Princes St drive-by killing
Suspects should be charged with murder - 'informant' Editorial
Stabroek News
January 14, 2004

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Three suspects held by the police in connection with the Princes Street murder two Mondays ago should be charged forthwith, says George Bacchus, the man who has made stunning claims about a death squad.

But, the attorney for one of the three men in custody for the murder of Shafeek Bacchus says that proper investigations will vindicate his client, who is yet to be confronted by his accuser.

George Bacchus says he does not need to confront the men who he named as his brother's killers, and he wants the police to charge them.

Shafeek Bacchus was killed in a drive-by shooting two Mondays, as he sat in a clearing across the road from his Princes street home. His brother has since given a statement to police naming the men who were in the car, who he believes were in fact targeting him.

Two of the three men in custody, a city undertaker and an ex-policeman, surrendered themselves to law enforcement officials last Friday. The third man, another ex-policeman, surrendered to police on Monday evening.

Attorney Vic Puran, who represents the city undertaker, says despite Bacchus's public statements he has avoided attending any of the confrontations that were arranged by the police.

"Why do I need to go to a confrontation?!" an aggravated Bacchus asked Stabroek News yesterday during an interview. "Tell me why?! To identify somebody I know for 20 years?!"

Bacchus says his statements and the statements of other people who were in the area at the time of the shooting are evidence enough to charge the men and begin a preliminary inquiry. But no charges were laid up to yesterday as police are still in the midst of their investigations.

Puran says Bacchus' statement to the police is "totally ridiculous" and he believes that a proper investigation will prove this true.

This is one of the reasons, Puran says, why he is yet to file habeas corpus proceedings on behalf of his client, although there are sufficient grounds to do so.

Meanwhile, Bacchus is upset at the furore raised by political parties and other groups over his startling disclosures about a death squad killing suspected criminals and others.

Since the death of his brother, Bacchus has admitted that he was once an informant for a gang that was formed to hunt and kill wanted men. He has said that Home Affairs Minister, Ronald Gajraj was aware of the group, which he says was responsible for the death of several high-profile criminals who are believed to have spearheaded the 2002 crime wave.

The main opposition People's National Congress Reform has led the call for a public inquiry and investigation into the allegations, which the party says vindicate the claims it has been making over the last year.

Similar calls have been made by other political parties and civil society groups like the Working People's Alli-ance, the Rise, Organise and Rebuild Guyana Movement, the Trades Union Congress and the Justice for Jermaine Committee.

However, Bacchus believes these groups are only using his statements for political mileage and he wants them to stop.

On Monday and again yesterday, protesters picketed outside the Ministry of Home Affairs, calling for the resignation of the minister, who has dismissed Bacchus' claims as mere allegations with no validation.

Bacchus has also said that he was in personal contact with the minister while the group continued to hunt criminals and that he has even visited the minister's home. On the night his brother was killed, he said, he twice contacted the minister, who, he said, promised to investigate the killing.

Bacchus believes he was the intended target of the shooting because he had spoken out about the excesses of the group which he says has been abducting and killing men for money.

Axel Williams, a man who is suspected to have been a key member of the group is also said to have been in personal contact with the minister. Gajraj has admitted to knowing Williams, but has refused to give details about their conversations which he says may relate to national security issues.

Telephone records, which Stabroek News has seen, indicate that Williams, who was killed in a well-organised hit on December 10 in Bel Air, made several calls to the Home Affairs Ministry and to the residence of a ministry official. There are phone records showing calls made to Williams' cell phone including three on November 24, from a number said to be at the official's residence as well as more than a dozen calls from a number whose first three digits are 999 - a number apparently assigned for special purposes.

The minister has also admitted to knowing another man who is said to be linked to the group, one of the ex-policemen in custody, although he had said there was no relationship between them.

Bacchus has made several visits to the US embassy to tell his story to officials there. The government has said it is prepared to investigate Bacchus' claims once a full statement is made.