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Man convicted of beheading lover wants sentence quashed

Published:Wednesday | September 28, 2022 | 12:10 AM

A 58-year-old businessman who beheaded the mother of his child and threw her body in a septic tank in 2012 is now fighting to have his 20 years-to-life sentence set aside and his murder conviction quashed in the Court of Appeal.

The matter started in the appellant court on Monday and will continue on Thursday with arguments from attorney-at-law Oswest Senior-Smith, who is representing the appellant, Trevor Taffe.

The decomposing body of 26-year-old higgler Nicole Heron, who had a chop wound to her face and vagina, and multiple stab wounds to her neck, was found in a tank at her lover's home a month after she was reported missing.

Heron, who at the time had a six-month-old daughter with the businessman, was last seen by her parents on April 3, 2012, heading to Taffe's home in Havendale, St Andrew.

Following the discovery of her body along with the burnt remains of her clothing, a wig that she was wearing as well as her phone and electric charger at Taffe's home, he was arrested and charged with murder.

The then 52-year-old father of eight was subsequently convicted of murder in July 2016 by a seven-member jury in the Home Circuit Court and sentenced by Justice Evan Brown.

His conviction, however, was based purely on circumstantial evidence, as there was no eyewitness or forensic evidence tying him to the gruesome murder.

Among the evidence presented was that he had told Heron's sister when she had called enquiring about her sister's whereabouts that she had gone to Ocho Rios at a stage show and would return soon.

The court also heard that when the sister called him after, he told her that her sister would soon “pop up like peas”.

Another piece of evidence was that Taffe had indicated that he had reported Heron missing, but checks found that he had only reported two televisions missing from his home.

The investigator in the case also testified that after he started probing the missing report, he could not locate Taffe at his home or workplace even though he had spoken to Taffe's lawyer twice.

The investigator further testified that after Heron's body was found, the police found Taffe in a one-room building in Duhaney Park, St Andrew, and that when he was cautioned, Taffe held his hands above his head declaring, “Daniel's God will surely deliver me. Hallelujah! Hallelujah!”

The court also heard that when the police informed him that they wanted to speak about Heron, he started speaking in tongues and later indicated that he was only praying.

The businessman, however, has maintained his innocence even after his conviction, claiming he loved the mother of his child and would never hurt her.

Taffe, in his defence, claimed he left Heron at his home on April 5 in the company of his nephew and a worker. On his return the following day, he said he did not see any of them but discovered his televisions missing.

Senior-Smith said among the grounds of appeal are that the trial judge ought to have upheld the no-case submission and that the judge failed to deliver a balanced assessment of the cases for the prosecution and defence.

“The judge's summing-up was weighted more towards the prosecution than the defence. The judge did not achieve a balance and there were bits of evidence that were allowed that prejudiced the appellant,” he said.

Senior-Smith also argued that the judge had failed to give the jury direction about the prejudice arising from the content of the question-and-answer session, which his client had participated.