Bandits rob Eccles general store
Owner's father-in-law dies on hearing news
Police criticised for not giving chase By Nigel Williams

Stabroek News
October 25, 2002

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Five armed bandits robbed a general store at Eccles, East Bank Demerara yesterday and the proprietor's elderly father-in-law collapsed and died on hearing the news.

Proprietor of Kanhai's General Store, Fazil Mohamed and his wife Nadia Khan who live at Flamboyant Avenue, Eccles Housing Scheme surrendered some $350,000 in cash, jewellery and phone cards to the bandits in yet another attack on the East Bank. The bandits escaped from the police after ranks were said to have refused to cross a trench to give chase. One man told Stabroek News: "There was a clear chance for the police to shoot these men, because when deh come the men dem were now running away about 100 metres away from them, but the police refused to cross the trench and went around on another road and it was then the men escape."

The drama began to unfold at around 11.15 am when a grey car entered the East Bank village and dropped off the five men. One resident said the car put the men off some 20 metres away from the store and the driver parked at the side of the street remaining inside. The resident recalled that the bandits appeared to have screened the store earlier since they did not hesitate in marching inside. Once they entered, a customer Abdul Jabbar along with another customer were the first persons they met. Jabbar who is a taxi driver said the men came up to him and ordered him and the other customer to lie face down which they did.

Stabroek News understands that the other customer is from Essequibo and that he was relieved of some $20,000. Jabbar said while he and the other man were on the floor two of the five men checked all of their pockets. He said he was carrying his wallet with a small sum of cash and the bandits took everything along with his hire car key. Jabbar recounted that as he was being searched he watched as three of the five men, climbed over the counter and held-up Nadia.

Nadia said three of the men jumped over the counter and one of them held Baksh by his shirt and asked him where the drawer was. He showed the men the drawer with the day's sales along with other cash from the previous day. He said that after collecting all of the money the bandits asked him for more.

Nadia said she told the bandit that her brother-in-law was not the owner of the store and he did not have the money. The woman who is also pregnant said that as soon as she uttered those words to the bandit he turned his attention to her and with the assistance of the other two they pushed her into the bedroom where she delivered a handbag full of jewellery and cash to them. But the bandits still asked for more and when she told them that she had no more one of them chucked her out of the room while the other two continued their search of the room.

She said they spent another three minutes inside before jumping over the counter, rejoining their accomplices and fleeing the scene.

Another eyewitness told this newspaper that he saw the bandits running east into the street after the robbery. He said the five were about to approach the grey car in which they had arrived, but before they did so a few cane harvesters in the area had begun gathering near the car. He said the driver apparently panicked and he quickly sped out of the area leaving the bandits stranded. The five bandits however continued to run and desperately cleared a trench at the back of housing scheme, ran through the Industrial Site and fled into a canefield. The canefield had been recently harvested and it was clear so that anyone could have seen the fleeing men.

Another man told this newspaper that the police were shown where the bandits fled and they proceeded to the area. He said that he allowed them to climb onto his car so that they could see over some thick bushes on the other side of the canefield. He said the five policemen saw the bandits who were some 100 metres away from them, but instead of them going after the men the police officers tried to avoid crossing the trench. He said they used another road, which would have led into the canefield, but before they even got close to the bandits from that route the men had already disappeared.

The canefield

Stabroek News arrived at that point on the scene along with other members of the media. Personnel from at least three media houses went down into the canefield area along with a policeman. About twenty minutes of trekking through rugged terrain yielded nothing, but then a blue and white minibus suddenly appeared in the distance some three hundred metres away. The bus had driven out from the canefield and had stopped abruptly. At this point the tension was indescribable.

The police rank who was present called for a cell phone to request backup. By this time he had his weapon in his hand. Then someone said a person had emerged from the bushes, joining the bus. This person was followed by about three more. The media workers and the police rank prepared for the worst.

The members of the media were now either crouching behind one of the two vehicles on the scene, or, in the case of photographers, trying to use their cameras to zoom in on the suspect minibus and its passengers. The bus then began to drive slowly through the dirt track. The two media vehicles followed from a safe distance. A tractor approached from the opposite direction, bringing with it added suspense. About one minute after this, the men in the blue and white bus, realising they were being pursued, came to a stop on a bridge. The occupants slowly got out and it was revealed that the men were all residents of Eccles who had gone fishing.

Back at the store, a tearful Mohammed said, "right now I am thinking about going away from this country. I always said to myself when I saw businessmen like myself getting rob everyday that one day would be my turn and so it was today."

On Wednesday, gunmen attacked a rumshop operated by Charles Sarjoo at Friendship also on the East Bank and robbed and beat him. The bandits kicked and beat Sarjoo's pregnant daughter and she had to seek medical attention.