`Blackie' gang suspected in food mart attack
Guyana Chronicle
March 8, 2002

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One bandit threw boxes of chocolates at terrified children, ordering them to eat and shut up

THE five prisoners who killed a prison officer and shot another in the head when they fled the Georgetown Prison two Saturdays ago, may have carried out the precision movie-style attack Wednesday night on a food mart at Annandale, East Coast Demerara, sources said yesterday.

Police intelligence reports say the five were still operating together and may have been joined by one or two more bandits, Police headquarters said in a statement yesterday.

Witnesses said between five and seven heavily-armed bandits closed in on Jane's Food Mart at Annandale at around 19:00 hrs Wednesday, and like in the `Dog Day Afternoon' movie, held the proprietors, their staff and about 20 customers under siege for about half an hour.

The bandits demanded cash and jewellery, and after terrorising the proprietors Vivekanand and Jane Parasram at gunpoint, beat customer Kampta Persaud on the head with a gun. Mr. Parasram was also beaten on the head and the wound took about 10 stitches, he said.

Then loading a quantity of groceries in Persaud's mini-bus, the bandits made off with the vehicle and about $1.5M in cash.

During the ordeal, they were also said to have cut the telephone line to the building from outside, in an attempt to prevent anyone making contact with the police or anyone else outside the premises.

Witnesses said the gang also took pains to be quiet as they kept customers and staff at bay and robbed the couple and others.

Customers who spoke with the Chronicle yesterday said that among them were little children who began crying in fear.

On seeing this, one of the bandits snapped at them: "Wha you all want?" One child replied, "Chocolate," and the bandit ordered one of the sales attendants to pass two boxes of Charles chocolate, (each containing a dozen bars).

Then throwing these to the children, he ordered them to eat and shut up. The men also called on an attendant to take down a haversack (displayed for sale), and used it to fetch out groceries to which they had helped themselves.

It is understood that they also beat some customers on the head with guns and robbed them. One woman said her husband was struck at the back of his head with a gun, then relieved of his wallet containing his money, documents for his car, receipts and keys for his house. She said they had only recently changed locks, and will now have to change them again.

Parents related that young children in the shop were badly traumatised, especially on seeing the guns, hearing a shot fired and seeing the men in the shop being beaten with gun butts.

The five escaped prisoners, Mark Fraser, Andrew Douglas, Shawn Brown, Troy Dick and Dale Moore, are all linked to the notorious `Blackie' criminal gang.

They killed Prison Officer, Troy Williams, 21, and shot Woman Prison Officer, Roxanne Whinfield in the head as they fled on Mash Day. Whinfield, 36, is in critical condition in the Intensive Care Unit of the Georgetown Hospital.

The notorious `Blackie' criminal ring was led by Linden `Blackie' London who 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.

The Police yesterday said they had responded to a number of reports of sightings of the bandits but have been unable to locate any of them.

"We are continuing this search with more intensity. Our operations are being conducted in two phases", the Police said.

They said one phase entails an investigation into the circumstances resulting in the escape and in the other, the Force is conducting overt and covert operations aimed at recapturing the criminals. All intelligence agencies have since been activated, the Police said.

"Our perceived silence is not an indication of the level of the operation that is being conducted to recapture these criminals. Our intention is to preserve the integrity of the operations aimed at recapturing the escapees who according to intelligence are still operating in unison and may have added one or two members to their numbers."

The Police added that their activities are ongoing and will not cease until the escapees are recaptured.

They called on members of the public to assist them with any information, which may lead to the criminals' recapture.

"To the relatives, close associates and other concerned persons, we call on them to advise the escapees to accept the easiest option of handing themselves over to the Police or Prison authorities", the Police said.

The bus stolen in Wednesday night's robbery at the food mart was yesterday morning recovered by the police at Clay Brick Road, Goedverwagting, East Coast Demerara.

The owner Persaud, an East Coast resident, said the police informed him that the vehicle was recovered intact around 06:30 hrs. It was found abandoned, with the keys in the ignition.

Persaud who still appeared somewhat nervous as he spoke with the Chronicle yesterday, was recovering from the blow he received to the back of the head from one of the bandits.

At the time the men entered the shop, Parasram who was fixing his scale in the forecourt of the building was chatting with Persaud who had come to buy ice.

According to Persaud, he did not intend staying long in the store and had left the keys in the ignition of the mini-bus, but events unfolded rather swiftly.

On entering the store the bandits began forcing the customers to lie flat, face down on the floor, ordering "Nobody raise yuh head! Nobody say a word!" customers related yesterday.

Three of them approached Jane who was operating as cashier at the time, and holding the gun to her chest, demanded money and jewellery. She said she had no jewellery, and they demanded that she hand over the cash.

Not satisfied with what they were given, they forced the couple upstairs and ransacked their bedrooms, but before doing so, fired a bullet which grazed the businessman's ear.

The regular cashier did not report for duty that day, they said.

During the operation, one member of the gang assumed the duties of sentry at the entrance to the store, forcing other customers to lie on the floor as they entered.

The nervous and terrified customers obeyed.