Police found liable for Brickdam jail death
Stabroek News
November 28, 2001

A three-member jury yesterday found that the police were responsible for the death of Mohammed Shafeek whose battered body was found in the Brickdam lock-ups on September 2 last year.

The jury deliberated for just about seven minutes before presenting their findings to the coroner's inquest presided over by Magistrate Cecil Sullivan.

Shafeek of Canal Number One was arrested early on the morning of September 2, in the vicinity of the Stabroek Market and died between the time of his arrest and the following day, September 3. When relatives visited the lock-ups on September 4, they were informed that the 47-year-old fisherman was dead. After a sustained public outcry an inquest was ordered into the man's death and it commenced on December 11, 2000 and concluded yesterday.

Attorney-at-law Basil Williams appeared on behalf of the deceased's family, while attorney-at-law Sanjeev Datadin represented the interest of the police.

Magistrate Sullivan told Stabroek News that the jury found that Shafeek was beaten by a Lance Corporal and his associates and that he died in the lock-ups.

The magistrate said that he would now forward the jury's findings along with the 13 depositions taken from witnesses to the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) who would take the necessary steps.

Datadin told Stabroek News yesterday that he found the findings of the jury surprising against the weight of the evidence presented in court.

He said that there was only one witness, Neil McKenzie, who pointed an accusing finger at the police. McKenzie was Shafeek's cellmate.

Datadin said that McKenzie was never cross-examined by him because he never returned to court. He said that even after the police looked for him at the address he gave the court he was nowhere to be found.

Sullivan said that McKenzie was questioned by Williams and the jury but Datadin was not present in court on that date. He supported Datadin's statement that the man never returned to court to be questioned by the lawyer. The magistrate also confirmed that McKenzie was the only witness who gave damaging evidence against the police.

According to Datadin, since he was unable to cross-examine the witness the jury should not have acted on his evidence.

Since the finding was the result of an inquest, the attorney general would be unable to appeal the matter, but a writ of certiorari could be applied for in the High Court, where a judge would hear arguments and decide whether the finding was reasonable or unreasonable.

At the time of his death, the police had claimed in a release that Shafeek had died at 2030 hrs on September 2, having being arrested for loitering while under the influence of alcohol. No marks of violence were seen on his body at the time of his arrest.

An autopsy performed on the man's body had found that he sustained fractures to the neck and skull. Stabroek News had seen photographs of the body, which had suggested that the man suffered a severe beating. (Samantha Alleyne)