Corporal Faikall's murder has gone unpunished Editorial
Stabroek News
October 29, 2001

Almost four years ago, Police Corporal Richard Faikall was mercilessly gunned down as he valiantly attempted to fight off an unprecedented invasion of the Anna Regina branch of the Guyana National Co-operative Bank (GNCB).

Around seven or eight men participated in this audacious raid which glaringly bared the shortcomings of the police force. The robbers made off with $50M. Besides the slaying of Corporal Faikall, the use by the bandits of human shields to make their getaway was particularly repugnant.

Earlier this month, a major chapter of this high voltage drama was played out in the High Court with riveting testimony from those who endured the spine-tingling events.

After a trial that lasted over 50 days and which was efficiently conducted considering the number of witnesses and other challenges, five men: Toolsie Persaud, Maurice Teixeira, Rabindranauth Singh, Nizam Mohammed and Patrick Gunraj were acquitted on the capital charge of murdering Corporal Faikall. Earlier, in the lower courts, three others had been discharged.

As hard as they tried, state prosecutors were unable to drive home their case. In addition to beng arrayed against a battery of defence lawyers, state counsel were put at the helm of a rickety boat and put out to sail on a turbulent sea of substandard police work.

It was summed up in one sentence by the trial judge as he discharged the accused "there was much investigation to be done in this matter and the police failed to carry this out". Among some of the glaring deficiencies was the incredibly incompetent handling by the police of one particular identification parade. This led to the discounting of vital identification evidence and the judge in his summing up said the parade was not consistent with standard procedure. The date of one of the ID parades was also thrown into considerable doubt when it should not have been.

True to form, a caution statement by the number one accused was thrown out after the defence's argument that it was obtained through the use of police violence was upheld. The syndrome of beaten confessions seems to be alive and well in the methods of the police.

A piece of paper with a sketch of the interior of a building that could have been a crucial piece of the prosecution's case was never tendered and it is unclear what the police did with it.

A key deficiency in the case was the absence of ballistics testimony that would have linked the bullets found in Faikall's body with the weapons used by the bandits thereby dispelling the defence's argument that it was the police that had mistakenly shot their own man. A record of the ammunition distributed to the police ranks prior to their dispatch to the robbery scene was also not presented by the police when it should have been readily available.

The case epitomised all that has gone wrong with our police force. It can hardly put together a credible case to convince a jury even in the murder of one of its own and where several witnesses came forward to testify and identify the accused.

It boggles the mind that in a large operation like the invasion and the robbery of the bank the police were unable to gather sufficient physical evidence on seven or eight robbers to convict even one person.

The murder of Corporal Faikall as he was courageously discharging his duty while others around him dived for cover and guns jammed was a severe blow. The public wound has been salted by the acquittals.

It is hoped that the assistance that the UK government is generously providing to our police force will target the glaring weaknesses in its operations. Four senior officers are now receiving training from their British counterparts and more training opportunities are being considered.

The outcome of this trial should ignite an immediate review of the police handling of the investigation and evidence gathering and perhaps it can be submitted for critical scrutiny by some reputable police agency.

One gap for immediate redress is the woeful inadequacy of the police in forensics and ballistics science. Repairing this is an undertaking that the government should give the highest priority to.

The management of this case in the court system also needs to be looked at. Should it take four years for a serious case of this type to be disposed of? Over a period like this, memories dull, versions of events inevitably change and witnesses die, migrate or change their minds. The problems are endless. It should be noted that the trial on the $50M robbery charge is still to take place. A case of this type should be expedited through the court system with reasonable time being given to the defence in both the lower and high courts to prepare their cases.