Same bandits attacked fishermen, goldsmith
Travelled 90 miles in stolen boat By Samantha Alleyne
Stabroek News
July 11, 2001

Police yesterday confirmed that six men who brutalised and robbed fishermen on the East Coast early Saturday morning were the same bandits who terrorised the family of an East Berbice goldsmith that evening before looting the home of millions.

Concern was being raised yesterday over the scale of the planning that went into these attacks, the prowess and weaponry of the bandits and a potentially new type of crime where stolen boats could be used to avoid police dragnets on land.

The six men, in their first heist, robbed fishermen at Montrose of a boat, two outboard engines and a quantity of gasoline and travelled 90 miles up the coast, docking at the Scottsburg Beach from where they made their way to Rampoor, Corriverton and robbed goldsmith, Arjune John of millions of dollars.

Inspector Smith of the Public Relations Office (PRO) of the Guyana Police Force yesterday confirmed that the boat stolen at Montrose was linked to the robbery in Berbice which was committed on Saturday evening.

Stabroek News understands that three of the six men have been arrested in Georgetown, but was unable to confirm this.

Traces of raw gold, which was the biggest part of the loot the bandits stole from the goldsmith, were found in the boat when it was discovered at Hope Beach, ECD, 7:30 am on Sunday. The robbery was committed on the fishermen at 1 am on Saturday morning and the robbery at the goldsmith's home was carried out at 7:15 pm.

Also found in the boat were two bags with a number of live rounds, army camouflage clothing along with one Guyana Police Force traffic uniform and tools belonging to the goldsmith and stolen from him during the robbery.

One fishermen robbed recalled yesterday that during the attack one of the bandits told them not to "dis the programme" as all they wanted was a boat to go on a "mission." That mission was apparently to travel some 90 nautical miles along the country's coastline to rob a goldsmith of gold and money.

The bandits escaped with $3 million worth in raw gold and $1 million in silver and cash, but not before shooting Police Constable Collin Frazer, three times in the left arm and brutalizing John's wife, Indrani. The woman's body is now covered with marks of violence sustained from the beating she received at the hands of the bandits.

However, the most frightening experience for the woman was that her two-month-old baby girl was left screaming on a bed where the police later found a hand grenade.

It is the general feeling that the men had to be very knowledgeable of the country's coastal waters in order to commit what is described as a "perfect and well?planned crime."

However, a knowledgeable source said the men would have had no difficulty traversing the waterway to Berbice. The men only had to follow the coastline and stay clear of the mud flat which extends about half a mile into the ocean.

"One you know to operate a motor you have no difficulty," the source said. But he acknowledged that the men would have had to be aware of certain landmarks on the coastline in order for them to keep on course.

However, a fisherman who spoke to this newspaper did not feel that it was that simple to travel from the East Coast Demerara to Berbice. He said that he had made his living from the sea for the past 30 years and would not attempt to travel that distance, especially at night.

He, along with another source felt that the bandits had to know the waters very well in order for them to travel that many miles in such a short period of time without encountering any problems.

The bandits would have had to acquire six five-gallon bottles of gasoline to complete their mission. The bandits could have used both of the engines stolen at Montrose on the boat and this would have allowed them to arrive at their destination sooner than if they had used one engine.

"It [took] a lot of planning and cunning," one source said as he described the robberies by the bandits.

A source close to the police pointed out that the men found a way of avoiding the police. He pointed out that if the men had used a car to execute the robbery the police would have immediately set up roadblocks to nab them. So in order to avoid any confrontation with the police the bandits used the country's waterways to aid them in their robbery. According to the source, this is the first time in recent history that a robbery has been committed this way. While there were numerous cases where bandits stole cars to aid them in robbery it was the first time a boat was stolen to commit a robbery. A source pointed out that the robbery of a bank at Anna Regina some years ago was facilitated by the use of a boat.

One source said that the men might have had no intention of docking at Hope Beach on the East Coast Demerara after robbing the goldsmith, but they might have run out of gasoline and been forced to abandon the boat at that point.

During the robbery, the six men -- three of whom did the actually robbery and beating of John's wife while the other three were on the look out -- were dressed in military camouflage uniforms.

Recently, the Guyana Defence Force (GDF) had issued an advisory asking all those who were in possession of army uniforms to return them.

Contacted yesterday, Captain Wycliffe McAllister, spokesperson for the army, said that he was unable comment on the level of response the army received. He pointed out that the GDF had issued several advisories in an effort to stop non?soldiers from wearing army uniforms.

He said the army was always concerned when persons who were not members of the GDF wore the army's clothing, moreover when they did so while committing robberies. It is not the first time bandits have worn army uniforms to commit robberies.

The goldsmith yesterday told Stabroek News he travelled to Georgetown where he identified articles which were found in the boat belonging to him. According to reports, the bandits not only left traces of raw gold but some unfinished items of jewellery, the look of which might have confused them into thinking that they were not gold items.

The police are continuing the intensive investigation into the robberies, while Constable Frazer continues to be a patient at the Georgetown Public Hospital. Frazer was responding to the report of the robbery at Rampoor Settlement and was in a Tapir vehicle when the bandits opened fire on the vehicle hitting him three times in his left arm. One of the six men had a machine gun while the other had guns of various types.