Where in the world is George Bacchus?
March 22, 2004
Since he first went public with explosive allegations about the existence of a death squad, the man who says he was once an ex-informant for the group has vanished.
Now amidst calls that he give a formal statement to authorities about his claims which implicate a high-level government official, the question on everyone's mind is, where is George Bacchus?
Stabroek News was told by reliable sources that Bacchus had left the country. This was also confirmed by two other sources, although there are conflicting reports about who facilitated the move.
Bacchus first made headlines after the death of Shafeek Bacchus, his younger brother, who was killed in a drive-by shooting on January 5.
The death of his brother is believed to have prompted Bacchus to go public with his knowledge about the formation and the activities of a group that once hunted wanted criminals; a group which was also responsible for several contract killings which remain unsolved.
Shafeek Bacchus, a cattle farmer, was shot dead in front of his home in a manner reminiscent of many other killings in the preceding eighteen months.
During that time the country was in the midst of a crime wave that saw 21 policemen killed by well-armed bandits. There were also carjackings, kidnappings and carefully planned robberies.
Both the police force and an army contingent that was mobilised to offer support were criticised for their failure to manage the situation.
Bacchus said that with the support of some members of the business community and knowledge of the Minister of Home Affairs, Ronald Gajraj, the death squad was formed to respond to the criminals.
He said his participation was prompted by the terror that was unleashed upon the Indian populations on the East Coast Demerara, where villages were besieged on an almost daily basis.
Bacchus, a businessman, used his own money to locate criminals for the group, whose members used high-powered weapons and posed as policemen many times.
The vehicles that they used, which were made available by some members of the business community, could be altered within a day - fitted with new licence plates and painted in different colours.
In many cases no arrests were ever made by the police force and the murders remain unsolved.
Halfway through last year, Bacchus parted ways with the group after most of the men they were hunting were killed, either by them or in confrontations with the police.
But although he had left he continued to monitor activities of the group, which moved to killing for people who were willing to pay. He said that his concerns about the group mounted with this development, which coincided with a period where bodies pumped full of bullets would be found on abandoned roadways.
Bacchus gave a statement to an attorney even before his own brother was killed, an event that led him to tell his story to officials at the United States Embassy. Soon after, he disappeared, his family saying that he was keeping a low-profile for his own safety. This was the week ending January 17, after which detectives visited his home on five occasions to get a statement, according to then acting Police Commissioner, Floyd McDonald.
Bacchus had said he would be available for the preliminary inquiry into his brother's death but did not attend the first hearing.