Armed brigands rob, batter Melanie Damishana family
Cut off victim’s hair By Nigel Williams
Stabroek News
August 6, 2002

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Three armed bandits suspected to be residents of Melanie Damishana, East Coast Demerara, terrorised and robbed a family in the village on Sunday of over $300,000 in cash and jewellery before cutting off a woman’s hair and departing calmly on foot.

Anita Singh of Lot 7 North Melanie, ECD had her tresses forcibly cut by the armed men. Singh who had very long hair touching her back told Stabroek News that she was very grateful that the men did not kill her.

She said that one of the bandits was wearing military fatigues while his two accomplices were sporting sunglasses in the night.

Relating her story yesterday, Singh said that at around 7:30 pm Sunday she, her 57-year-old mother Savitri Sukhdeo and her 12-year-old son Ryan were in their living room watching a movie when the bandits entered the house. The bandits made their way through the eastern window which was left opened. Singh said that while they were in the living room three other children, Puran, 16, Hemraj, 15, and Oma, 11, were in a bedroom sleeping.

According to her, while viewing the movie her mother overheard a strange sound in the front room but at first they thought it was the children playing. Singh said that they heard the noise for the second time and at this point realised that it was not coming from the children’s room.

Sukhdeo, taking up the account from Singh, said that she was sitting in a sofa not far from the room where the noise was coming from and she quickly reached for the bedroom door’s curtain pulling it aside to see what was happening.

Sukhdeo said as she did that her eyes met with one of the bandits who had a gun pointed in her direction and she shouted “hi.” At this point she said she was overcome by fear and did not utter another word until their ordeal was over.

Realising her mother was now speechless, Singh suspected something was amiss and she went to confirm what was happening when another bandit armed with a ‘Rambo’ knife accosted her. She said that while the knife wielder held on to her, the one with the gun pointed the weapon to her throat.

“Nobody move! No noise! Everybody stay quiet,” the gunman commanded, according to Singh. She said that she began to tremble but the knifeman held her tightly and took her into the living room.

While being taken there, the third bandit entered the house and he quickly forced Sukhdeo to lie face down behind the front door and later tied up little Ryan with a few chair back covers and also stuffed pieces of cloth into his mouth.

According to Singh, who operates a grocery store, after the bandits succeeded in quieting her mother and son they began demanding money and jewellery from her. “Give me all de money and gold,” one bandit ordered, but Singh replied, “I don’t have no money.”

“Yes, you have, you have to go and bring it else I will shoot you,” the bandit threatened.

At this point fear overcame the businesswoman and she retrieved her keys to the grocery store which adjoins her house and took two of the bandits there. She said that while the two went into the shop the other stood in the house guarding her mother and son. All this time the children in the bedroom were still asleep.

In the shop, Singh said she had $30,000 concealed in a box and the bandits took all. After collecting that, they demanded more while uttering a series of expletives and threatening to kill her. Leaving the shop the bandits inquired from Singh where she normally sleeps and she showed them her bedroom - the third from the front door. In her room the businesswoman had put aside $150,000 which was to be used shortly in a Hindu religious ceremony in honour of a loved one who had passed away. She said that they took that along with $23,000 which belonged to her son Ryan. The lad had saved the money at school in a thrift bank. In addition, Singh said that she also had a quantity of gold jewellery in her wardrobe including chains, finger rings and bracelets and the bandits took those too. She valued the jewellery at some $150,000.

Seemingly satisfied with their rewards the bandits led Singh out of her room and carried her back to the living room and placed her to lie with her face down on a chair. Singh said while she was on her face, the knifeman guarded her and his two accomplices went back into her room, this time removing her camera which had cost some US$400 and her wristwatch.

She said they then asked her who was in the middle room where the children were, but she did not respond and they made their way there.

According to the woman, her 11-year-old daughter Oma who was sleeping at the time of the men’s visit was awakened and she too was threatened.

The little girl who is a pupil of Paradise Primary said that one of the bandits threatened that if she did not tell him where the rest of money was he would ensure that she did not go back to school.

A tearful Singh yesterday recounted how traumatic the experience was for her daughter. She said that the bandits also stripped the children of their wristwatches.

After leaving the children’s room two of the bandits exited through the window where they had entered and stood in the yard. While they were outside the knifeman who was guarding Singh began to cut the woman’s hair with his weapon telling her that he did not like “they kind ah people.” She observed that the man had a very sharp knife and he held her hair and cut it off. The woman recalled how painful it was for her since the bandit was very rough. She said he had wanted to remove all her hair but his accomplices urged him to leave her.

She said he too climbed through the window and joined his partners in crime before they walked calmly east along her street and disappeared.

A call was then made to the police who responded in about 15 minutes and they took a report from Singh along with fingerprints from the scene.

The family has been living in the area since 1982 and has never been robbed before. Singh said that they have a very good relationship with their neighbours but suspected that the bandits might be residents of the village.

According to 39-year-old Singh, one of her friends who used to visit her frequently died recently and one of the bandits reminded her about the man’s death saying that it was she who killed him. She also opined that even if the bandits are not residents of Melanie they probably have contacts in the village.

The woman, however, is not daunted by what happened: “What am I going to do, this is what feeds me and my children, if I don’t sell how the children are going to eat,” Singh said. She said that even though she is fearful her business will go on.