In the Central Criminal Court, London
27 May 2022
The Recorder of London, His Honour Judge Mark Lucraft QC
Daniel Briceno Garcia
- On Wednesday May 18th 2022 you were convicted of the murders of Edgar Aguilera Daza and Sonia Butron Calvi and I must now sentence you. At the start of the trial you pleaded guilty to manslaughter and the jury had to consider the partial defence of diminished responsibility. As their verdicts clearly show, they did not accept the defence applied.
- Edgar was 60 years of age and Sonia 66 at the time of their deaths. They were your landlord and landlady at the address in Dorset Road where you lived and had done so for some time. In a moving impact statement their daughter Laura, speaks of them both as wonderful parents, grandparents, friends, excellent church advisors and mentors. She says: “Many people at church looked up to them because they were a humble, caring and stable couple. Sonia’s warm reassurance and Edgar’s infectious humour would make everyone feel better in times of struggle and hurt.” She speaks of the hurt caused by the cruel way their lives were taken and the broken hearts of a family that have seen innocent lives taken unjustly. She speaks too of the impact on the wider Bolivian community that feels crushed and heartbroken by your actions.
- Edgar and Sonia were killed on 1st April 2020. Due to the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic in the UK, a lockdown had been introduced on 23rd March 2020 banning all non-essential travel and contact with people, closing schools, businesses, venues and gathering places. You were one of those who continued to work: working as a street cleaner in Westminster.
- In the afternoon of 1st April, having returned from work, you were in the communal kitchen at Dorset Road. There were five rooms used as bedrooms at that address, a communal kitchen and a communal bathroom with eight of you sharing. Sonia had commented to one of the other residents, Maria Bobadilla, that she did not know what was wrong with you and that you were constantly in a bad mood. The beginning of the month is when rent was due.
- When Maria was in her room that afternoon she heard shouting coming from downstairs. Whatever had triggered what happened between you, Edgar and Sonia, only you really know. What is clear from investigations after the event is that you launched a brutal and murderous attack on Edgar and then on Sonia. Having been alerted by the noise of shouting, Maria came from her room to the top of the stairs. There she could see down to the foot of the stairs where you were holding Edgar in an arm lock and stabbing him. She heard Sonia say: “No Daniel, no Daniel, no Daniel” followed by: “I’m going to call the police.”
- Within minutes you had killed both Edgar and Sonia inflicting numerous stab wounds causing catastrophic injuries. You rang the police and when the police responded soon afterwards you opened the door to them with raised arms and said “sorry, sorry, sorry”. Despite the efforts of the police and the other emergency services who responded, Edgar and Sonia had suffered such severe injuries that their lives could not be saved.
- Following your arrest and detention on 1st April 2020, in the course of the last two years you have been thoroughly assessed as to your mental state at the time. I am entirely satisfied on what I have read from the clinician who has spent most time with you, that there is nothing that affected you at that time or now. As a number of health professionals have observed, you are a difficult person and at times you have shown your unwillingness to engage in the process of this case.
- You are now 46. You have lived in this country since 2017 and whilst you have limited English, in my view your understanding is more than you have been prepared to admit.
- There are previous convictions recorded against you in Spain and you are someone where there is clear evidence of the abuse of illicit drugs going back to your teenage years. In 1998 in Spain you were sentenced to 11 months for aggravated theft. In 2001 you were subject to a short period of detention in relation to theft of a motor vehicle and in 2002 a years’ detention for robbery. That offence appears to involve the use of a knife. In 2010 you were sentenced to 4 months detention for a number of drink driving and driving offences and later that same year to 1 months’ detention for similar offences. There are also records of arrests in Spain for various other offences. There are no convictions recorded against you in the UK. As I have mentioned you were working at the date of these offences and were known to be a good and reliable employee.
Sentence for murder
- In relation to murder, in the circumstances as here, the sentence must be one of life imprisonment and you will receive a sentence of imprisonment for life. The issue for me is the minimum term you must serve before you are first considered for release. When it comes to the minimum term that you will serve, I make plain that I am not ordering that you are to be released at the end of it. Whether you will be released or not at that stage, at any later stage, or indeed at all, will be a matter for the Parole Board to consider. Only when the minimum term has been served can the Parole Board decide whether it is safe to release you or not. If the Board does release you, then you will remain on licence and liable to recall for the rest of your life.
- Having considered the provisions of schedule 21 of the Sentencing Act 2020, and in particular paragraph 3, the appropriate initial start point for the minimum term in this case where the Court is dealing with two deaths, is one of 30 years. I have considered whether the case comes within paragraph 2 and the imposition of a whole life order, but it seems to me that on the facts as set out, it does not.
- Having chosen that initial start point, I need to consider the effect of any aggravating and mitigating factors. In terms of aggravating factors, this is a case where you used a large knife to attack and kill two people. Those features are factored into the initial start point. The attack on Edgar is one that would have been witnessed by his wife Sonia, who is heard to tell you to stop and that she was going to call the police. That would have been most distressing to her and is a clear aggravating factor. The attack on her when she is killed follows very shortly afterwards. In addition, part of the attack on Edgar was also seen by another member of the household. These attacks happened in the home where the victims lived and where they were entitled to feel, and be safe. Those features are also aggravating factors.
- Turning to mitigating features, it cannot be said here that there as an intention only to cause really serious harm. I base that finding on the number and location of the stab wounds to both victims. There is a lack of premeditation. Having said that, the knife was a non-kitchen knife and taken by you from your room. In terms of any mental disorder, it is submitted that the reports of Dr Penny Brown and Dr Galappathie and such information as there is from Spain about mental health issues earlier in your life should be taken into account as mitigating factors. In the light of the verdicts and all of the evidence, particularly the evidence of Dr Kavumar who assessed you over a 5 month period, in my judgement there is nothing that amounts to a mitigating feature that requires anything other than a very modest reduction. It is also said that your HIV status will require treatment in custody and is something likely to increase the severity of any sentence you serve. In my view little if any adjustment needs to be made for this factor.
- In mitigation on your behalf, it is submitted that there is no need to go beyond the 30 year start point for the minimum term and that there are factors that warrant a reduction from that. Having considered the points made on your behalf, I do not agree. In my judgement the aggravating factors identified produce a significant uplift and the mitigating factors reduce that by a modest amount.
- Allowing for the various aggravating and mitigating features I have identified, the effect is to take the minimum term to one of 33 years, and so there will be a sentence of imprisonment for life with a minimum term of 33 years’. That minimum term will be less the 784 days that you have been on remand. A life sentence of imprisonment with a minimum term of 33 years’ less the 784 days concurrent on both counts 1 and 3.
- I repeat what I set out earlier that when it comes to the minimum term that you will serve, I am not ordering that you are to be released at the end of it. Whether you will be released at that stage, at any later stage or indeed at all, will be a matter for the Parole Board to consider. Only when the minimum term has been served can the Parole Board decide whether it is safe to release you or not. Even if the Board does release you, you will remain on licence and liable to recall for the rest of your life.
- If the statutory surcharge applies to your case, then the appropriate orders can be drawn up.