Second autopsies on BASS victims completed amidst controversy

Guyana Chronicle
August 31, 2001

TRINIDADIAN pathologist, Dr Hughton Des Vignes yesterday completed the autopsies he began earlier this week on the bodies of Azad Bacchus, 41, his son, Shazad Bacchus, 15 and his nephew, Faddil Ally, 18, at Merriman’s Funeral Home, New Amsterdam, Berbice.

But the medical practitioner, who is attached to Trinidad and Tobago Forensic Centre, refused to give details of his findings when he met a Press corps at the establishment.

Des Vignes said the requirements, in investigations of this nature, are stringent and disclosure of any information might be prejudicial.

The forensic specialist said, though, that a second opinion does not mean contradiction of the first and he emphasised that no one else, who witnessed the post mortem examinations, is competent to speak on the outcome.

“My conclusion would be on injuries and not how they were sustained,” Des Vignes pointed out, when pressed with more questions from reporters.

He said, too, that his compilation on the three operations could take about three months.

Relatives of the deceased had solicited the services of Des Vignes after rejecting the report of a Guyanese Government pathologist.

The two Bacchuses and Ally died in a confrontation with members of Berbice Anti-Smuggling Squad (BASS) on Tuesday, August 14, Police said.

Des Vignes, who arrived here for the first time on Tuesday, was prevented from completing the processes because of licensing regulations in this country.

He was several minutes into the exercise when a senior officer interrupted and escorted him to Central Police Station, New Amsterdam.

Commenting on the incident, Des Vignes said he was satisfied with the professional manner in which the cop dealt with the matter.

“There were certain hitches that had to be marked out. Everyone operated in good faith and I see the advice given to me by Mr (Paul) Slowe, Commander of `B’ Division, as plugging all the loopholes,” said Des Vignes, who said he has performed more than 1,000 autopsies in his career.

Those on the Bacchuses and Ally started about 09:00 hours yesterday and took two and a half hours amidst a strong Police presence.

The fatal shooting of the victims triggered three days of protests, which turned ugly when demonstrators attacked the BASS office at Springlands, Corentyne, resulting in five more deaths, including three when an ambulance taking some of the wounded to New Amsterdam Hospital overturned at Number 70, also on the Corentyne highway.

An official version said Azad Bacchus, his son and nephew died in a shootout between Bass officers and some men in a mini-bus.

However, family and other residents in the area disputed that account and alleged that BASS functionaries executed them.

Government launched an investigation into those killings and President Bharrat Jagdeo, subsequently, met with the surviving relatives of those who died during the protest action.

Faddil Ally was scheduled to be buried yesterday afternoon and the funerals of Azad Bacchus and his son, Shazad, will take place today.

Meanwhile, the Office of the Public Relations Officer at Force Headquarters, Eve Leary, Georgetown, reporting on yesterday’s surgeries, said they were done in the absence of Government pathologist Dr V. Bridgemohan and ranks of the Guyana Police Force.

The release said relatives of the dead objected to the presence of Bridgemohan, the Criminal Investigations Department Officer (CID) officer in Berbice, crime scene ranks and a Police photographer.

“They only wanted a Detective Sergeant to be present,” the statement said, adding that Bridgemohan did not stay.

“In the circumstances, the Police ranks were withdrawn, as it is considered improper to have the second autopsy performed in the absence of the Government pathologist and other relevant Police ranks,” Public Relations and Press Officer, Assistant Superintendent Ramaraine said.

He reported that Des Vignes said he would submit his findings to the relatives of the deceased, not the Police, by next week.