Sir Peter Blake's killers get heavy sentences

The six men accused of murdering New Zealand yachting hero Sir Peter Blake have been found guilty in a Brazilian court, the New Zealand Herald reports.

Ricardo Colares Tavares, the 23-year-old who confessed to shooting Sir Peter in what he described as self-defence, was sentenced to 36 years and 9 months.

The other five received various sentences of at least 26 years 8 months. Several of the sentences were largely symbolic, because under Brazilian law no one can serve more than 30 years in prison at a single stretch.

Speaking from the Brazilian capital, Brasilia, New Zealand Embassy First Secretary Jeff Langley said all six were also found guilty of simple armed robbery.

But a third charge relating to a shot that grazed one of the Seamaster’s crew as the bandits were leaving the boat was dismissed. They all have five days in which to decide whether to appeal against the sentence.

Although the men confessed within days of Sir Peter’s death on the Amazon last December, a federal judge had been deciding whether the charge they all faced of latrocinio (armed robbery leading to death) was appropriate. The judge last week disallowed defence claims that the ringleader Tavares, who fired the two fatal shots into the back of the skipper, was mentally ill at the time.

Blake, 53, was shot dead on Dec. 5 last year by pirates who boarded his sailing vessel Seamaster, anchored at the mouth of the Amazon River in Brazil’s poor northern state of Amapa. Seamaster had just completed an expedition up the Amazon and was due to leave Brazil within days.