Shot vendor's family balks at possibility of exhumation
Concerned at manner of probe

Stabroek News
April 20, 2001

The family of the late Donna McKinnon is concerned about the manner in which her death is being investigated by the police and has balked at the idea that her body may have to be exhumed.

"We don't want them to dig her up. She was there for eight days [after her death]. Let her rest in peace," Shondelle Solomon, McKinnon's second oldest daughter told Stabroek News yesterday.

Solomon said that if the police knew they intended performing another post- mortem examination on the body, they could have requested that the funeral be delayed.

McKinnon, 43, a mother of seven, died from gunshot wounds on April 9. Her body was found in an empty lot next to Freedom House--headquarters of the ruling PPP/Civic in Robb Street. Her funeral took place on Wednesday where thousands turned up to witness her burial.

Co-president of the Guyana Human Rights Association (GHRA), Mike McCormack said yesterday that his organisation was anxious to see the police issue a statement soon on how the investigation into McKinnon's death was shaping.

The office of the Police Commissioner was contacted yesterday but this newspaper was told he would not be available until today.

Solomon said the only update on the investigation the family was given was a copy of a police press release on Tuesday when Prime Minister Sam Hinds, other government officials and Police Commissioner Laurie Lewis visited their home.

It was then the family learnt that the authorities were seeking to bring in a foreign pathologist to conduct another examination.

The release stated that the police would give $250,000 for information leading to the arrest and conviction of whoever killed McKinnon. It also said they had questioned several persons associated with a Lodge Hall and television station in the vicinity where her body was found and a nearby political party. The police did not say which party.

There are headquarters of three political parties in the area: the PPP/C, the Justice for All Party and the Guyana Democratic Party.

A senior police officer told Stabroek News yesterday that even though the reward had been posted no one had come forward as yet.

He said there had been a lot of talk circulating about who the perpetrators were and who had seen what took place that day, but no eyewitness had approached the police.

Eyewitnesses said persons were seen standing on a landing at the rear of Freedom House and at least one man had a gun in his hand when shots were heard coming from the building.

Police from the Target Special Force had also fired several shots, which sent some persons scampering into the empty lot next to Freedom House.

Attempts were made to contact PPP/C general secretary, Donald Ramotar, for a comment yesterday on the reports about the man on the Freedom House landing but Stabroek News was told that he and other PPP/C executive members were unavailable until today.

Solomon stated that the family received no answer from Hinds and Lewis on Tuesday when enquiries were made about who authorised the removal of their mother's body from the mortuary without the family's consent or knowledge. Solomon said family members left the hospital mortuary around midday on Tuesday, the day after McKinnon died. They were told then that a post-mortem would have been performed on Wednesday.

They turned up at the mortuary at 0700 hrs on Wednesday, Solomon said. They were asked who would be witnessing the post-mortem and these persons were asked to sign a document.

Solomon said when they thought it was now all right to proceed, the family was told that the police had to be present. When the police eventually turned up the family was told that McKinnon's body was not at the mortuary, Solomon said. She recalled that they waited several hours before they were finally allowed to see their mother. And then, it was only a part of her face they got a glimpse of. Solomon said the entire body and part of her face was wrapped in what looked like a bed sheet.

Brian Caesar, Solomon's stepfather, attempted to get a look at the rest of the body but was told not to remove the cloth.

According to the grieving Solomon, two gunshot wounds were observed on her mother's body when they dressed her for the funeral. One was on her chest and the other on her foot, but only the chest injury had an exit wound, she stated.

This gave the family reason to believe that a bullet could have been retrieved in the post-mortem, which may have provided clues about its origin.

Contacted yesterday, McCormack said the GHRA had been making enquiries on the status of the investigation into McKinnon's death. "Clearly it's a very important case to investigate and we would like to see it come to an early end," McCormack stated.

He said the GHRA had condemned the killing in an earlier press release and joined others calling for whoever was guilty of the crime to be brought to justice.