Injured officer undergoes surgery
No sightings of escapees
Stabroek News
February 26, 2002

Prison officer Roxanne Winfield, who sustained life-threatening injuries when she was shot in the line of duty during a jailbreak on Saturday, was late last night undergoing an emergency operation at the Georgetown Public Hospital.

Dr Richard Spann, a Trinidadian neurosurgeon, who was at the Davis Memorial Hospital had been contacted by relatives of the injured officer and had examined her on Sunday night.

Winfield, 37, of Buxton, East Coast Demerara (ECD), was shot in the head by one of the escaped convicts during their escape bid from the Camp street, Georgetown facility. The police had said in a release issued late Saturday afternoon that one of the escapees, Shawn Browne, had shot Winfield after and another prison officer, 21-year-old, Troy Williams of New Amsterdam, Berbice, who subsequently died. Browne and fellow felons, Dale Moore, Andrew Douglas, Mark Fraser and Troy Dick then successfully fled the prison confines.

The police later issued wanted bulletins urging members of the public to report any sightings of the escaped men, whose trail seems to have gone cold.

Winfield was admitted to the Georgetown Public Hospital in a critical condition on Saturday and had been in the Intensive Care Unit ever since.

Speaking with Stabroek News yesterday, sister of Winfield, Sharon Gonsalves, said that family members had initiated contact with Dr Spann, a Trinidadian neurosurgeon on Sunday evening and asked him to examine Winfield. They immediately took him to the GPH, but a doctor there informed them that they needed to get a letter from Minister of Health, Dr Leslie Ramsammy, before Dr Spann could examine the patient, the sister said.

Success was finally achieved after an approximately two and a half hour wait, when Dr Ramsammy arrived at the hospital and facilitated the doctor's entry.

After a preliminary examination Dr Spann recommended a CT-Scan, which was performed yesterday morning at the Woodlands Hospital, the sister said.

Meanwhile, preparations were made for the arrival of two other specialists from neighbouring Trinidad and Tobago, whose tickets were procured by Winfield's family. The two specialists and their requisite equipment arrived on a BWIA flight from the neighbouring republic yesterday afternoon and they immediately began preparing for the surgery.

Asked about financing for these arrangements, the relative stated that so far the family had dug deep into its pockets to cover all costs. The relative wondered whether it was not automatic for someone, especially from the disciplined services who was injured in the line of duty, to receive urgent attention from their employer. Winfield's husband, the relative also stated, was due to arrive tomorrow.

Earlier, this newspaper had visited the hospital where several concerned colleagues of Winfield were seen milling around. Prison Chaplain Fay Clarke who had gone to visit the patient spoke to reporters afterwards appealing for nationwide prayer for the injured mother of three.

According to Clarke there was great concern and compassion among prison officers for the well-being of their injured colleague, especially since another had died as a result of the jailbreak.

Questioned on how the prison institution was dealing with the circumstances, the chaplain stated that measures were being instituted to bring about a unified approach to the unfortunate occurrence.

Prior to this Public Relations Officer of the GPH, Kwame McCoy, told reporters that financing for the medical procedures were to be borne by government via a collaborative effort by the ministries of Home Affairs and Health.

Meanwhile, there has been no word from the police on any sightings of the escaped convicts yesterday.

Contacted by Stabroek News yesterday Police Public Relations officer, Assistant Superintendent David Ramnarine, could only confirm that the manhunt was still on. He was unable to offer any other information.

A release from the Guyana Human Rights Association (GHRA), yesterday extended sympathy and condolences to families and fellow officers on the death and severe injury of the officers. The GHRA said it saw the incident as being directly related to the problem of overcrowding at the Camp Street prison.

It said it welcomed the establishment of the Criminal Justice Reform Committee to look at ways of examining mechanisms for the effective addressing of the overcrowding of the prisons.

In the interim, it proposed that the magistracy consult with the prison authorities to reduce the dangers posed to officers by the current uncoordinated policies.

The release from the Guyana Police Force on Saturday had stated that the five men had staged their daring jailbreak at about 11:00 am after shooting the two officers.

According to the release, initial reports had indicate that a prisoner who was working at the laundry had approached the officers and requested to use an iron. Shortly afterwards, Brown appeared and shot the officers before seizing the keys and bursting to freedom with the other four.

The police said that once the group had cleared the main entrance they boarded PGG 4697, a gray Toyota Camry, which was waiting and sped away in the direction of Albouystown. But eyewitnesses and the owner of that car told this newspaper that the car was hijacked one corner away from the prison in the vicinity of George Street.

This car was ditched on Mandela Avenue in a trench opposite the well and the police said "the bandits then hijacked another motorcar PGG 6626." They drove to Dennis Street and the University of Guyana road where they abandon the second car.

Owner of PGG 6626, Rhonda Marshall of East Ruimveldt later related her ordeal to Stabroek News. She, her mother and her four-month-old baby had been on their way home after visiting a friend, when the men held them up with guns and knives and forced them out of the car.

The car was later found in Sophia but without the baby's car seat, and with its wiring and tyres damaged. Marshall's driver's licence and other documents were scattered in the car and all the money in her purse, which was over $7,000 had been taken.

Director of Prisons, Dale Erskine, told Stabroek News yesterday in a telephone interview that in relation to the issue of security, the Prison Service had organised 24-hour protection for Winfield to be carried out using a shift system.

On Sunday, Patrick King, Winfield's relative had told members of the media that family members were concerned for the injured woman's safety as persons had gone to the health institution claiming to be relatives.

Neither Erskine, nor the police have shed any light as yet on the origins of the weapon(s) used in the attack. Prison officers had said earlier that the gun(s) were not service issue.

The worst year for jail breakouts in recent times was 1999. On August 29 of that year four persons made a mid-morning bid for freedom from the Georgetown prison. Maxwell 'Lunkie' Melville and three convicted prisoners scaled the John Street fence and escaped in a waiting car.

As a consequence of that breach, Minister of Home Affairs, Ronald Gajraj, convened a Board of Enquiry headed by Peter Willems. The board found that there had been a breakdown of the custodial system on the day in question, and recommended that the surveillance cameras be activated and extra barbed wire placed on top of the fence. Subsequent to the submission of the report, one person was dismissed and several others transferred.

Even while the report was under consideration, however, another inmate made good his escape from the Georgetown jail on November 6, by scaling the fence near to the D'Urban Street gate. Gajraj was later to disclose that the surveillance cameras, although working, were not being monitored at the time of the escape.

Not long afterwards, a prisoner at the Mazaruni prison followed suit and made his getaway while working on the farm. On December 9, three more inmates from the Mazaruni jail escaped, ostensibly while they were locked down in the wee hours of the morning.

Prior to 1999, there had been breakouts, riots and other problems of a serious nature in the Georgetown, Mazaruni and Lusignan prisons.