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A RETIRED public servant of Friendship Village, East Coast Demerara, who said she has been speaking out against criminal activities perpetrated by some residents in the area, was early yesterday morning attacked by a band of gunmen who torched her two houses and shot at the family as they tried to escape from the burning buildings.
Her son was shot as he tried to escape and the woman and a grandchild had to jump to safety through a window from the top floor of one of the houses in the village that adjoins Buxton. Others were also wounded as they escaped.
Both buildings were completely destroyed by the fire along with two cars and two motorcycles that were parked in the yard.
A horse belonging to the family was also shot in the neck and killed by the band. Livestock also perished in the blaze.
Some animals that were burnt were seen lying in the rubble later in the day, some still showing signs of life.
Ms. Edris Chester, of 144 Brusche Dam, said she was in bed around 01:20 hrs when she heard an explosion and felt an unusual heat in the house. She said that upon checking, she saw fire at the cupboard of her kitchen and the flames spreading to the wall nearby.
Chester and her four-year-old grandson who was asleep when the fire began, and her son Devon, were in the top flat of the two-storey building while three other occupants were in the bottom flat.
The distressed women said that when she saw what was happening she shouted, "Fire! Fire!...Help! Help!"
She said that Devon who was in the third bedroom jumped out of his bed and also shouted for fire. He immediately rushed to go through a door to get some water and was met with a hail of bullets, she related.
Chester said that despite the bullets being fired in his direction, her son managed to go and get a bucket of water which he threw on the blaze and quelled it a great lot.
In his desperation to save the building, he rushed to the door once again even as the gunmen continued shooting, bullets hitting the roof and the front wall of the building.
"I too rushed to the door...it was a life and death (situation) and when I looked out at the stairway to go down the step, that too was on fire. So I rushed back and went into my bedroom and I went under my bed and started praying and studying what to do with my four-year-old grandson who was asleep in the bed."
Chester said that even as the fire spread, gunshots were still being fired at the house.
She said she then heard her son shouting, "Mom, ah get shot in me hand."
She said she went to the bedroom door and saw her two suites in the hall on fire.
At that she turned to her grandson who was awake and said to him, "You have got to be safe. I said, `Baby you will have to jump through the window'".
She said he responded saying, "Granny I'm scared".
The flames then spread to the bedroom wall and thick black smoke was coming towards them, Chester recalled.
The child, in panic, then attempted to jump through the window and Chester said she held on to him.
"I said, `Look baby, I am going to drop you out. Don't cry. I am coming behind you."
She said she held him by his hands, put him out through the window and let him down from a height of about 15 feet. He fell on a clump of vegetables planted at the side of the house.
Chester said she followed by jumping through the same window and landed near the boy, caught him and hugged and kissed him.
They both crawled to safety under a fruit tree and vines covering the area.
"While hiding under the vine plant I heard them saying `F... up everything. Don' leave nothing. Burn up these two cars!'
"Then I heard them beating the cars."
Chester said that when she looked around she saw her other house in the back yard that was occupied by her daughter and her two children, also on fire.
She said the bottom flat of that house was occupied by a young man who had witnessed the shooting of her other son, Brian, recently.
She said the young man had sought refuge at their home after being threatened by a bandit who was later shot and killed by Police some weeks ago.
She said those in the back house managed to escape from the burning building.
Chester said that as she and her grandson were hiding, fragments from the burning building began falling on them and they were seeking to move away into an area where they could have been safer.
She said she eventually saw a vehicle arrive at the scene and recognised the persons coming out as soldiers.
She shouted to them for help and they went to her rescue and were taken away to a safe area.
A fire tender arrived at the scene shortly after and began to fight the blaze, but both houses were well alight, she said.
She said she had often spoken out against attacks on other people from groups in Buxton and had been accused of being a Police "informer".