Two heavily armed men, who first posed as customers, attacked and robbed a businessman at Eccles, East Bank Demerara yesterday afternoon and escaped with more than $300,000 in cash.
Residents on the Eccles Old Road where Vishnu Persaud's General Store is located told Stabroek News that they were prevented from going to the family's assistance because the gunmen fired off high-powered weapons in all directions while escaping.
Persaud, from behind a grilled side door to the ground floor of the business premises, told this newspaper that the men had launched the attack at about 1 pm. At the time, he had gone outside, to the front of the shop, to sell a customer a large bottle of water. Whilst returning through the side door, Persaud said he noticed one of his customers following him.
"He lift up his shirt and I see he just had a gun... I done know is a robbery and so I decide to come through fast, but before I reach [the door] he done got the gun by me head already. But I still open and come in and I push back in the door fast and I run in [the kitchen]," the businessman recalled.
The other members of the Persaud household were just finishing lunch. Persaud rushed into the ground floor kitchen just behind the shop and locked the door. He and his other family members then hit the floor and remained there until after the ordeal.
Meanwhile, another young man, who was working at the counter, found himself at the mercy of the two bandits.
"I see one of them outside. He (the bandit) said, 'Don't move!' and point the gun to me. One come in, push the gun through the mesh and stick me up. By time I coulda talk or move a step more, the other one done come in already...[The one who barged in the side door behind Persaud] came in the shop and stick me up and ask for 'All de money and phone cards'," the young man said.
He said one of the bandits placed a large "submachine" gun to his head and ordered him into a back room where Persaud kept money in two canisters. The businessman is also an agent for the Guyana Lottery Company.
Persaud explained that one of the canisters was fastened to a shelf, thus making it difficult to remove. In the end, the bandit just ripped the shelf out of the wall and carted it away with the containers.
"They stick me up and carried me in the room and say, 'Where part de money?' They tell me de money in that room. So they pull two canister from the shelf and then carry away the whole shelf with a canister...The canister was pinned down. He (the bandit) tried to break [the shelf], but he couldn't to break it. Me help too, but me didn't put no effort, but he tell me he gon shoot me. He back off and tell me he gon shoot me," Persaud's shop assistant said.
The men said the bandits started firing off their weapons as they were retreating. "They fired at people on the road before they leave," Persaud said. The man, however, could not say how the attackers escaped. Some residents said that they arrived on bicycles, while others said they observed a car parked some distance from the shop.
Persaud said in all the years he was in business, he had never had such an attack. Ever since the crime situation spiralled out of control last year, he has been taking extra precautions.
"Most times we keep this [the side door] closed...we close up earlier than before and we always on the alert," the businessman stated.
A female resident of the household remarked: "Dem people don't tell you where they going or how and what...and they don't care how you treat them. As much as you try to treat all your customer good, as much as the boy come in as a customer...we always say 'brother' or 'sister'. But I want to say, 'Thank God!' that none of we ain't get hurt. God is good and he is looking over us..."
The two bandits who carried out the attack had ordered aerated drinks and were in the shop for some time before Vishnu emerged to sell a large bottle of water to another customer.
Yesterday's attack was the second on the East Bank Demerara in three days. On Easter Monday, the teenage son of a Chinese restaurateur was shot and killed, also by men posing as customers.