Residents in gun battle with gang
Police dragnet fails again
Man, woman apparently kidnapped, fears grow By Samantha Alleyne
Stabroek News
April 11, 2002

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Gunfire from residents yesterday forced a gang of heavily armed bandits to flee from a Campbellville home but they eluded a police dragnet and concern was last night mounting for a man and woman who were apparently kidnapped by the criminals before the attack. (See other story on ...)

The morning foray by the bandits is the latest in a series of stunning attacks believed linked to the Mashramani Day break-out from the Georgetown Prisons and as on the previous occasions, the police failed to nab them.

The bandits managed to flee the Dadanawa Street, Section K, Campbellville scene in the burgundy coloured Corona in which they had arrived. They then abandoned it in Pike Street, Kitty where they hijacked a Four Runner from outside of the American School. The burgundy car, PGG 232, belonged to one of the two missing persons, 23-year-old Marceline Miranda Basdeo.

A police press release yesterday said that they were hunting for the gang of four. The release added that the police were making enquiries into the disappearance of Basdeo from Leonora, West Coast Demerara -- whose car bore the false number plate PHH 4617 after it was found abandoned by the bandits -- and Andre Ramphal of Anral Shipping whose car, PGG 6982, was discovered parked in front of the Hotel Tower on Main Street, yesterday morning.

According to the police release, information received disclosed that about 7:30 am yesterday a resident of Dadanawa Street was held at gun point by two bandits from a gang of four, who had arrived in the burgundy coloured Corona motor car with number plate, PHH 4617. The bandits demanded cash and jewellery and the resident raised an alarm. Two public-spirited citizens responded by discharging several rounds at the bandits who returned fire destroying a number of glass windows and other parts of nearby houses.

The release also said that the car the bandits were in slammed into a vehicle belonging to economist Professor Clive Thomas, but they managed to escape. They proceeded to Pike Street, Campbellville where they robbed another citizen at gun point in front of the American School, of a silver-gray Four Runner, PGG 8742 and a security guard of a communication set, while discharging several rounds. Members of the Target Special Squad and other support arms of the force and agencies pursued the bandits and after an armed confrontation, the bandits abandoned the Four Runner, which was yesterday found aback of Buxton, East Coast Demerara. The bandits are now believed to be on foot.

Stabroek News visited Section K shortly after the attack and was told that the bandits pulled up in front of the house on Dadanawa Street in the burgundy Corona and scaled the fence taking a woman who was in the yard, captive. The bandits then dragged the woman into the home and demanded cash and jewellery. They ransacked the home and dealt the woman several blows, but got nothing.

They then fired several shots in and out of the home causing damage to several parts of the building. Neighbours, on hearing the gunshots became alarmed and two residents, who are licensed firearm holders, fired shots in the bandits' direction.

One resident recalled that he was having breakfast when he heard the shots. He said that he commanded his family to lie on the floor and crawled on his stomach into his bedroom where he collected his gun and crawled into his verandah. The man said that he could not take aim at the bandits but he fired random shots in the direction of their car hitting the front windscreen and several parts of the car.

However, the man's maid, Anita, who did not heed her boss's warning ran onto the verandah to investigate. Upon seeing her, the bandits fired shots at the house. A bullet bounced off a wall and grazed the woman's left ear. When Stabroek News saw her yesterday there was blood on the side of her face.

Another resident said that he saw when the men pulled up in front of his neighbour's home as he was in his yard but he did not know anything was wrong until he heard the gunfire. The man said he ran for his gun and returned fire at the bandits.

A woman said she was looking at the bandits, but they saw her and fired shots at her shattering windowpanes in the process.

In their haste to escape the bandits reversed into the back of Dr Thomas's car, then backed into a fence before turning around and speeding away in the opposite direction from where they had come.

Dr Thomas yesterday said he was on the road when he saw the car backing up in the direction of his and he motored into his yard to avoid any confrontation. He said that the damage to his car was minimal and said it was only after the bandits left that he was aware of what had really transpired.

Early yesterday morning a number of residents were milling around in the street discussing the morning's occurrences. Several women appeared distraught and had to be comforted.

Three empty shells were seen in the street and they were said to have to be fired from an AK-47. Residents said that while the gun battle was going on, children who were in the area to attend early morning classes ran helter-skelter to escape being hit by the flying bullets. A child who was about to leave home for school panicked and ran round and round her family's car completely disoriented.

Bullet holes could be seen in the walls of a number of houses where the bandits had fired and one woman pointed to two large holes in her curtain where the bandits had discharged rounds.

Shortly after the bandits left the area the car they were using was found abandoned in Pike Street. Stabroek News was told that a parent was dropping off her four children at the American School when the bandits pounced on her, forced her out of the car and escaped with it. The burgundy car was riddled with bullet holes and two live bullets were found in the car along with a number of photographs and documents reportedly belonging to the owner of the car.

The police arrived on the scene shortly after and were seen dusting the car for fingerprints before it was removed from the scene.

This newspaper understands that the police had received a tip off that the men had travelled to the back of North Ruimveldt.

Journalists followed the police aback of North Ruimveldt along a trail and after about 45 minutes of driving the vehicle the reporters were in ended up aback of Mocha on the East Bank Demerara. There was no sign of the law enforcement officers by then and it is suspected that they went along another trail, which reportedly leads to Timehri and/or the East Coast Demerara. At this point the journalists abandoned the chase and returned to the city.

Head of the Presidential Secretariat, Dr Roger Luncheon, yesterday told reporters that after the foiled robbery and hijacking the police had spread out in an arc surrounding the area where the bandits were thought to be hiding out. He said that the police were operating both within and outside the arc in the attempt to flush the bandits out. He said that the primary objective was to recapture the five Mash Day escapees -- Andrew Douglas, Dale Moore, Troy Dick, Mark Fraser and Shawn Browne who are suspected of involvement in a string of crimes.

But late yesterday afternoon, it appeared, at least in one area, that the police had abandoned the search and the bandits had once again escaped their dragnet.

Police who apparently formed part of the arc Luncheon had spoken about, combed the backlands of Lusignan/Buxton, ECD for a while.

According to reports, the bandits in the Four Runner vehicle used an estate access road aback of Lusignan, which passes by the Lusignan penal facility, through the canefields of the La Bonne Intention (LBI) to the Enmore Sugar Estate further up the ECD. Evidence indicates that the roadway could also be accessed via Enterprise ECD.

According to a source, the vehicle was spotted yesterday morning driving behind a truck transporting canecutters and was stopped at a barrier leading into the estate road, after the truck had passed. At that point, the men allegedly told the security guard that they were members of the police force. This prompted closer examination of the vehicle's interior where, it was reported, he saw guns leading him to ask for identification.

It is not certain whether this was produced, but it was learnt that the vehicle with the men was allowed to proceed along the road where it was said to have crashed. A short while later the police arrived at the checkpoint and headed in the direction taken by the bandits, but later in the day left the area with the Four Runner vehicle. The bandits are believed to have escaped on foot in the surrounding cane fields.

Later yesterday afternoon personnel from the Criminal Investigations Department were observed at their Eve Leary headquarters carrying out forensic tests on the vehicle, and checking it for clues likely to assist them in their investigations.

A resident of an ECD village, who claimed to have been in the backlands earlier yesterday, said that the sound of gunshots led to him beating a hasty retreat in fear of his life. (Additional reporting by Oscar P. Clarke)