Woman says she has info on death squad
-unwilling to go to police
Stabroek News
February 8, 2004

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A woman who says she and her family have information about the group of men who carried out some of the bloodiest murders over the last two years is afraid to come forward, fearing for her life and for the safety of her family.

"People know but they are scared for their lives," she explained, "people are afraid to talk because [he] is still on the road. Look at [my husband], he got three bullets in his head."

The unnamed man to whom she refers is one of six men who have been accused of terrorising her particular community. Three ex-policemen, a man acquitted of a high-profile robbery, a businessman and another man, have all been implicated as members of the gang. All except two of these men have been identified as members of the group by two other people in separate interviews with Stabroek News.

The woman's husband was abducted late last year and bundled into a waiting car by some men. She says one of her adult children identified three members of the squad during the abduction.

A number of people have been killed over the past months in what were often well-planned executions. One man, wanted for the murders of three policemen, was mowed down by assailants while he made his way along a road. He was shot 23 times, although there were only seven exit wounds to be seen on his body.

Some people were abducted, like the woman's husband. If they were found their bodies would often be in a state of decomposition, having been abandoned along some deserted roadway. Following the husband's abduction, his body too was discovered dumped on a lonely roadway; he had been shot three times in the head. He was not wanted by the police for anything, and it is believed that he was killed because of his association with another man who was a suspect in a theft that had occurred only three days before. This man was also killed mysteriously.

There are also suggestions, however, that the woman's husband and his associate had been on a list of people to be executed; those who were suspected of selling marijuana were targeted for execution by the gang. The woman said that it had been years since her husband had sold anything, and that he had changed his life.

The police issued a statement on the killing, one which the woman said bore little relationship to anything reported by people living in the vicinity of where the body had been found. One of the reasons she had not come forward with her story, was the apathetic response she had received from the police when she had reported to them at the time what she knew of the murder.

"The police know who killed [him]; we told them what we knew and they didn't do anything," she responded, when asked whether she and the others with information about the abduction had gone to the police station in the area to report the matter. The fact that some of the gang members were ex-policemen was another reason why people were not willing to come forward, she explained. She identified at least one member, an ex-policeman, who she said was often mistaken for a policeman because he was nearly always seated at a desk in the station.

In the area where she lives - one of the city's outlying suburbs - some residents still live in fear of the men. At the height of the mysterious killings that were carried out on a regular basis, residents would lock themselves in their houses as soon as night fell.

"When they drive you got to go into the corner," the woman said, before recalling one incident at a wake for one of their victims.

"At the wake they pull up... and they tried to kill a... boy."

They accused him of firing off his gun in the area, but before they could do anything the crowd that had gathered to attend the wake encircled the men and their car.

"You got luck, but we ain't done with you," she remembered them telling him before they got into their car and drove away.

Although the woman said that other persons had fingered the men in at least two other murders in the area, she was unwilling to come forward with the information - at least to police.

George Bacchus has admitted that he was an informant for the group, that he once used his own money to locate criminals in hiding, and that these activities were all known to Minister of Home Affairs Ronald Gajraj. The minister has denied the allegations while state spokesmen and the President have asked for formal statements before any investigation will be initiated into the claims.

Bacchus has not been available for comment on whether he is willing to give a formal statement, and has communicated his desire to keep a low profile out of fear for his life.

While the woman said she had considered joining the protest still in progress outside the Ministry of Home Affairs, it was her feeling that it was not the best move. And though she was unwilling to talk to police, she was prepared to tell what she knew if an independent investigation were held, once she had been given a guarantee that her identity would not be revealed.

"People can't talk," she said, "because when you talk how are you going to live?"

Several political parties and civil society groups have asked for an inquiry into the allegations, one that is independent of the police force, but they have not agreed on what form such an inquiry should take.

Bacchus, while he has yet to give a statement to local authorities has spoken with officials from the United States Embassy in Guyana.

After his brother was killed in an execution in which he said he was the intended target, Bacchus visited the US Embassy several times and gave detailed statements to US regional law enforcement authorities who were in the country at the time.

Embassy Press Officer Daniel Daley told Stabroek News the mission was always interested in information from any credible sources willing to come forward.

Daley said the embassy was always prepared to talk to people since part of its job was to report on what was going on in a country for the benefit of policymakers.

"We would talk to you. Based upon what is said and a judgement of your credibility we would follow up on it appropriately," Daley said, when asked what would be the scenario were a person to approach the embassy with evidence of illegal activities.

The press officer said it would depend on the type of information as to who would investigate the claims, but it could be any number of agencies including the US State Department and the Federal Bureau of Investigation.