Azad Bacchus, son, 15-year-old killed in BASS operation
Skeldon Hospital stormed, patient 'rescued'

By Jeune Bailey Van-Keric
Stabroek News
August 15, 2001

Notorious criminal Azad Bacchus, his son and 15-year-old nephew were shot dead by members of the Berbice Anti-Smuggling Squad (BASS) yesterday morning at Corriverton following a dramatic sequence of events including a raid on the Skeldon hospital.

In the same matter, a man was taken into custody and three others have gone into hiding.

Dead are Bacchus, 41, and his son Shazad Bacchus, 18, of Kim Jong IL Street, Race Course, Corriverton and Fadil Ally, 15, of Crabwood Creek, Skeldon.

A police press release said that the three men were shot dead at Scotsburg, Upper Corentyne, Berbice during an armed confrontation with BASS. This has been disputed by relatives of the men.

According to the release, the incident stemmed from the arrest of Shazad Bacchus, who had 26 bales of plastic bags for smuggling out of the country, by ranks of BASS who were on patrol at 11:30 pm on Monday. During the arrest, the younger Bacchus reportedly attempted to escape and sustained injuries. He was escorted to the Skeldon Hospital for medical treatment.

The police release said that after this, about 30 persons, some of whom were armed, including the young man's father, stormed the hospital and discharged a number of rounds. They escaped with the younger Bacchus in mini-bus BEE 443.

During the wee hours of yesterday morning a BASS patrol reportedly saw the mini-bus in the Scottsburg area and attempted to stop it, but was greeted with a hail of gunfire. The release said the patrol was forced to return fire and about five persons were seen scampering away from the mini-bus.

The release continued that when the exchange of gunfire ceased a search of the mini-bus revealed the three shot men who were pronounced dead upon arrival at the Skeldon Hospital.

A .32 pistol, seven live rounds of 9 mm Luger ammunition, four 7.62 live rounds, eight .67 SMC rounds, one .22 pistol with five live rounds and a quantity of spent shells were discovered. The release said that based on evidence, the occupants of the mini-bus escaped with several guns and ammunition.

The police and BASS were said to be combing the area for the escaped persons.

A medical source confirmed that Shazad Bacchus had been taken to the Skeldon Hospital with an injury to his forehead. The source said that a senior member of BASS was at the hospital when he received a radio message that Azad Bacchus was on his way there. The source said that immediately the building was secured but the nephew (Fadil Ally) gained access by climbing through a window. He then opened the main door to allow his uncle to enter. Azad Bacchus, the source said, assaulted the officer and retrieved his son, sending nurses and other medical personnel, running frantically for their lives.

The source further stated that at about 0200 hrs, two shots were fired in front of the hospital as Azad Bacchus made his escape. It is believed that he was wounded there, but still managed to drive his mini-bus BEE 443, to Crabwood Creek, before heading for home in the opposite direction.

Katia Bacchus, 58, mother of Azad and grandmother of Fadil and Shazad, told this newspaper that she had gone downstairs to the toilet and was relaxing when she saw her son's blue mini-bus approaching. She said he and her grandchildren disembarked and he alerted them that he had been shot. Just then, the woman said, "I heard someone say 'me catch you'. I was sitting on the verandah, because I was not getting any sleep, and I see my son lift his hands up in the air, saying he surrender, but the officers from BASS begin to cuff him, along with them two children. They threw them in the Customs van and drive off.

Sabita Shivgobin called Shoba Bacchus, reputed wife of Azad Bacchus, related that it was around 0230 hrs, when her husband got out of his bus, holding his abdomen. He said "'Shoba, I am shot.' I saw everything that they did to him. I saw him surrender."

The mother of six of Bacchus's nine children, said that she attempted to follow them, but was warned that she would be shot. She said she watched as they left in the Customs van, then stopped about 200 yards away. One of the men got out, she said, and returned to Bacchus' mini-bus and fired a shot through the back windscreen.

The bus with its shattered windscreen was still on the road when Stabroek News visited the scene yesterday morning. There was clothing scattered in the driver's seat area. The bus was subsequently removed and lodged at the Skeldon Police Station.

The woman said that shortly after the officers left with the three men, she went to the Skeldon Police Station to enquire about her husband and the others and she encountered a closed gate. She said she went and got her brothers and returned with them to the station, where they were told by an officer that the police were doing their duties, and that she would have to return later.

"At around 6:30 [am] the black clothes police came and ransacked the house and removed the colour television. They took photographs and left," Shivgobin said.

Shivgobin claimed that she had retrieved several spent shells from in front of the home which she shared with Bacchus's mother and sisters, and promised to take legal action over the killing of her husband, his son and nephew.

The bodies of the three men were yesterday at the Skeldon Hospital mortuary with several gunshot wounds. The clothing on the dead men's bodies was dripping wet. A medical source revealed that the nephew was shot at close range with a bullet to the forehead, while Shazad's face was battered, an indication of a severe beating.

A resident of the area, who preferred to remain anonymous, said that Azad and his younger relatives were taken to the Scottsburg foreshore, where they received the fatal shots.

Azad Bacchus was found guilty on March 6, last year of five charges.

He was sentenced by Justice Oswell Legall to ten years in prison on the charge of wounding with intent and seven years each on charges of discharging a loaded firearm, and possession of ammunition and explosives without the relevant licences. The sentences were ordered to run concurrently. The charges against the man had stated that he had two hand grenades, an AK?47 rifle and a self?loading rifle in an arsenal unearthed by the police after a shooting exchange with him on November 17, 1992.

However, Bacchus through his lawyer, Senior Counsel Keith Massiah had filed an appeal of the conviction. On March 16, this year the appeal was heard by then Chancellor Cecil Kennard and Justices of Appeal Claudette Singh and Nandram Kissoon. The three had allowed the appeal and set aside the conviction and sentence ordering a retrial.

They had found that certain contradictions in the evidence were not dealt with in summation.

On June 21, Bacchus and his lawyer moved to the High Court and applied for bail, which was granted in the sum of $300,000, with the condition that the man report to the Skeldon Police Station every Saturday morning.

Bacchus is believed to be the first person in Guyana to have ever used the high?powered AK-47 weapon.

He had skipped bail of $100,000 on December 31, 1992. The bail had been granted to him by a Corriverton magistrate when he had appeared on charges of attempted murder of a policeman and possession of arms and ammunition. He was captured in April 1998 by the Surinamese police during a police dragnet in the capital Paramaribo. (Additional reporting by Samantha Alleyne)