Two missing as car hijackers strike again
-- gang exchanges gunfire with city residents
Guyana Chronicle
April 11, 2002

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A YOUNG woman and the head of a city business firm were reported missing up to late last night as Police units, including the special Anti-Crime squad, kept up an intense search for a gang of car hijackers which attacked residents in a Georgetown ward early yesterday morning.

Missing were Marcellene Basdeo, 23, an accountant with the Universal Travel Service in the city, and of Leonora, West Coast Demerara, and Ramjeet Ramphal, 48, Managing Director of Anral Investments Limited, popularly known for its shipping business.

Basdeo's car, with a false licence plate, was used by four bandits in the robbery attack in Prashad Nagar and Ramphal's car was up to yesterday morning outside the Hotel Tower, Police said.

According to a relative, Ramphal left home Tuesday afternoon for dance classes at the Georgetown School of Ballroom and Latin Dance at Hotel Tower.

The relative said Ramphal, who has a reputed wife and a son overseas, was last seen leaving the hotel at around 21:00 hrs.

Police found his car, PGG 6982, parked and secured in front of the hotel yesterday morning.

The Basdeo family has been thrown into anguish over her disappearance and the discovery of her "working clothes" hanging on a container behind Demerara Distillers Limited, at Water and Schumaker Streets yesterday morning.

The travel service she works with is not far off from where her blouse, skirt and "tights" were found.

She reportedly left work at around 17:05 hrs for dance classes at the Hotel Tower and when she did not return home on time, relatives said they dialled her cell phone, but got a message that the phone was either turned off or out of range.

Relatives continued their frantic search in the city throughout the night and said when they tried the cell phone again early yesterday morning, someone answered, reporting that they had the phone, along with the missing girl's banking card.

The person told the relatives that if they wanted the phone, they would have to go to the junction of the Linden/Soesdyke highway. They said this was communicated to the Police.

Basdeo's car was finally located at around 08:00 hrs in Prashad Nagar, opposite the American School, riddled with bullet holes.

The gang had already changed the licence plate of her car from PGG 232 to PHH 4617.

Residents in the area said the men had used the car in an attempted robbery.

Witnesses said that at about 07:30 hrs, the heavily armed men pulled up outside a home in Dadanawa Street.

According to a close friend of the family, two of them jumped the fence and held on to the female occupant of the house and her maid. They were both tending the flower garden at the time.

One of the men was attempting to drag the woman into her house as he demanded cash and jewellery, the family friend said.

She started screaming despite the command of the men, was hit on the forehead and sustained a minor cut on the lip.

As she began screaming, two nearby residents started shooting at the bandits from their homes, witnesses told the Chronicle.

The two men inside the yard aborted their mission and took off over the fence and into the car, they said.

As the residents continued firing at the bandits, the men fired back, shattering glass windows and other parts of the houses.

A maid from one of the houses from where shots were coming suffered a minor gash to the side of her head from one of the bullets from the bandits.

In their bid to escape, Police said the car the bandits were in slammed into that of University of Guyana Professor Clive Thomas.

However, the men managed to escape the hail of gunshots as they sped away.

Witnesses said that as the gang reached the American School in Prashad Nagar, they held a woman at gunpoint and ordered her and her two children out of the silver grey Pathfinder, PGG 8742, they were in.

The security guard on duty tried to get backup through radio communication, but the bandits grabbed hold of his set.

The bandits abandoned Basdeo's car and sped away in the vehicle they commandeered.

The owner of the travel service where Basdeo works was in shock and trying to come to grips about how the men turned up obliquely opposite her home and the fact that the Pathfinder seized belongs to her sister-in-law.

The Target Special Squad and other support arms of the Police Force and other agencies pursued the men to Buxton on the East Coast Demerara.

Police said there was an armed confrontation with the gang which abandoned the vehicle aback of Buxton and fled.

Up to late yesterday afternoon, the Target Special Squad and "support elements" were pursuing the bandits in a wide expanse of cane fields.

During the manhunt, Police found a camp in the Buxton backlands which they suspect was used by the gang of five which escaped from the Georgetown Prison on February 23 last.

Sources said that during the search Police also came across a brother of Andrew Douglas, one of the five escapees, and he was being questioned last night.

It is understood that the Army is involved in the search operation.

The five escapees - Douglas, Mark Fraser, Dale Moore, Troy Dick and Shawn Brown have since been linked to a series of criminal activities, including robbery under arms, car hijacking and murder.

Superintendent Leon Fraser, a top-anti-crime cop and senior member of the `Black Clothes' Police, was killed last week Tuesday as he and other members of the unit approached an abandoned vehicle hidden among bushes in the Yarowkabra area, on the Linden-Soesdyke highway. Police have linked members of the gang to the killing.

Fraser, shot in the head, was the second murder victim of the gang which also killed Prison Officer Troy Williams, 21, when it broke out of the Georgetown Prison. One of the five also shot Woman Prison Officer, Roxanne Whinfield, 36, in the head as they fled and she remains critically wounded in the Georgetown Hospital.

Police have also linked Shaka Blair, who was shot dead Saturday morning by cops when they attempted to arrest the ex-soldier at Buxton, to recent car hijackings and robberies.

However, Blair's relatives and the main Opposition People's National Congress Reform (PNC/R) have challenged the Police account of his death and the PNC/R Tuesday organised a march in Georgetown to protest the fatal shooting.

Police have asked members of the public to be on the lookout for any suspicious looking persons, and to report such information to the nearest police station.

The Police are also prepared to take calls on telephone numbers 226-8869, 226-1326, 225-3650, 226-0449, 226-1389, 226-7065, 227-1149 or 225-2700.