Gunmen torch two Friendship houses
Nine people in narrow escape
Granny threw child out of window, jumped By Kim Lucas and Samantha Alleyne
Stabroek News
August 8, 2002

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Nine people barely escaped with their lives early yesterday morning as a gang of men torched two homes and vehicles at Brusche Dam, Friendship and raked the area with gunfire as the Chester family attempted to flee.

Two members of the family - Devon Chester, 28 and Malika Mingo, 16 - were wounded by gunshots and also sustained burns. When a Guyana Defence Force (GDF) patrol arrived on the scene it was fired at by the arsonists/gunmen and retaliated. Another patrol south of the area was also attacked and one of the gunmen was shot and injured. The Chester family has come under a series of attacks over the last few months because some lawless villagers believe that they have been assisting the police and army.

The property was owned by 63-year-old Edris Chester, who occupied the house at the front of the yard. Others who lived there with her were her son, Devon and grandsons, Troyden and Keith Chester, both of whom are still in their teens and four-year-old Jemel. A family friend, Eon Lewis, occupied the lower flat of the front building, while Chester’s daughter, 35-year-old Michelle Braithwaite lived in the back house with her two daughters, Malika, 16 and Melissa, 17.

When Stabroek News turned up at the Chesters’ homes yesterday, they were burnt flat. The site was deserted, but this newspaper was able to locate the family members some distance away where they had sought refuge.

According to a GDF release, at approximately 1.30 am, a GDF patrol on the railway embankment at Buxton received information that a house at Brusche Dam was on fire. “The GDF deployed patrols to the scene. Upon arrival, the patrol came under attack by bandits who had laid siege to the Chester’s home under the pretext that Devon Chester was a police informer.”

It said shortly after, another patrol, while going further south of Brusche Dam was also attacked. The soldiers immediately returned fire, injuring one of the attackers, who managed to escape with his colleagues under cover of darkness. No member of the patrol was injured.

The GDF had since been relentlessly pursuing the perpetrators and it is appealing to law-abiding citizens of Buxton to help rid the community of those elements who wish to tarnish its image and to spoil the good relationship that exists between the army and the residents, the release added.

Shortly after the exchange of fire, the area was cordoned off and five persons who attempted to breach the cordon were arrested and handed over to the police.

Cabinet Secretary Roger Luncheon, at a press briefing yesterday morning, said the army was “able to capture five of the likely arsonists/bandits further in the south Buxton backdam.” But information reaching Stabroek News last night stated that the five men were released at around 7 p.m.

The army statement said that the patrol members were able to rescue the occupants from the burning buildings, one of whom was Devon Chester who was shot in the arm and hip.

Two other members of the household also suffered injuries, one from gunshot wounds and another from burns to her right arm and both feet.

In addition, the patrol also escorted members of the fire department from Enmore Sugar Estate and the Guyana Fire Service, who were able to prevent a third house from being burnt.

A tearful and broken Braithwaite related the ordeal yesterday. It was the sound of something crashing that woke her at about 1 am yesterday. When she looked out of her window, her mother’s home was already on fire.

The woman said she called her mother on the phone and informed her of the blaze, and all the family members, including herself and two daughters, rushed out to extinguish the blaze.

“My brother [Devon] rush throw water and was shot. He run back in the house. [At the same time] I was telling him don’t throw water, throw sand. Since I said throw sand, is gunshot non stop, rapid, rapid,” Braithwaite recalled chokingly. During that time, her 16-year-old daughter was shot, too.

She and her girls ran for cover as the gunmen turned their attention on her mother’s house, shooting out the windows. Three gunmen ran up the stairs just as the women concealed themselves behind a low concrete wall, and doused the house further in gasoline.

“One holler, `Bun everything, every thing!’ Then another say, `Light de car, too!’ and they start shooting up the cars and light them afire,” Braithwaite said.

After they lit the fire at her mother’s house, she heard one exclaim: “Wait, these people ain’t deh in hey?...All of them s...t gone and we ain’t get fo kill none of these people? They must be gone in de back house and hide. Let we go and f...k down the house,” Braithwaite said. She said they went to her home, shot at it and set it on fire, too.

Braithwaite’s mother Edris Chester had a chilling account of what transpired. The sixty-three-year-old Chester, who does upholstery and provided employment for a few persons in the village said that she and her daughter worked close to 11 p.m.

Initially, the woman appeared not to want to talk but then she turned to the reporter and said, “why should I still be afraid, that is only my worldly possession they tek and the only thing left for them to do is kill me.” Turning to the reporter she said, “don’t be afraid darling come let us go sit in front they can’t do you nothing with all them soldiers around.”

Fire! Fire!

She recalled that it was around 1:30 am when she heard a loud explosion and she jumped up only to find that there was smoke in her home and it was very hot. “So I rushed out to my drawing room to see what was taking place and there I saw my western wall on fire, bright fire. A cupboard with my pot and pans was engulfed on fire. So I said oh gosh fire! fire!,” the woman said.

She said that her son, Devon, who was in the third bedroom jumped up and he also screamed for fire and he rushed to the door with the intention of getting some water to extinguish the fire in the house.

“When he got to the front door he got some bullets. But he persevered, run downstairs and I don’t know how he got the water and he came and bashed it on the flame and that was able to out the flame,” Chester recalled.

According to her Devon attempted to get another bucket of water, “then I hear, bladdam, bladdam and I realised that my house was under attack and I rushed back into my bedroom.”

She said that she then grabbed her four-year-old grandchild Jemel, who was asleep at the time, “and I lie down flat on the ground.”

While on the floor, Chester said bullets continued to be fired and she said at that time she did not know what became of her son and two other grandsons who were in another room asleep. She said that while the shots were being fired the small fire that was quelled by her son in the home re-ignited and began to rage.

“Well, girl something told me to peep through my northern window and there I see fire raging at the back, you know like when there is a flammable something. The fire, the fire, the fire, the fire....... I said, `Jesus what is this?’ The gunshots, I can’t run to the back step I can’t run to the front, Lord!” the woman said with her eyes closed and tears trickling down her cheeks.

Reopening her eyes, Chester said that it was at that stage she realised that her home was being attacked from two sides, the western and the northern sides.

“While the fire started catching again, because they were like throwing something and shooting, shooting, and I heard my son cry out, `Mom! a get shoot in me hand’ and well like he rushed to the line (Railway Embankment) and he met the soldiers and he told them. But the soldiers saw them (the attackers) running up and down the step doing what they want and they ent do nothing,” the woman said.

According to Chester the attackers eventually shot at a louvre window which had grill work, which was on the top floor, and they poured gasoline on a chair set which was next to the window and quickly it caught a fire.

“When I saw the suite on fire, ah said ‘Father God what am I to do?’ The gunshots, gunshots, you still can’t go to no door. The whole place was now filled with smoke and the fire started getting brighter and I hugged this little four-year-old boy, he is in there (pointing to the house). I said `Jemel’, he said `granny fire’ and I said `yes darling fire.’ I said, `Jemel you would have to jump through this window (which is about eleven feet from the ground). Ah said ‘Jemel you would have to live, don’t bother with me, you have to jump.’ He said `granny a frighten’ and when I look at the bedroom wall there was fire and the smoke started getting black and a tell him to keep his head through the window.”

The woman said when her grandson saw the fire in the room he attempted to jump through the window but she then held him and hugged him to her before releasing him through the window while she held on to his hands. “I say baby you going with God, you go jump and I loose him down all that distance down. I loose him in a thyme plot that I have. I looked at it and I said I got to get behind him come what may, I looked where he was and I plunged and I fell just near to him.”

She then hugged and kissed him, and she said she told him in a whispering voice, “look don’t you cry, let us crawl to the souri (bilimbi) tree because there is a big passion fruit vine where we could hide.” Chester said, “And we crawl and we lie in two tyres, and the fire, raging and raging. And I looked at the back house and it was on fire and I said `My God! me daughter and her two children are burnt in there.” She was also worried about another grandson by the name of Troyden, 17, and another one by the name of Junior. She said that Junior had opened the door along with Devon, her son, and when she looked some distance from where she was hiding she saw something, “a said Jesus Christ Junior got killed.” She said while hiding she heard a shattering sound in the bottom flat and when she looked she saw her daughter along with a boy who lived with them scrambling to get out. “When they got out they crawled and reach we and met we there, and there we huddled. Well, the boy Eon Lewis, he had on white clothes and I told him, a say `tear off the clothes, don’t keep the white, don’t keep the white because they go see you clothes.” Eon then break the fence and pulled out the paling stave and her daughter, her three grandchildren and Eon, rushed through the fence and she remained because she was afraid that if all of them ran they would have been seen.

“I straightened myself and I lay in a drain behind my fence where the septic tank is draining, but I couldn’t think about that, I couldn’t let that bother me. While ah there I hear them (her attackers) saying, ‘bust up everything, don’t let nothing stay, f..k up everything. F..k up the two cars.’ Then I hear bladdam, bladdam, bladdam, and I realised they were breaking the louvres and the windscreens. Then after that I saw this big blaze and they catch the cars afire,” she said.

Chester said she remained in her hiding place for about an hour and then she noticed some movements but she did not make a sound initially since she was afraid her attackers were still around. Then she noticed members of the fire service and others and shouted “help, I need your help and one of the soldiers said, `somebody is behind that fence calling for help.’ Well you know they wouldn’t take that chance, so they had to guard up and they came over the other bridge and I said look I am a female I mean no harm I am one of those persons who suffered from the fire.” They then hugged her and they took her out and later found the rest of her family hiding in a nearby yard and they were all taken to the Beterverwagting Police Station. “And the man there was not very kind, he say `meh ent taking this, me ent taking nobody, go dey,” the woman said referring to the policeman who was on duty at the time.

She said when she got back from the police station they returned to the burnt structures and found that all her livestock had been incinerated by the fire.

Crying at this time, Chester said, “And when we got to the stable my son’s prized horse Jimmy, who got a bullet through his neck which we had to pull out, was lying on the ground. It is terrible, the dog Joe, like he attack them and they bore he up. When I left there Joe was not quite dead but he bleed and he was barely breathing,” she said.

Asked if she could estimate her losses, Chester said, “I can’t, millions, millions, millions.”


Asked why the family might have been targeted by others in the village, Chester said that they had been accused of being “informers.”

She said that the attacks had started on her family way back on April 26 when another son, Brian Chester and his wife, Dionne Glasgow, were shot at by gunmen who had sprayed her Lot 144, Brusche Dam, Friendship home. That attack had reportedly been executed by two armed men, one of the five prison escapees, Shawn Browne, and Compton Cambridge who was later shot and killed by the police.

The woman said that before that attack some villagers had assaulted and robbed a resident of Indo-Guyanese descent. “It stemmed from a robbery, (referring to the attacks on her family), the very first one committed on Brusche Dam opposite us and we came out and we said it was not fair. I went down to the shop where the Indian man said he knows them and I told them (to) tell them boys bring back Coolie money before a big man hunt start.”

She said one of those who robbed the man was the son of a man who worked with her money before a big man hunt start.”

She said one of those who robbed the man was the son of a man who worked with her and she instructed her son, Brian, to visit the boy’s father and tell him to order his son to return the man’s money and car keys.

She said it was after this they were accused of working with members of the Guyana Police Force and later members of the Guyana Defence Force.

Just after she was finished speaking another of Chester’s grandchildren, who lives with her mother in another house in the village, visited and informed her that the attackers passed through their yard and had fired shots at the house. She said her mother said she would not be able to sleep in her home anymore.

Braithwaite said that the family was targeted because residents believed they provided information to the law enforcement agencies on criminal activities in the villages of Buxton and Friendship.

But the woman vehemently denied the claim yesterday.

“They had shoot at my brother [Brian Chester] couple months ago. They came to say he was an informer. Now they saying when the escapees get away, they used to be at us. I never see them. They claiming that me jewels I wearing is off of the escapees. I never see them. Now they link me up with some colonel...seh how I deh with some soldier man who I does give information to,” Braithwaite recounted.

According to her, she never “link” with any law enforcer. After the shooting death of Buxton resident Shaka Blair, the Guyana Defence Force (GDF) had established a presence in the troubled village of Buxton.

“If they [the soldiers] ask for a cup of water, I would give them. If they say, `Reds, whuh yuh cooking today?’ I would offer them `lil food. But to stand up to form law or break law with them, not me! I don’t stand up to gaff with them,” the woman tearfully stated.

The family was even fingered after wanted man Cambridge was gunned down two months ago in another East Coast Demerara village. And two Thursdays ago, after other wanted man Kwame Pindleton and Buxtonian Leroy Lowe were killed in a shootout with the police on the University of Guyana access road, Braithwaite said a young man threatened her with a gun.

But the woman’s position is that she was born in the village and intends to remain despite the fact that her life might be in danger.

“The Father knows that I never had no contact with no soldier. I don’t mix around police, as well as I don’t mix around soldier. They [residents] claim to say I call [an army officer] and tell he about the [location of a hijacked] car and from since that time I deh like a black sheep to them,” Braithwaite lamented.


The family has lost all its material possessions. All their livestock, including one of their horses, `Jimmy’ and a dog called `Joe’. Some 400 chickens that Braithwaite reared, as well as some sheep and pigs. Braithwaite said she had just completed refurbishing two sets of chairs for residents. The furniture, which would have been delivered yesterday was burnt too.


The woman and her two daughters were forced to wait until the houses were fully engulfed, before attempting to escape.

“I was in the yard. We had to look to see how the fire moving. So as the fire keep burning, I tell the children, `Don’t move, because if the fire get big, they [the gunmen] wouldn’t stay around, they would move.’ So I wait until when the floor start to cave in and then I start to pull out louvres. Me and me daughters climb through the downstairs and crawl through, kick out some more windows and escaped.”

“The soldiers could have captured them right in the yard [but they] just stand up and see them up, down, up, down. They say they had to wait for orders. The soldiers seeing them, but the big ones had to give instructions first,” Braithwaite contended.

However, the army said the patrol came under fire, forcing the soldiers to “adopt a defensive position and return fire.”

A large quantity of spent shells from semi-automatic weapons were recovered from the scene and handed over to the police.

Luncheon responding to why there were no policemen at the scene, said “it would not have served much purpose” when there was already a law enforcement agency there. He said if a law enforcement agency is first on such a scene, it would be unreasonable for it to withdraw in such a situation and allow another to take over.

“The military is mobilised and is capable of handling such a situation.

As to why the police were not on the scene several hours after the incident had died down, this would require some explanation,” he told reporters.

The man shot by the army was admitted to the Georgetown Public Hospital Corporation with gunshot wounds.

When contacted last evening, Chairman of the Buxton/Foulis Neighbourhood Democratic Council, Randolph Blair, said he was unable to comment on the incident since he has not assessed the situation. He said he was out most of the day adding, “I really want to sit down and assess the situation.”

Buxton/Friendship has been the hub of a wave of criminal activity on the East Coast since a ferocious crime spree started earlier this year. Many persons have been robbed within the villages, cars attacked on the public road and policemen assaulted.

Many hijacked cars have also been found in and near the villages and bandits in attacks on other villages have fled into the Buxton/ Friendship area.