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Thursday, 13 December, 2018

Maharaj yearning for England as he awaits latest court ruling

Krishna Maharaj: maintains he did not commit the 1986 murders
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Krishna Maharaj, formerly a prominent racehorse owner in Britain who has spent more than 30 years in a Florida prison for a double murder he insists he did not commit, is set to learn next week whether he will be granted another hearing.

Maharaj, 78, is fighting serious illness in what his lawyer Clive Stafford Smith described as "an overcrowded dormitory which stinks".

At the height of his business career Maharaj owned more than 100 horses and enjoyed Royal Ascot success when King Levanstell won the 1974 Queen Alexandra.

In response to questions from the Racing Post he reminisced about his racing exploits and spoke of a wish to spend his final years in England when visited by wife Marita and Stafford Smith at the weekend.

Maharaj had his last bid for a new trial rejected in January 2015 despite his defence, led by Stafford Smith, founder and director of legal charity Reprieve, arguing the killings of Jamaican businessman Derrick Moo Young and his 23-year-old son Duane in a Miami hotel room in October 1986 were carried out by a hitman on the orders of now dead Colombian drug cartel boss Pablo Escobar.

London-born Maharaj, who ran a fruit importation business, has always maintained he was framed for the murders but spent 15 years on death row before his sentence was commuted to two life terms following a hearing in 2002 at which former trainer Clive Brittain appeared as a character witness.

Maharaj, who has suffered bouts of the flesh-eating disease necrotising fasciitis in jail, said: "If it were not for Marita and Reprieve I'd have been dead long ago. What I long for now is to be living in the countryside in England.

"I would have retired by now, but I couldn't just retire. I'd have to keep occupied. I would like to have been doing something charitable. I only did business because I liked people and enjoyed the traveling. But in the end I'd have liked to have done something more with the money I made."

Recalling his racing exploits, he said: "I was so lucky once. I had 12 trainers and 110 racehorses. My top moment of all was when my horse King Levanstell, with Tony Murray on board, won at Ascot. I was in top hat and tails, and it was a great moment. Rather different from where I find myself today."

Maharaj revealed he almost bought Cheveley Park Stud, when it was owned by Stafford Smith's father Richard before it went into receivership in 1973, but was prepared only to purchase the whole property rather than the half-share on offer.

"I have no idea what would have happened to my life if I'd gone through with buying the stud," he said. "It would have been very different."

He submitted a new appeal in January and, as he awaits a decision due on Monday as to whether he should be allowed a hearing, has learned foreign secretary Boris Johnson has refused a request to intervene on his behalf.

Stafford Smith said: "If he loses in the Eleventh Circuit – and goodness knows he should win – the only thing left will be an original habeas in the US Supreme Court, something that has never been granted, although who knows, this may finally be the case."

If it were not for Marita and Reprieve, I would have been dead long ago. What I long for now is to be living in the countryside in England
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