Brand-name bandits terrorise Coldingen
Doors kicked down, residents beaten, children threatened, cash and jewellery stolen By Johann Earle
Stabroek News
December 5, 2003

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What next? A family contemplates the next move after going through the ordeal of being beaten and robbed of cash and jewellery in Coldingen, East Coast Demerara on Wednesday night. Theirs was one of five households pounced upon by armed criminals. At righ

Armed bandits on Wednesday night spread terror in Coldin-gen, East Coast Demerara, severely beating residents and threatening the lives of young children before making off with cash and jewellery.

Six unmasked men, dressed in brand-name clothing and footwear, kicked down doors and fired through at least one window before terrorising their victims. While leaving, the men fired at least one more shot into the air. They attacked five houses. According to residents, the attackers escaped in the direction of Buxton. Up to press time last night there was no statement from the police on this incident.

On arriving at the scene of the multiple robberies yesterday, Stabroek News visited the home of Asgar Ali, 33, who lives with his wife Samantha Balgobin, their six-month-old baby, two small children and mother-in-law, at Lot 233 Coldingen.

He said that they were attacked at around 7.30 pm as they were watching the news on television. The bandits, he said, kicked down the door after demanding that it be opened for them.

At this point the bandits fired a shot through a window on the southern side of the house, he said. The bullet passed through the window and left a hole in the wall of one of the bedrooms of the house. Stabroek News noticed shards of the louvre panes on the steps to the house yesterday.
Asgar Ali with his clearly visible wounds. (Jules Gibson photo)

Ali's wife said that three of the men entered the house while one of them remained downstairs. She said that one of the attackers held a gun to her baby's head and threatened to pull the trigger if Ali, who was hiding in the bedroom at the time, did not come out to them.

She said that when he came out the bandit gave her the baby and started to beat Ali with one of the guns, then hit his head against a wall. He is now nursing wounds to his head and shoulders at home.

Balgobin and other members of her household said that there were four bandits, but other residents of Coldingen later told Stabroek News that there were six of them.

Balgobin said that one of the gunmen relieved her of $9,000, a band and a ring from the baby. They also took a tape recorder, which they abandoned behind the house. This article is in police custody, Balgobin said.

She said too that when the bandits entered they asked whether or not the occupants of the house had a cell phone, the answer to which was 'no'. At the time two of the children were asleep, she said.

She recounted that one of the men put a knife to her throat demanding that she open the door to the verandah so that they could see if anyone was hiding there.

Samantha's mother Kaliane told Stabroek News that her husband was not at home at the time of the attack. She recounted that she was sitting on the verandah when she saw four men coming towards the yard. She told Stabroek News that she crept inside to tell the others in the house that the bandits were coming.

Upon their arrival, the bandits demanded that the door be opened and then fired the shot at the window. From the position of the bullet hole in the bedroom wall, it appears as if the shot was fired by someone who had been standing on the stairs.

Two of the men had guns while one had a knife and one a spear, according to Kaliane, who was robbed of $4,000, a ring and a pair of gold earrings. One of the bandits also hit her in the face, giving her a black eye.

She said that somebody must have called the police because they do not have a phone.

One of the men, while leaving the home, apparently forgot his gun in one of the chairs and it was not until he was downstairs that he remembered it and returned.

The bandits then went south to a nearby house, which they entered, but did not take anything. A neighbour told Stabroek News that her husband had jumped the back fence on the men's approach to the house. He escaped with minor scratches.

Another neighbour in the house at the time recounted that he was by the window through which the men shot and he fainted. He said that he fell behind some chairs and the bandits did not see him.

Savitri Lalman, another neighbour in the house at the time, said that one of the men hit her in the head and on the arm with a gun. He also punched her in the face. Their ordeal in this house lasted 15 minutes.

Another household two lots to the north was attacked and robbed of about $3,000. Hansranie Seeodat, 23, said that around 7.30 pm three men walked up the stairs while another three stood at the gate. She said that after her husband opened the door, the men slapped him in the face while demanding money and jewellery. The men made her empty all her ration bags while they kicked him.

The bandits, she said, threatened her two-year-old daughter by placing a gun to her head. "They say if I don't give them the money they will kill her," she said. She said that the men had three guns and warned them not to look out of the window as they were about to leave.

She said that on the night of the attack the police came and her husband, Kamishwerdat Seeodat, spoke with them. He was asked to visit the Vigilance Police Station to make an official report which he did yesterday.

At yet another nearby house, one of the occupants told this newspaper that only two members of the community policing group were on duty at the time. She said that a woman went to the group's base and told them that five bandits were robbing houses in the scheme. She said that as she and a group member sat on a bench the bandits arrived. Two of them went to the house while another three went to the group's base. They reportedly put the woman to lie on the ground. Three of the five men who she saw had guns, while the other two had knife and a bow and arrow each.

The woman is thankful that the men were not able to get into the house, as her children were locked in from the outside. Her six children are aged 12, 11, eight, six, five and two. They had been home alone.

The woman told Stabroek News that one of the men grabbed her husband, who had been returning from the shop and took him to one of the houses.

After this encounter, the men went to other homes to the south of the scheme, the woman said.

She described two of the firearms as handguns while one appeared to be a shotgun. She also described the men as being nicely dressed in Nike and Timberland boots.

The woman's account of the events indicates that her encounter with the men might have been the beginning of the Coldingen scheme's night of terror. At the other house which was robbed, no one was at home when Stabroek News visited.

When contacted yesterday, the Police Public Relations Department had no information on the robbery.

Wednesday night's attack seems to signal a resurgence in the avalanche of crimes which had been launched earlier this year and last year by criminals in Buxton on nearby villages. On Monday evening, a gang from Buxton waylaid a minibus and shot its driver, Francis Parmanand Singh, dead. Prior to this there had been several attacks on residents in villages near to Buxton.