Crucial search period missed?
Stabroek News
April 4, 2002

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A police manhunt continues on the Soesdyke/Linden Highway for the gang that killed controversial Police Superintendent, Leon Fraser, but there were nagging concerns yesterday that a crucial window of opportunity to corner the criminals was missed on Tuesday.

A visit to the area yesterday saw a couple of roadblocks manned by armed policemen wearing bullet-proof vests and helmets, and patrols along the highway. The attackers, it was feared, would have long abandoned the area since they had the entire night to plot their escape.

Fraser and a party of officers from the squad were acting on a tip-off that five escapees from the Camp Street jail were in the Yarowkabra community after the discovery of an abandoned car thought to be one hijacked the night before in the city. Commissioner of Police (ag), Floyd McDonald, confirmed this on Tuesday afternoon at a news conference. Fraser was fatally shot in the head during a shoot-out shortly after 1400 hrs on Tuesday. He was rushed to the St Joseph Mercy Hospital where he was pronounced dead on arrival and his body was later transferred to Lyken's Funeral Home.

In an attempt to establish a possible sequence of events leading to the death of the famed cop, a Stabroek News reporter yesterday proceeded up a road off the Soesdyke/Linden Highway referred to as Pump House road, where, according to a resident, the abandoned vehicle had been located.

The area consists of huge sand pits and thick vegetation - perfect cover for an ambush. There are also some private homes and a farm which appears abandoned and uninhabited at a glance.

A resident who lives in close proximity to the roadway said that around the time Fraser was shot, he had heard a volley of gunshots, but it had been brief.

He said that a large number of police ranks had been evident in the highway community since the shooting of Fraser on Tuesday afternoon and had been actively engaged in searching parts of the area for clues.

Yesterday, a senior police officer told this newspaper that no other law enforcement officer was injured in the shoot-out. He said that a post-mortem will be performed on the body of the cop today.

On Monday night there were several car hijacks and it is suspected that the persons who killed Fraser committed the acts.

On that night, armed bandits hijacked a car belonging to Colonel Christine King and headed up to Buxton where they abandoned hers and hijacked another. The bandits then reportedly moved to Meadow Brook Gardens where they beat and robbed two Canadian citizens also hijacking their car which was found in the vicinity of where Fraser was killed.

Yesterday, Head of the Presidential Secretariat, Dr Roger Luncheon, told a press briefing that there was strong suspicion that it was indeed the same group that escaped from the prison. He said that it was not confirmed at their morning task force meeting but they were advised that confirmation would be made on technical tests being done on Col King's car.

So far, the only specific information made public by the force is that the officer was killed by gunshot/s to the head and that he along with others from his unit were responding to a "tip-off" that the five wanted men were in the vicinity of Yarowkabra. The five are believed to be the Mash Day jailbreak escapees.

The five made their claim to fame on February 23 when they fled the Camp Street jail killing a prison officer and wounding another in the process. They are Dale Moore, Andrew Douglas, Troy Dick, Shawn Browne and Mark Fraser. Since their escape the police have placed a bounty of $500,000 on each of their heads.

From all indications, Fraser's death was the result of a well-planned strike as the attackers seemed to have concentrated their fire on him and retreated from the area immediately after. Several questions arise, the first of which is why didn't the police team not pursue the attackers on Tuesday afternoon. Fraser's shooting was said to have occurred at 2:30 pm, sufficiently before nightfall to allow for such pursuit. Why wasn't a police/army party immediately mobilised?

Other questions needing answers from the force are: Who provided the tip-off? Was the tipster part of the ambush? Why didn't officers in the vicinity of Yarowkabra respond to the tip-off? Who received the tip-off? Was it Fraser's unit? Did Fraser sustain a single gunshot wound or multiple ones? How many of Fraser's colleagues accompanied him on the operation? What was their response after he was shot? Did they try to engage the attackers? Were they able to identify the shooter(s) as the five escapees? Was Fraser shot while in his vehicle or out of it? Was he shot when he pushed his head into a car on the scene? Did the attackers only fire shots at Fraser and then flee the scene? The police have so far not provided any information on these questions.

Luncheon assured the public and the members of the force along with Fraser's family and all those persons who have suffered at the hands of bandits that the Office of the President and Cabinet were committed to its quest to remove the "scourge from the nation, from the people."

Luncheon said that "in the face of [this] additional insult to the law [and] ... the dignity of the police force, [the time had come] for a much heightened commitment by the law enforcement agencies and administration." He said that as time unfolded the additional measures being put in place would be brought to the public's attention. "Not that it was business as usual, but it definitely will not be business as usual anymore."

He said that security was also being beefed up in view of the UK/Caribbean Forum and the Indian cricket tour and pointed out that if the search for the criminals along with the other responsibilities was left to the force alone it would be a demand beyond their capability. As such the other joint services, the Guyana Defence Force, the Guyana Prison Service and the Guyana Fire Service, have been included and various task forces have been established to deal with intelligence and operational matters.

The 42-year-old slain officer was a father of two and had been a member of the force for the past 17 years.

And the People's Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) in expressing condolences to the slain officer's family described him as "a very courageous and dedicated officer whose defence of the public efforts to create a atmosphere for all peace loving, law abiding citizens has became legendary." The party said that Fraser was loved by most, but hated by criminals and those who benefited from crimes. The party's statement said that the killing must be viewed in the context of the atmosphere created, more so in recent times by talk show hosts and other forces. It said that Fraser and the squad he headed were made targets by those forces who have inculcated a spirit of hate for the fallen officer. It pointed out that Fraser was on record as saying that he knew only of one way to do his job and that was professionally, which was a response he made after being attacked publicly by the opposition. The statement said Fraser will be missed for the courage and integrity he brought to his job.