Mail on Sunday spins Government House murders

  • 2009 visit: The Queen arrives at Dockyard (File photograph)

    2009 visit: The Queen arrives at Dockyard (File photograph)

A British former politician and journalist claimed at the weekend the Queen rejected an appeal for clemency from a man sentenced to hang for the murder of a Bermuda Governor.

Chris Mullin alleged in an article published in the Mail on Sunday that the Queen dismissed the plea — and that she had highlighted the killing of Sir Richard Sharples’s dog.

He wrote: “When, in 1973, the killer of Sir Richard Sharples, the Governor of Bermuda, had his appeal against the death sentence rejected, his last hope was a plea to the Queen for mercy.

“A Privy Counsellor of my acquaintance was dispatched to the Palace with the relevant paperwork. Needless to say the advice was ‘reject’.

“She duly signed away the culprit’s life, remarking as she did so: ‘Fancy appealing to me for mercy. Do you know he even shot the dog?’”

Government House declined to comment on the story yesterday. But the royal prerogative of mercy is not the monarch’s decision, as convention dictates that the head of state must follow the recommendations of the government of the day.

The article does not name “the killer” — but the only man convicted of the murder of Mr Sharples never appealed his death sentence.

Erskine “Buck” Burrows was convicted of the murder of Sir Richard and his aide-de-camp, Captain Hugh Sayers.

The two were shot dead as they walked the grounds of Government House along with the Governor’s Great Dane, Horsa, in 1973. Burrows was also convicted of the murder of Commissioner of Police George Duckett, who was shot outside his home six months before the Government House killings, and of the murders of Victor Rego and Mark Doe, who were shot dead in an armed robbery at the Shopping Centre in Hamilton.

Burrows, who confessed to the murder of the Governor, did not appeal against either his conviction or the sentence.

Larry Tacklyn, his co-accused, was convicted of the murders of Mr Rego and Mr Doe, but acquitted on the other murder charges. Tacklyn appealed against his conviction but the appeal was rejected.

The Bermuda Prerogative of Mercy Committee advised that neither of the men should be reprieved — a decision accepted by the Acting Governor.

A petition for clemency for both men was signed by about 6,000 Bermudians, but the committee still advised against a reprieve.

David Owen, then the Labour Party’s Foreign Secretary and later Lord Owen, said in a memo at the time: “I can only advise the Queen not to allow the law to take its course if I think there has been a miscarriage of justice.

“I am satisfied that there has been no miscarriage in this case. I am therefore submitting the petition to the Queen with the advice that it should be rejected and that the law should be allowed to take its course.”

The executions of the pair on December 2, 1977, sparked the worst riots in Bermuda’s history.

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Published Feb 10, 2020 at 8:00 am (Updated Feb 10, 2020 at 12:16 pm)

Mail on Sunday spins Government House murders

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