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Ajamu Hollis pleads guilty to manslaughter in death of Daemon Bell

Daemon Bell (File photograph)

A man charged with murdering Daemon Bell, an off-duty corrections officer, has pleaded guilty to a lesser count of manslaughter.

Ajamu Hollis made the plea yesterday morning, almost three weeks after his Supreme Court murder trial began and a day before a jury was set to begin deliberations.

Charles Richardson, counsel for Hollis, said after the hearing that it was the right result and that his client had long sought to plead guilty to manslaughter.

The matter will return to the court in April for a sentencing date to be set.

During the trial, the court heard that Mr Bell died after he was struck in the face with a gardening hoe by Hollis in an incident at Shelly Bay Field on February 2, 2022.

Prosecution witnesses said that Hollis, who was often referred to as “Pumpkin”, had approached Dion Ball Jr, Mr Bell’s brother-in-law, and joined a conversation about sports.

They claimed that Hollis became increasingly agitated and began to throw items from his bike seat, including a paintbrush and spanners, at Mr Ball.

Hollis then left the area on his bike, with prosecution witnesses stating that he told them he would be back.

CCTV footage from a nearby business showed Hollis ride away from the area, returning to the scene a little more than two minutes later with a garden hoe.

Prosecution witnesses told the court that Mr Bell got out of his car and walked towards Hollis, who struck him twice with the weapon before dropping it.

CCTV footage then showed Hollis walking away from the area, with Mr Ball and another man, David Cumberbatch, following him.

While Mr Cumberbatch was seen to ride Hollis’s bike back towards the field, Mr Ball continued to follow Hollis with a wooden bat in his hand, scuffling near the main road.

When a police car drove past the area, Hollis was seen to leave the area while Mr Ball handed the bat to someone else and returned to the field.

Hollis was arrested later that afternoon after being told by his mother that a community policing officer he knew was looking for him.

Mr Bell was taken to King Edward VII Memorial Hospital for treatment, but subsequently died of his injuries.

Hollis accepted throughout the trial that he had struck Mr Bell with the hoe, but maintained that it had been one blow, not two, and that he had felt threatened.

While prosecutors said he was the aggressor throughout the incident, Hollis alleged that Mr Ball was the one who had become angry during their argument.

He claimed that he had thrown items because he feared he was going to be “jumped” and that Mr Bell had approached him with the wooden bat in his right hand and punched him with his left hand.

Hollis said he fled the area without saying anything about returning, but discovered that he had left a lockbox at the field that contained cash and drug-treatment medication.

He said he went back to the area to get the box and brought the hoe hoping that it would discourage those at the field from attacking him, but as he walked through the area, Mr Bell approached him with the bat, leading to the fatal blow.

During the trial, Mr Richardson questioned the cause of Mr Bell’s death, noting evidence from Michael Steckbauer, the forensic pathologist who carried out the autopsy.

The pathologist said Mr Bell had died from asphyxiation after blood blocked his airways.

Dr Steckbauer added that patients with the type of fracture Mr Bell had suffered would usually be intubated because the injuries were known to cause heavy bleeding.

However, he said he saw no evidence that Mr Bell had been intubated, stating that if he had received different treatment he could have survived his injuries.

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