“It feels like an eternity”

Marita Maharaj discusses her 35-year wait for Kris

 

Last updated: 6th December 2021

Everything changed for Marita and Kris Maharaj on 16th October 1986, when Kris was wrongfully arrested and charged with the murders of ex-business associate Derek Moo Young and Derek’s son Duane.  Following a flawed trial in 1987 that resulted in the death penalty (later changed to life imprisonment), Kris and his lawyers have been fighting to prove his innocence ever since.  We spoke to Marita Maharaj about her love story and 35-year wait for her husband.

“It was love at first sight.”

Kris, a British-Trinidadian businessman and Marita, a Portuguese bank worker met at a party in Abingdon in July 1974.  Workaholic Marita had to be cajoled into going.  “I was with a friend who was his secretary.  I was never a party person so I thought, ‘what am I doing here? I have so much work to do!’ But it was a beautiful place. There was a band playing and people jumping in the pool.”  When her friend offered to introduce her to Kris, Marita looked around for an old man.  “But I didn’t see any old men!  I walked with her and saw this beautiful Indian man at the end of the pool.  He had a beautiful silk shirt, black pants and I remember looking at him and thinking, ‘he’s lovely.’  When my friend said, ‘here’s Kris,’ I thought to myself, ‘what?’ He was very nice.  He nicely said to me, ‘come and eat something’ and I think there was an attraction there on both our parts.  I was very serious then, but I could feel it.  It was love at first sight.”

At 8 in the morning they came back to London.  “I dropped him at his place.  As he got out of the car, he came to my window and said, ‘I would like to take you out for dinner.’  And I say, ‘oh no I never go out for dinner.’  He had a beautiful smile, K was a very nice-looking man.  He was about to go and something came to me and I said, ‘I will go for lunch with you.  Nod dinner, lunch.’  He smiled, you know? The next weekend, it would have been a Friday, my friend called me and said, ‘Marita, Kris wants to go out for dinner and if you don’t go he won’t take me.’  So we went out to dinner in the Strand, to the Wig and Pen, Kris was a member of it.

In hindsight, the location of Kris and Marita’s first date, the Wig and Pen – a private members’ club situated opposite the Law Courts and frequented by lawyers, judges and journalists – appears an omen of what lay ahead: a decades-long battle for justice in the US law courts.

“Kris and I started to talk,” says Marita. “I had never talked so much in my life.  We were talking, talking, talking.  And suddenly I see that my friend is not there anymore. We ignored her completely!    I shouldn’t tell this story!  The waiter – said to us, ‘oh the lady left.’”

Five months later, on 11th December 1974, Kris and Marita got married.  “We didn’t tell anybody that we were getting married.  We went to Portugal.  When we got to Lisbon, the bombs were starting, because of the revolution.  We got married in a little church on top of a hill.  We had three witnesses and that was it.  We had to leave Lisbon though because they were going to close the airport.”

A private couple who travelled a lot, they remained inseparable.  “Wherever Kris went, I went with him,” remembers Marita.  “If people saw they would say, ‘Kris must be around somewhere!’ With Kris you never knew what you were going to do.  I couldn’t plan anything.  He would come up with something different. He was very exciting to be around.”

“Real love is a very difficult thing to understand.”

“Everything that I saw about Kris was good.  But you cannot say whatever it is about the person when you fall in love with them.  Real love is a very difficult thing to understand.  Because he gets into you and you cannot breathe without that person.  We said, ‘we will be together until we die’ and that happened.”

By the time of Kris’ arrest in Miami, the couple had been spending part of the year in Florida where Kris had business and where the warmer climate suited them both.  “When they arrested him, Kris told me to go home.  But I said, ‘no, I came with you, I leave with you.  I’m not going to leave you here, even if I lose everything in my life.  I will do everything that is possible to get you out of here.’  I knew he was innocent anyway.  It wasn’t that I believed that he was innocent, I knew he was innocent.  I was with Kris when they say he killed those people.”

“It’s like a nightmare you can never wake up from.”

35 years later and Marita is still in Florida.  “It feels more than 35 years.  It feels like an eternity,” says Marita of her decades-long wait.  “It’s like a nightmare that you cannot ever wake up from.  You lose everything.  You go through hell.  And if I’m going through hell, what must he be going through?   I go through a lot here.  And lately as the time passes I get a lot of difficulties here.  I’m 82 years old.  I cannot work.  I used to do little things but not much.  But it’s very, very hard.   If it wasn’t for my benefactors… I really thank them from my heart.  And Clive (Kris’ lawyer and friend), Clive has been my salvation. Without Clive and Kris, I would not be alive today.”

“One thing that keeps me going is visiting Kris,“ says Marita.  “I visit Kris and when I come home, I get more strength.”  Marita, however, hasn’t seen Kris for almost 2 years, nor does she know when she will be able to visit again. “I talk on the phone but because of the pandemic I stopped visiting him from his birthday, 27th January not this year, the year before.”

When Kris was on death row, Marita used to travel nearly 800 miles every weekend to visit him. “It’s a long way, but I did it, you know.  And I’m still here!  God helps me.  God is always there with me.  They tell me, they ask, me, why you still fight? I say I have God with me and if I have God then I don’t need anything else.  God puts in my way what I need.”

“We’ll be together.”

“Kris told me two days ago, ‘Marita, I never thought you would stay with me so long.  I am very grateful,’ he said to me, ‘and I do love you very much but this is hell, Marita.’  I say, ‘as long as I’m alive I will be with you.’  And I hope that we will soon go home now.  And at least we have… a very few years we have left, and I say, ‘we’ll be together.’”

Marita’s faith is steadfast.  “Kris and I we have God and Christ with us.  And I know that we will go home one day.  I hope it will be very soon.  We were hoping that we would be home at least for Christmas, but I don’t see that happening… because these courts take so long, you know.  All I want right now is to go home to England.”