Gunmen ambush Didco, guard shot - $800,000 stolen

By Andrew Richards
Stabroek News
September 2, 1999

Bandits sporting powerful firepower pulled off a brazen daylight robbery on Didco Trading Company in Cowan Street, Kingston yesterday, just 500 yards from Police Headquarters, and escaped with some $800,000 cash.

In a ten-minute rampage, the men shot Didco security guard, Rakaram Singh, in his thighs and hip before taking away his gun and speeding off in a waiting white car with the cash. Singh was last night receiving treatment at a city hospital.

The police arrived about 20 minutes afterwards and quickly threw up road blocks along the East Bank and East Coast Demerara as well as around Georgetown in their bid to snare the bandits.

Up to late yesterday afternoon no-one was held for the robbery.

A shaken Gail Baird, who works at Didco's Cowan Street branch, said it was just after 14:00 hrs and she was just about to answer the telephone when two men armed with a machine gun and hand gun burst into the wholesale outlet firing shots.

Didco employee, Gail Baird, still in shock after the robbery yesterday at the Cowan Street office. (Photo by Ken Moore)

One of the men had a vest pulled over his face, she said, and he, together with his accomplice, pushed the guard and another worker to the floor with guns pointed at their heads. They shot Singh thrice and left him lying on the ground.

Baird said one of the men then turned to her and ordered her to lie on the ground. He demanded to know where they stored the cash. "Whey de money? Whey de money?" Baird said the man asked frantically.

The other man shouted: "Shoot she! Shoot she!" she recalled. In her terror, Baird said she shouted to the cashier to give the men the money before they decided to shoot the workers.

There were some canisters packed in a corner of the office which the bandits saw and ordered the employees to open. Baird said she told them nothing was inside the containers and, after checking, they proceeded to strip her of all the jewellery she had on at the time.

Didco Trading Company cashier Sharon Ramdehol reflecting on the incident yesterday. (Photo by Ken Moore)

The cashier, Sharon Ramdehol, still trembling with fear from the attack shortly after the robbery, told Stabroek News, that the cashier cage was padlocked but she was forced to open it when the bandits threatened to kill her.

The man with the vest over his face ordered Ramdehol to hand over the cash which she promptly did. The bandit then forced her to lie below the counter.

Another employee, Deonauth Sookdeo, was with four other labourers on the top floor of the two-storeyed building which was under repair when he heard the sound of bullets piercing the air.

He said at first he thought it was caused by snapped electrical cables but when he ran to the window he saw the white car parked on the road and the two armed men entering the building downstairs.

Deonauth Sookdeo

Sookdeo said he wasted no time in ducking below the window sill from where he shortly afterwards heard the machine gun fire off several rounds.

He said they were probably saved from harm by the canisters which braced the door. The robbers removed the canisters and the door closed with Sookdeo inches away cloaked up in fear.

When it was clear that the bandits had left, Sookdeo said he and the other men went downstairs and saw the employees in shock and the guard lying on the ground bleeding from his bullet wounds.

An attempt was made to call Didco's head office to inform management of the incident but it was discovered that the bandits had cut the telephone lines.

The foreman for the labourers made contact via his radio set and arrangements were made to transport Singh to a hospital where he was x-rayed and admitted.

A mechanic who operated a workshop adjacent to the Didco building said one of the bandits toting a gun went into the yard and fired several shots in the air then commanded he and his men to lie flat on the concrete to avoid getting hurt.

The robber, afterwards, went up to a car which had pulled up and grabbed the driver out of his seat and forced him, too, to lie on the ground.

It was only last week that Didco moved out most of its operations from Kingston to Ramp Road, Ruimveldt, leaving a small staff to man the operations there.

One man who was in the area to conduct business just prior to the incident said he saw a white car containing five men turn from Parade Street into Cowan Street. He became suspicious when the car hovered at the junction and saw the men peering up the road in the direction of Didco. However, he said he thought it would be safer to go along his way as there was no guarantee that injury would not befall him.

The modus operandi fits the same as several previous robberies where armed bandits used a white car to aid their getaway. The bandits seem to have precise information about when and where money is being stored at their targets. The police have since issued a notice asking the public to be on the look out for a white car with suspicious looking men inside.

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