time and have to be receiving ongoing therapy.

He said that his wife had developed depression and has to be receiving treatment, while her son, who was especially close to Campbell-Collymore, had suffered a mental breakdown and had to be discharged from the military in the United States.

“Three years later, and there still has not been any closure, and there possibly will never be,” he said.

Before the sentence was handed down by Justice Lorna Shelly-Williams, Blackwood’s attorney, Stephen Powell, told the court that he was asking for mercy, not only as a lawyer, but also on behalf of his client’s father.

Powell, in his plea-in-mitigation, told the court that his client, who came from an intra-family background and had no previous conviction, seemed to have taken a wrong turn in life and had associated with the wrong persons. He further told the court that his client, who is remorseful and had pleaded guilty and cooperated with the police, was coerced into killing the victims.

“I can’t paint Mr Blackwood as a victim because clearly, we have two serious victims here,” he said.

However, Powell said, “The truth of it is that Mr Blackwood is only a foot soldier in this whole situation; however, a very dangerous person because he was the one who committed the act. He can’t escape.”

Justice Lorna Shelly-Williams, in handing down the sentence, described the murder as being “very brazen and cruel”.

tanesha.mundle@gleanerjm.com