Princes St drive-by
'Come now' cell phone caller said
Stabroek News
January 20, 2004

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"A man on a motorbike rode up to the corner. He saw Shafeek sitting under the trees. He took out a cell phone and he called somebody. He said, `Come now. He's sitting outside with no shirt on...'"

This is what occurred a short while before Shafeek Bacchus was gunned down in a hail of bullets, according to new evidence which was given to police by a witness who came forward yesterday.

Shafeek Bacchus was killed two weeks ago in a drive-by shooting, when gunmen unloaded a barrage of bullets into his body as he sat in the clearing across the road from his house on Princes Street.

"Wrong man! Wrong man!" were the shouts which reportedly emanated from the white car as the gunmen drove off.

The witness was standing at the junction of Mandela Avenue and Princes Street when a man on a motorcycle rode up about 30 minutes before the shooting. The man spied Shafeek Bacchus sitting at the clearing, just across the road from his house.

"He took out a cell phone and he called somebody. He said `Come now. He is sitting outside with no shirt on...'" the witness recalled.

The witness left the area to make a purchase and returned nearly 20 minutes later, when the sound of gunshots echoed in the area.

When the witness returned to the junction, the white car was approaching Mandela Avenue. A man with a "red" complexion was identified in the front passenger seat. But neither the driver nor the passengers in the rear seats could be seen as the car was steered north into Mandela Avenue and driven away.

Police said they were five men in the car. Three men, Ashton King, Shawn Hinds and Mark Thomas called `Kerzorkee', are currently in custody for Bacchus' murder. They were identified by Bacchus' brother George, who says he was the real target of the hit, which was carried out by members of a death squad, for which he was once an informant.

George Bacchus was yesterday again unavailable to comment on whether he is prepared to provide a detailed statement to local authorities, who have signalled their willingness to mount an investigation.

Government spokesmen have said that an investigation will be launched once a detailed statement on the operation of the death squad and its links is made available to local law enforcement or government officials.

Yesterday, attempts were also made to contact Bacchus' lawyer for a comment on the issue. Stabroek News was told that he is out of the country.

In an explosive saga that began two weeks ago, Bacchus admitted that he once used his own money to gather intelligence on criminals for the group, which carried out the killings of several wanted men. He says the group was operating with the knowledge of Minister of Home Affairs, Ronald Gajraj, who sanctioned some of the killings.

Bacchus believes that he was the intended target of an execution, in which his brother was killed, after he voiced his concerns about the activities of the gang, which began to kill for hire.

Gajraj has however denied any knowledge about the existence of the group and dismisses Bacchus' statements as unsubstantiated allegations. He did however confirm that he was telephoned twice by Bacchus on the night that Shafeek Bacchus was killed.

According to Bacchus, the group was formed because of the wave of crime which swept the country in 2002, following the February 23 jailbreak, when five dangerous criminal escaped. A series of crimes, including spectacular robberies and murders, including the targeting of policemen, soon followed.

But later in 2002, several wanted men, including three of the prison escapees, were killed under mysterious but very similar circumstances. Other killings soon followed as suspected criminals and others who are believed to have criminal links were sometimes abducted and later found dead. Despite this, some law enforcement and government officials continued to deny the existence of such squads.

Meanwhile, having already eliminated the persons who were believed to have led the criminal activities, the group began to carry out executions for people who were willing to pay for its services, Bacchus said.

He himself had left after the death of escapee Shawn Brown, but he still continued to monitor the activities of the group. He said he was concerned about the contract killings and complained to the minister. His concerns were however filtered to the group and his activities were monitored until his brother was killed in the drive-by shooting.

Since his brother's death, Bacchus has visited the US Embassy, where he has given an official statement about the activities of the group and its linkage to the minister of home affairs, senior policemen and prominent businessmen involved in the currency exchange and entertainment industry.

The businessmen, and others, Bacchus said, provided the squad with financial support and even technical aid in the form of weapons and vehicles.

Since Bacchus went public, the PNCR, other political parties and interest groups have called for a public enquiry into the state's alleged involvement in the activities of the gang. They have also called for Gajraj's resignation. Meanwhile, demonstrators, including the relatives of some of the men who were purportedly executed by the group, have been picketing the Ministry of Home Affairs daily.