High alert over reformed `Blackie' gang
Guyana Chronicle
February 28, 2002

`The Joint Services feel that this is an extremely dangerous gang and that citizens of Georgetown and its environs should be alert and cautious and sensitive to the need for increased security' - Cabinet Secretary, Dr. Roger Luncheon
A TOP Government official yesterday urged citizens to be alert and take extra security measures as the killer gang which fled the Georgetown Prison on Mash Day Saturday remained at large.

Police yesterday continued their intensive hunt for the five who killed a Prisons Officer and shot another in the head when they escaped in a carefully-planned operation.

Head of the Presidential Secretariat and Cabinet Secretary, Dr. Roger Luncheon told a regular post-Cabinet news conference yesterday that the investigative team looking into the jailbreak involves ranks from the Joint Services with special skills in investigation.

He said that stemming from a meeting held with the Joint Services, which comprises the Guyana Prison Service, the Guyana Fire Service, the Guyana Police Force and the Guyana Defence Force, citizens are urged to increase security measures.

"The most preliminary reports which stemmed from an early morning meeting held today with the Heads of Services was that a gang involving members of the infamous `Blackie' gang, has come together, no doubt arising from their incarceration in jail and plans that were made and put into operation in the Georgetown jail", he said.

"It seems that the place of operation of this apparently reformed gang is Georgetown and its environs. The Joint Services feel that this is an extremely dangerous gang and that citizens of Georgetown and its environs should be alert and cautious and sensitive to the need for increased security."

According to Luncheon, the Heads of the Joint Services recommend that business owners strengthen security measures at their place of business and home.

"Definitely, those who are involved in the provision of public transportation, especially hire car drivers, need to heighten security. Suspicious activities should be reported quickly, particularly group criminal activities and car jacking," he advised.

Police investigating the jailbreak are questioning two Prison Officers, and according to Minister of Home Affairs, Mr. Ronald Gajraj, more can be questioned as long as this is deemed necessary to get to the bottom of the incident.

He said, "people have been taken into custody" as the investigation progresses.

Director of Prisons, Mr. Dale Erskine said the question of how weapons used in the shooting and eventual stabbing to death of 21-year-old Troy Williams and the shooting of Roxanne Whinfield, got into the prison is a matter for investigation.

A gun was reportedly smuggled into the Georgetown Prison late last week and the Chronicle understands prison authorities were Friday alerted that a jailbreak might have been planned during the hectic Mash Day celebrations on city streets.

The dangerous "armed" escapees are reportedly members of the notorious `Blackie' criminal ring. `Blackie' or Linden London was shot dead when he was cornered in a Police-Army operation in an Eccles, East Bank Demerara guest house in February 1999.

`Blackie', a former soldier who absconded from the Army, had led his band on a killing and robbery rampage for years.

Police headquarters identified the escaped prisoners as Dale Moore, Shawn Brown, Mark Fraser, Andrew Douglas and Troy Dick.

The Commission appointed to conduct an inquiry into the daring daylight jailbreak has begun its work.

The Commission of Inquiry, set up by Gajraj will convene tomorrow, the Government Information Agency (GINA) said.

Former Chancellor of the Judiciary, now Chairman of the Police Complaints Authority, Mr. Cecil Kennard is heading the team.

GINA said the Home Affairs Ministry confirmed yesterday that the terms of reference for the investigation have been finalised. Members of the commission include a representative each from the Ministry of Home Affairs, the Police Force and the Guyana Defence Force, as well as a security consultant and a retired officer.

Luncheon yesterday said much emphasis would be placed on security at the Camp Street Prison during the reform process embarked upon by the Government. He said this has many implications including the way in which the prison population is dealt with.

He said too that more aggressive approaches such as segregation and restraining of inmates have not always been well accepted by some sections of society.

"I remember not too long ago a certain population of prisoners was shown in shackles and handcuffs and this had seemingly aroused some consternation in the minds of some people.

"I am saying this to raise the point that in retrospect perhaps criminals or prisoners who can dispatch human lives with such wild abandon, without feeling much remorse, might or should be able to tolerate some physical obstacles placed around their members," he said.

However, he added that this was not a practice at the Camp Street prison and a better environment existed where the inmates were able to move freely.

Luncheon did not rule out the thought of there being interaction between prison officers and wardens and the inmates, adding that while such practices have been frowned upon, they were tolerated.

However, security at prisons countrywide will be boosted through the prison reform process. In the interim, the Government has started this reform process at the Mazaruni Prison where much money has been spent, he said.

"The reform activities have elements of an interactive nature and seek to address security measures in the long and short-term.

"The reality is that the fixture at Durban and Camp Street is a short-term one and therefore, security has to be increased, strengthened, heightened," he noted, adding that the more fundamental aspects of reform have started and are now at a stage of finalisation of finance to be put in place.

President Bharrat Jagdeo on Tuesday said his administration is considering amending the laws, adding that efforts are being made to reduce the overcrowding at the prison by reducing the number of persons pending trial and on remand.

The option of alternative sentencing is also being examined, he said.

Police are trying to determine if the hijacking of a car in the city Monday night was linked to the five escapees.

As Police intensified the manhunt for the killer gang, which had hijacked cars in their escape, two unidentified men Monday night hijacked the car of Oliver Insanally, son of Mr. Vic Insanally, owner of the Guyenterprise advertising agency in Georgetown.

The two gunmen wore helmets and were on a motorcycle when they forced the younger Insanally to stop his car at about 22:50 hrs on a street in Bel Air Park. One of the hijackers forced him to follow the other on the motorcycle and about half an hour later, he was tied up and put off in Cummings Lodge, east of the city, reports said.

Oliver managed to free himself and shortly after met someone with a call phone and was able to alert his family to his plight.

The car was Tuesday found in a trench close to the seawall in North Enmore, East Coast Demerara.

The high drama events Saturday started to unfold at around 11:00 hrs, when a prisoner who works at the laundry approached Prison Officer Williams, 21, to use the "pressing" iron.

Authorities open the prison gates at 11:00 hrs for relatives and friends of inmates to deliver lunch to prisoners.

According to Police, Shawn Brown suddenly appeared and shot Williams.

He then seized the keys and together with the other four darted through the prison's main gate at Camp Street.

They also shot another officer Roxanne Whinfield in the head.

However, before they jumped into a gray motor car that was waiting outside, one of the men reportedly stabbed Williams several times. He fell mortally wounded and his blood was left scattered on the pavement until it was later hosed down.

The car that the men used to escape from the prison, PGG 4697, sped down Vlissengen Road towards Mandela Avenue. But before it could make the turn, a back tyre blew out, officials said.

As it slowed down from the tyre blowout, the men jumped out of the car and allowed it to drift into a nearby drain.

They then turned on two women and a girl, about three, who were approaching the corner in a car.

An eyewitness said the five men with guns and knives forced the three out, jumped into the car, licence plate number PGG 6626, and drove off.

They abandoned this car at Dennis Street and University of Guyana road.

Details about what happened later were sketchy, but reports said the escapees then hijacked another car.