Body of evidence on death squad
March 7, 2004
Although the government remains unmoved on the question of a death squad investigation, evidence continues to implicate suspects in several unsolved murders over the last two years.
Allegations about a death squad first gained momentum after the murder of suspected member, Axel Williams. He was killed in December in a manner that was eerily similar to many of the killings that have been credited to him and his gang - in a carefully planned hit involving several accomplices. No one has ever been arrested.
Since his death Williams has been linked to at least ten murders, including the killings of Othniel Embrack, Andrew McPherson, Derrick Torrington, Oliver Springer and another man who was identified only as `Buckman,' who were all killed on the night of November 4, 2002. Williams was also said to be one of the men behind the deaths of Lloyd Bourne, Sherwin Manohar, Clive McLean and Clive Savoury, who were all killed last year in incidents which while separate, were similar in methodology: in the plain sight of witnesses each of the men was abducted. They were killed and their bodies dumped on a deserted roadway on the East Coast Demerara.
Williams had by then already killed food vendor Rodwell Ogle, whom he shot in the presence of witnesses on August 8, 2002, after a row over twenty dollars. Ogle died in hospital two weeks later, but not until after he gave a statement to the police who were also given statements by the eyewitnesses.
An officer of the Chambers of the Director of Public Prosecutions recommended that the police charge Williams for Ogle's murder in September. But the direction was amended on the same day and it was recommended that a Coroners' Inquest be held instead.
Williams's firearm was returned to him and an inquest was never held.
There was no record of the amendment in the files of the Chambers, only on the police case file, which showed that an inquest was ordered.
And Axel Williams was approved for an upgraded firearm licence authorised by former acting police commissioner Floyd McDonald. When asked about it recently he said that after three decades in the police force he did not deserve to be harassed.
Home Minister Ronald Gajraj told reporters that he could not recall instructing the police commissioner to approve the upgrade. But it was later revealed that he had written his approval on the top of Williams's application letter.
Gajraj has admitted that he once knew Williams and told reporters that Williams visited him several times at the ministry.
"As a matter of fact, at the time he had some problem. He used to be a taxi driver and he had made an application for a licensed firearm... and as far as I am aware his application was processed... and approval for a licence was issued to him. To the best of my knowledge, he was a licensed firearm holder..." Gajraj said of Williams at a press conference on December 19.
Telephone records show Williams had been calling the minister's house and the Ministry of Home Affairs. Gajraj did not divulge the details of the conversations, citing national security reasons.
More evidence of a death squad surfaced with George Bacchus.
Bacchus claims he was once an informant for the group for which he used his own money to locate criminals who were then murdered in well-planned executions.
In statements he made to the local media and officers of the United States Embassy, he said the gang was formed to hunt down criminals who had escaped from the Camp Street Prison on February 23, 2002.
The inability of the police force assisted by the Guyana Defence Force to contain the criminals resulted in several calls for Gajraj's resignation.
Bacchus identified Axel Williams as a key member of the group responsible for many of the killings. Aside from naming Williams he also named Gajraj, who he said provided the group with tactical support. Businessmen and senior policemen were also implicated.
Although Gajraj has dismissed the allegations, he has not denied knowing Bacchus who said he had visited the minister's office and his home on numerous occasions. Bacchus also said he had telephone contact with the minister, whom he phoned on the night that his brother was killed, the event that prompted his disclosures.
Bacchus believed that he was the intended target of the execution. Based on the information he gave to the police three people, Ashton King, Shawn Hinds and Mark Thomas, were arrested and charged with his brother's murder. Thomas mysteriously died in hospital almost two weeks later.
Gajraj has confirmed that he was telephoned twice by Bacchus on the night his brother was killed and says he was asked to investigate the shooting. But he said his contact with Bacchus, as in the case of Williams, was solely in his capacity as a minister. He noted the importance of getting information from the people who possess it and pointed out that the police force did have a problem with confidentiality.
"Even George Bacchus has said he did not want to go and talk to the police for whatever reason, so there are people who have criminal records who might be in contact with me for the purpose of information.
"And there are others as well who would have been from all walks of life that might have been in contact with me. Not in contact with me as Ronald Gajraj, but because I am Minister of Home Affairs," he told the BBC Caribbean Report.
Bacchus, who has not been available for comment for some weeks, has communicated his desire to keep a low profile for fear for his life.
Meanwhile, since Williams's death and the public disclosures by Bacchus, more people have come forward with information about the killings.
One witness recalls seeing a man beating his handcuffed fists against the glass window of a car that Axel Williams was driving.
His body was found dumped a few hours later.