Man, 75, home for Christmas after 36 years in jail for killing wife

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

RELEASED: Basdeo Debideen, released after spending 30 years in prison after being charged with murdering his wife. –

AFTER more than three decades in prison, a Caroni man who was convicted for his wife’s murder in 1987, has been freed.

Basdeo Debideen, 75, will spend the Christmas holidays at home after being sentenced to time served by Justice Gail Gonzales on Tuesday.

Debideen was among scores of former death row inmates to benefit from a recent Privy Council ruling on commuted life sentences for murder convicts which allowed for them to be resentenced by the High Court.

When his death sentence was commuted in 1998, it was substituted with a 75-year prison term.

Gonzales reduced it to 35, saying she looked at Debideen not as the man from 1987 who paid a man $50,000 to kill his wife – partly because of her infidelity but also so he could make a new life with his mistress – but as the man before her court in 2023.

Having done many of the resentencing of former death row inmates, Gonzales said it was the first time she heard a prisoner say, “I did it…this is the reason I did it.”

“It has always been something with the victim…He accepts full responsibility for which he feels shame and seeks atonement,” she said as she explained why she gave Debideen a discounted sentence, leaving him with 35 years, which she said, he already overspent by a year.

“This is not the normal and usual case.”

Debideen was represented by attorney Daniel Khan whose father, Senior Counsel Israel Khan, represented the prisoner at his trial back in 1989 before Justice Harold Koylass. Debideen’s co-accused – the man who was paid to kill Nyantara Debideen who eventually died days later at hospital on Mother’s Day – was also sentenced to death and the Khans have filed legal proceedings to get him resentenced.

In a plea for clemency, Debideen said that based on the previous 75-year sentence, Debideen’s earliest possible date of discharge would have been March 2048.

The father of two adult daughters, Debideen was a businessman who travelled the globe meeting many people. In what was a “confession statement” presented at his resentencing hearing, Debideen admitted paying a man to kill his wife. A first attempt was unsuccessful but he then gave the man a firearm which was used to shoot Nyantara at point-blank range to her chest on May 10, 1987, at the Debideen residence.

“I fully admit to the crime and take full responsibility for the role I played in my wife’s murder,” Debideen confessed. However, he denied it was to redeem a life insurance policy made out in her name.

Debideen said he met a woman during one of his trips to the United States in the 1980s and formed a relationship with her. He said when he found out his wife was also unfaithful, it was difficult to accept and he no longer had feelings for her.

He said he was full of anger and shame and felt betrayed by his wife. He said he came up with a plan, on his mistress’s suggestion, to get rid of his wife and migrate to the US with his children to live with her.

“The reason why I committed the offence was not only for revenge for the betrayal that my wife had committed, but I felt that the relationship with my wife could no longer be sustained as a result of that I decided to devote myself to nurturing the relationship with my mistress whom I genuinely had feelings for, I could not do so while still being married to my wife.

“It was a selfish, disgusting and shameful plan…”

He also said he felt regret and self-loathing when he saw his wife lying on the ground in their home, soaked in her own blood.

“I was the reason she was in pain and on the brink of death. I held her in my arms and kept thinking about what I had done. I wanted her to live.”

Despite this, Debideen said while his wife was at hospital, he began taking steps to migrate to the US with his children to live with his mistress. It was his mother who found out his plans and alerted the police.

“As I look back at what I did, I am overpowered by feelings of guilt, remorse and regret for my actions which resulted in the loss of my loving wife. I sincerely apologise for the agony, pain and suffering I have inflicted upon society and in particular, my family.

“I will forever regret what I have done and the heartache I have caused my daughters. I am sincerely sorry to the family of my wife; I have taken from them someone who can never be replaced. I am sorry for the suffering I have brought them as a result of my shameful actions.

“I have deprived not only myself of my wife’s love and affection but my actions have since caused my daughters to live each day without a mother’s love.” Debideen also said that both his wife’s family and his own two children have since forgiven him.

At the resentencing hearing, the State was represented by prosecutors Rhea Libert and Josiah Soo Hon while Harrynarine Singh also appeared with the Khans for Debideen.

Senior Counsel Israel Khan and his son Daniel who both represented former death row inmate Basdeo Debideen. –