‘Don’t set free my son’s killer’

Gary Colley's father Terry and sister Michelle, pictured in 1993
Gary Colley's father Terry and sister Michelle, pictured in 1993

The father of a Brighouse man who was murdered while on holiday in Florida 20 years ago has spoken of his shock that one of his son’s killers might be freed from prison early.

Terry Colley, of Maurice Avenue, has learned that Aundra Akins, the man serving a life sentence for the fatal shooting, is due to go back into court in Jefferson County on September 13 for re-sentencing for the killing of Gary in 1993.

Gary Colley and Margaret Jagger

Gary Colley and Margaret Jagger

He fears the man who was 14 when he shot Gary Colley will attempt to persuade the court that his sentence should be reduced.

Gary, then 34, was on holiday with his his partner Margaret Jagger when they were shot in a botched robbery while they were sleeping in their hired car at a rest stop on a highway near Tallahassee.

Gary died at the scene and his partner received hospital treatment for bullet grazes. At the time it was the ninth murder of a foreign tourist in the state within a year and caused a 20 per cent drop in tourist revenue in Florida.

Mr Colley said he was appalled that Akins was to get the chance to go back to court to try and have his life sentence cut.

Aundra Akins who received a life sentence for the murder of Gary Colley

Aundra Akins who received a life sentence for the murder of Gary Colley

“The timing is dreadful. On September 14 it will be the 20th anniversary of Gary’s death and on September 13 Margaret will be in the court to hear Akins trying to get parole. It is going to bring it all back again.

“Gary was a lovely lad who was in the wrong place at the wrong time. If it hadn’t been him on that night, it would probably have been someone else. He was completely defenceless and didn’t stand a chance.”

Four youths, the youngest just 13, were involved in the crime and Mr Colley fears that if Akins is successful, some of the others will try to have their sentences reduced.

“At the time I wanted the death sentence for Gary’s killers. Akins didn’t get that but he did get a life sentence - now it seems he might not even get that.”

It took four years and two mis-trials before Akins was finally locked up for his part in the murder in 1997.

Margaret Jagger visited Mr Colley last week to tell him she had been asked to fly out to Florida to testify at the new hearing on September 13.

“She wants to hear what is being said and what reasons they are giving for re-sentencing Akins. She is a strong person and, despite everything that has happened, she loves America and visits often.”

Mr Colley’s mother, Mrs Brenda Armitage died two years ago. His father, Terry, is recovering after suffering a stroke.