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Lema sentenced to 7½ years for terror home invasion

Zywonde Lema (File photograph)

A 21-year-old was sentenced to more than seven years behind bars for a “nightmare” home invasion that terrorised a senior couple.

The Supreme Court heard that Zywonde Lema and another man carried out a prolonged attack on the couple, wielding a golf club and bleach and demanding cash, credit cards and PINs.

Puisne Judge Juan Wolffe described the 2021 attack as “pure evil” and jailed Lema for 7½ years, with that sentence to be followed by a three-year period of probation.

“The defendants terrorised these elderly individuals,” he said.

“It is absolutely terrible that now their memories in their golden years have been punctuated by an event that was absolutely horrendous. They did not and do not deserve this.

“The fact that their victimisation was sustained over a period of time makes this case even more egregious.”

Victim impact statement

A victim detailed the horror of listening to his wife’s screams without being able to assist in the midst of a nightmare home invasion.

In a victim impact statement read to the court, the male victim said he was stunned to see two men come into his home, one wielding a long knife.

“My wife was in the other room on the computer and heard the noise,” he said. “The appearance of the men shocked her. She said we were hardworking Bermudians and had no cash in the house.”

He said that he had made an attempt to grab at one of the men but they both pushed him to the ground and bound his legs.

“Unable to move, my head was spinning and a cut on my forehead was bleeding,” he continued.

He said the taller of the two men stood over him with a golf club while his wife searched for credit cards.

“I helplessly watched as she was threatened with a knife by the taller one, who said if he didn’t get any money he would come back and take care of her.

“I watched as she was pulled into the bedroom by the shorter one. When I heard her screams, I tried to move but was threatened that my brains would be smashed out with the golf club if I moved again.

“The screaming happened three times and it felt like a fire engine through my body. The worst thing in the world is to be a husband who is unable to come to the aid of his wife when she needs you the most.

“The screams have plagued my brain since.”

The victim said he is still haunted by the attack and filled with “suspicion and distrust of mankind”.

Cindy Clarke, the Director of Public Prosecutions, said that at about 11am on October 19, 2021, the victims were at their Smith’s home when the husband noticed two men with black masks enter through an open door.

He approached the men and asked them what they were doing while his wife came to see what was going on.

The men demanded that the couple hand over their bank cards and money. The couple said they did not have cash, and one of the men punched the husband in the face.

The husband was then bound and threatened with a golf club while the wife and the other intruder went into another room.

Ms Clarke said the suspect, whom she identified as Lema, left with the husband and took cash and cards out of the man’s wallet before leading him to a bathroom and demanding PINs.

When he refused, the suspect poured bleach into a shirt and forced it over the victim’s face, covering his mouth and his nose until he provided the attacker with numbers.

Ms Clarke said that Lema then left the property, but returned, and the two intruders demanded that the couple open a safe in the home.

The couple gave in to the demand and the intruders fled with between $500 and $2,000 in cash.

As soon as the intruders left, the husband called the police.

Ms Clarke added that as a result of the attack, the wife was sent overseas for medical treatment.

The investigation led police to South Road in Smith’s, where they recovered a glove matching the description of those worn by the intruders, while CCTV footage captured an individual using the couple’s bank cards at two ATMs.

The glove was later found to have Lema’s DNA, along with blood from the husband.

Investigators noted that Lema was wearing an electronic monitoring device and records showed that he frequented the former Grape Bay Beach Hotel in Paget.

A search of that property revealed clothing that matched that which was worn by the individual who used the stolen bank cards and was forensically linked to Lema.

Ms Clarke said that while Lema was considered the “lesser offender” in the case, he was still highly culpable and had carried out extreme violence against a senior couple in their home.

She also noted that Lema already had multiple convictions against him and was on bail when the offence occurred.

Bruce Swan, who represented Lema during the hearing, said his client denied that he had used bleach to terrorise the husband and had no knowledge of that aspect of the robbery, but accepted that he had been an active participant in the home invasion.

“Yes, what he did could be considered to be abuse against a senior,” he said. “He does accept that it was the wrong thing to have done.”

Mr Swan added that Lema was trying to turn things around while behind bars so that when he is released he can be a better man.

“During the course of his time in Westgate, he has realised that he has to reflect on himself,” he said. “He has to reflect on the things he has to change.”

Lema himself said he regretted his actions and the lingering impact that it has had both on the victims and his own family.

“I want to say I’m sorry to the family,” he said. “I just hope that they could get through the pain and suffering that they went through. I’m sorry for what I did.”

Mr Justice Wolffe sentenced Lema to five years for burglary and 7½ years for robbery, but elected to have the sentences run concurrently, stating that his guilty plea had saved the victims from having to relive their experience in court.

“For this reason and this reason only, I will run the sentences concurrently,” the judge said.

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