A 44-year-old man who hacked his estranged wife with a machete and then tried to poison her with weed killer was sentenced to 14 years’ imprisonment on Thursday.
George Washington Vaughan attacked his wife, Lois Hall Vaughan, at their home in Bodden Town, chopping her with a machete in front of horrified onlookers, the court heard.
He fled into the bushes after the attack and swallowed some of the poisonous weed killer himself in an apparent suicide attempt. He pleaded guilty to attempted murder in connection with the incident on Aug. 12, 2014.
In passing sentence on Thursday, Acting Grand Court Judge Dame Linda Dobbs said Vaughan had committed a “horrific and brutal” attack on a defenseless woman.
“Mrs. Hall Vaughan is lucky to be alive. She will be physically and mentally scarred for life,” the judge said.
Summarizing the evidence in the case, she described how the couple’s marriage had been disintegrating and that Mrs. Hall Vaughan had moved out after a previous assault.
Things came to a head in summer 2014 when Mrs. Hall Vaughan refused to sign paperwork for her estranged husband’s permanent residency application.
For several weeks, the judge said, he continued to badger her with text messages, begging her to meet with him face to face.
Eventually he convinced her to come to the home in Bodden Town on the pretext that he would be out for the day and needed her to feed the dogs.
When she showed up at the house with friends, including three young children, he ambushed her, emerging from a bedroom with a machete in hand.
He chased her and chopped her repeatedly with the weapon, telling her, “You love to run, but you’re not going to run this time.”
Mr. Vaughan then attempted to attack one of the onlookers with the machete, failing to connect and burying the blade in a papaya tree. He slashed the tires of his wife’s vehicle and fled into the bushes, where he was later found wearing only socks and boxer shorts with the blood-stained machete and a bottle of green liquid, later determined to be the deadly weed killer paraquat. Mr. Vaughan had ingested some of the weed killer and required hospital treatment, the court heard.
Doctors had discovered signs that Mrs. Hall Vaughan had also been poisoned with paraquat, the judge summarized.
In police interviews Mr. Vaughan claimed to have been startled by the presence of another person in the house and had lashed out with the machete before realizing who it was. He claimed he did not know why he had continued the assault once he realized it was his wife, saying everything had gone black, like a “temporary madness.”
Justice Dobbs said she did not accept this explanation. She said it was clear that he had targeted his wife, luring her to the house on false pretenses and moving his car so it appeared he was not home.
He had tried to kill her with the machete and then poisoned her to ensure the “job was done,” the judge said.
Mrs. Hall Vaughan suffered a 3-inch laceration to the left side of her face, wounds to her ear and chest, the amputation of a finger and serious wounds to her legs. She was initially flown off island for treatment and still requires extensive physiotherapy. She is also likely to require further surgery on her legs.
The injuries were “life threatening, long lasting and visible,” and she would be reminded of them every time she looked in the mirror, the judge said.
“She will suffer for the rest of her life.”
In mitigation, the court heard that Mr. Vaughan was “under stress” because of his separation from his wife and the loss of his daughter, who had moved back to Jamaica just before the incident, as well as his uncertain immigration status. He is illiterate and had a hard upbringing and was beaten by his stepfather.
The judge passed a sentence of 21 years in prison, reduced to 14 years because of his guilty plea.