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Worrell sentenced to life behind bars

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Kamal Worrell (File photograph)

A lawyer convicted of murdering the mother of his child was yesterday sentenced to serve at least 27 years behind bars.

Kamal Worrell, who has already filed an appeal against his conviction for the 2020 murder of Chavelle Dillon Burgess, was also sentenced to six months in prison for seven counts of assault. All the sentences are to run concurrently.

Puisne Judge Juan Wolffe said: “No words in any esteemed dictionary can express or convey the heinous nature of the act carried out by the defendant.

“What he did in April 2020 was beyond words. It was of such an egregious nature that it is a rare occasion in the history of the hundreds of thousands of cases that come before this court.

“Yet the defendant expressed no regrets or remorse about what he did. I suspect, in fact, that he probably will never express any regret or remorse.”

Mr Justice Wolffe added that Worrell’s refusal to provide his son with the closure of knowing what happened to his mother went against every ethical fibre of a just society.

“It is for this reason that the court must send a very, very, very strong message to the defendant that his behaviour cannot and will not be tolerated,” he added.

Chavelle Dillon-Burgess (File photograph)

In January, Worrell was found guilty by a majority decision of murdering Ms Dillon-Burgess on an unknown date between April 10 and June 11, 2020.

The Supreme Court jury also found Worrell guilty of seven charges of common assault, six by unanimous decision and one by majority.

Worrell was cleared of one count of unlawful wounding by a unanimous verdict.

During the trial, which stretched from last November to early January, the court heard that Ms Dillon-Burgess had accused Worrell of assault in relation to incidents in 2018 and 2019.

In both cases, she had said that arguments about their son had turned physical, but she later withdrew the allegations against him.

On April 30, 2020, Ms Dillon-Burgess was reported missing by her family, and despite an island-wide search, she has not been found.

Throughout the trial, Worrell maintained his innocence, claiming that he had never acted violently towards Ms Dillon-Burgess and had only ever acted to defend himself when she lashed out against him.

He told the court that Ms Dillon-Burgess had walked out of the home that they shared with their child after an argument on April 11, 2020, and she returned briefly days later only to collect personal items.

Prosecutors argued that Ms Dillon-Burgess had given consistent stories of assault when talking to her friends, family and doctor, and changed her story only when she was in court with the defendant in the room with her.

Cindy Clarke, the Director of Public Prosecutions, suggested that Worrell felt as though Ms Dillon-Burgess was ruining his career with her allegations of violence, and urged the jury to consider his actions before and after her disappearance.

Ms Clarke also noted that the disappearance took place in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic, when movement was highly restricted.

Search for Chavelle continues

Police have again called for anyone with information about the disappearance of Chavelle Dillon-Burgess to come forward.

A police spokesman said after the verdict: “The Bermuda Police Service respects the decision of the courts in this matter.”

“We continue to investigate the whereabouts of Chavelle Dillon-Burgess’s remains and hope our efforts eventually provide her family closure.”

Ms Dillon-Burgess was reported missing on April 30, 2020, almost two weeks before her 27th birthday.

She worked at the Fairmont Southampton Hotel and was newly recruited as a Royal Bermuda Regiment soldier.

Police said at the time that friends and close associates had not seen or heard from her since April 11 that year.

The disappearance sparked an island-wide search, and a $50,000 reward has been offered for information that leads to the discovery of Ms Dillon-Burgess.

The police spokesman urged anyone with information, not matter how insignificant they believe it is, to call the Senior Investigating Officer, Acting Detective Chief Inspector Jason Smith, on 717-0864 or e-mail him at jsmith2@bps.bm.

At a sentencing hearing, Ms Clarke said that a life sentence was required of such a conviction, and called for a minimum term of between 25 and 28 years behind bars.

She said that the history of domestic violence in the case was a seriously aggravating factor, along with the disposal of Ms Dillon-Burgess’s body.

Ms Clarke added that the crime was further aggravated by the victim being the mother of Worrell’s child, a lack of remorse, attempts by the defendant to conceal evidence and the fact that their child was in the house when the murder took place.

“The only mitigating factor is the lack of previous convictions,” she said.

The court also heard victim impact statements from Ms Dillon-Burgess’s grandmother, Thelma-Jean Wong, who shared her heartbreak about her death.

“She loved her family,” she said. “Her son meant the world to her.”

The victim’s mother, Rose Belboda, said the trauma of her daughter still being missing was “unbearable”.

“I believed that she would outlive me, but this belief existed when I was more naive about evil,” she added.

Worrell told the court that he had not been provided adequate facilities to prepare for his sentencing and that he had not been able to obtain legal counsel for the hearing.

Ms Clarke noted that Worrell had been provided with papers in February and had not raised any concerns about facilities or representation when he appeared before the court on March 1.

“This defendant, the only thing he said is he wanted it dealt with as soon as possible,” she said.

Mr Justice Wolffe chose not to adjourn the matter and urged the defendant to provide information about what had happened to Ms Dillon-Burgess to provide closure to her family and his son.

He added that Worrell had said he had tried to be a “phenomenal” father to his son, saying that he could help his son address the trauma of the loss of his mother.

“It might be that he is at an age where he is asking himself questions,” Mr Justice Wolffe said. “I am giving you an opportunity to let your son know where his mother is so that he could give his last farewells.”

Worrell responded that he had given evidence under oath during the trial.

“I am a father who tried his best to be a good father,” he said. “I always have. I always will.

“I gave my testimony under oath. I have nothing to add to that.”

Help is available for victims of domestic violence

The Women’s Resource Centre said that it was grateful to see the justice system advocate for Chavelle Dillon-Burgess, but action needed to be taken to eliminate domestic violence.

Juanae Crockwell, the executive director of the charity, said: “While there is truly no justice for this crime, it is encouraging to see the judicial system hold Worrell accountable for his actions. Our thoughts are with Ms Dillon-Burgess’s family and loved ones as they process all that has taken place.

“The imposition of a life sentence is significant in holding perpetrators of domestic abuse accountable for their actions and sends a strong message to the defendant and others in the community that abuse will not be tolerated.

“However, we recognise that it is only one part of a much larger and ongoing effort to combat this pervasive issue in our society.

“Prioritising the prevention of domestic abuse, through education and awareness, and the protection of survivors, through support services and resources, is essential.”

Ms Crockwell urged any women who may be experiencing physical, emotional, psychological or financial abuse to file a report with the Bermuda Police Service and seek support.

“This case highlights the importance of reporting instances of abuse, and we believe that the reports made by Ms Dillon-Burgess have directly led to the outcome we see today,” she said.

“It is the Women’s Resource Centre’s goal to create a safe space for victims and survivors of abuse to find support and healing as they rebuild their lives.

“It is our hope that fewer women will experience these horrific outcomes as we strengthen the support services available, provide prevention and early intervention services and work to create a society that is sympathetic to victims and their experiences.”

The WRC offers referral services, counselling support and community education to women in the community.

Any women in need of support are invited to call the WRC on 295-3882 or visit www.wrcbermuda.com.

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