`Death squad’ witness killed:
Four held in Bacchus murder probe
By Ruel Johnson
June 25, 2004
POLICE have held four persons in connection with the murder yesterday of self-confessed `death squad’ informant, George Bacchus, 51.
Bacchus was shot dead in his bed at his Princes Street, Lodge, Georgetown home in what seemed to be a well-planned pre-dawn execution.
Police said he was shot in the head and body.
According to neighbour and Clerical and Commercial Workers Union (CCWU) employee, Mr. Keith Burrowes, he was just about to retire to bed when he heard about four or five shots. This was at approximately 02:46 hrs.
Burrowes said he first checked on his wife and young daughter and about 10 minutes later, heard a call for assistance coming from the direction of Bacchus’ residence.
He said he went out to see what the matter was and was asked by Bacchus’ nephew and two of the family’s helpers who reside in the building to call the police.
Burrowes said that no one responded to a 911 call, while the ambulance service said that there was no vehicle available.
He eventually got through to the police Impact Base where information was taken. The police arrived on the scene about 15 to 20 minutes later.
By then, other neighbours had begun to come out of their homes to check on the fracas.
Burrowes said that at no time did he hear any vehicle or any other sounds of movement subsequent to hearing the gunshots. Neither did any of the residents at the scene yesterday morning.
He said that it was hard to conceive of anybody getting easy access to the Bacchus residence because of the numerous floodlights on the property.
Another mystery surrounding Bacchus’ death is the fact that several dogs belonging to the family did not bark, leading to speculation by some residents that the killer or killers might have been well-known to the family.
At the scene yesterday morning, Crime Chief Henry Greene said that Bacchus was shot three times – once each in the face, chest and thigh – as he slept in his bed in a room on the second floor of the family’s three-storey building.
And at a news conference at police headquarters yesterday afternoon, Commissioner of Police, Mr. Winston Felix said that George Bacchus had been well-known to the police.
He said the force had put their trust in Bacchus many times but had “been burnt.” Felix was at the time responding to a question on why the police did not act on statements by Bacchus in relation to his `death’ or `Phantom Squad’ allegations.
The commissioner said there was going to be a thorough investigation into the death of Bacchus and he was willing to follow the investigation wherever it may lead.
He said that “because of who Bacchus was” there could have been any number of persons who might have wanted him dead.
Up to yesterday afternoon, the police had held four persons for questioning in relation to Bacchus’ killing, he said. The only evidence found so far at the scene was a single warhead.
Asked what was Bacchus’ occupation as it was known to the police, Felix said, “Bacchus would tell you that he was a cattle farmer…”, but would not elaborate.
Also at the news conference were Assistant Commissioner of ‘A’ Division, Mr. Paul Slowe; Deputy Commissioner (Operations) Mr. Edward Wills; Crime Chief Greene and Police Public Relations Officer, Mr. John Sauers.
George Bacchus came into the public light days after his younger brother, 45-year-old cattle farmer, Shafeek Bacchus, was gunned down in front of the same yard on January 5 this year.
After reports in the media that the gunmen had declared that they had shot the “wrong man”, George Bacchus came out with the allegations that he was the intended victim.
Bacchus claimed he was the key informant for the `Phantom Squad’, an alleged group of `for-hire’ vigilantes who he charged was responsible for the murder of close to 40 men, many of whom were wanted by the police.
Bacchus accused Home Affairs Minister, Mr. Ronald Gajraj of starting the death squad in the wake of the 2002-2003 crime spree, a charge that the minister dismissed as “mere allegations” and without merit.
Bacchus further claimed that he was key informant for the group until the hit men began to target individuals unconnected with any crime.
He said that when he began to speak out, the men threatened to turn their guns on him.
He fingered three men – Ashton King, Shawn Hinds and Mark `Kezorkee’ Thomas – in the killing of his brother. All three were arrested but Thomas died after suddenly falling ill after his arrest.
A preliminary inquiry into the murder of Shafeek Bacchus is under way against the other two men.
Bacchus’ subsequent appearances in the media led to calls from several political parties – most notably the main opposition PNCR – and civil society organisations for the minister to step aside or resign to facilitate a Commission of Inquiry into the allegations.
Some of the fallout from the resulting media furore was the revocation of the U.S. and Canadian visas of Gajraj as well as the U.S. visas of several other officials.
The minister offered to go on leave to allow an impartial investigation into the allegations against him.
President Bharrat Jagdeo last month appointed a three-member commission consisting of Justice of Appeal, Mr. Ian Chang; Mr. Ivan Crandon; and Mr. Norman MacLean, to spearhead an inquiry into the allegations by Bacchus.
The `informant’ said he would have testified about the death squad to the commission of inquiry.
Prior to his death, George Bacchus was most recently in the news in relation to an as yet unaired video tape on which he recanted his allegations against Gajraj.
According to PPP/Civic Member of Parliament, Ms. Shirley Edwards, Bacchus approached her to facilitate the renouncement of his previous allegations against the minister.
Bacchus later admitted to having made the tape but claimed he was offered $10,000,000 and safe passage out of the country to do it.
In recent statements to the media, Bacchus had said that he was fearful for his life, claiming that he was being watched by several persons including a man with a rifle fitted with a telescopic lens.
Efforts to contact Bacchus’ family members yesterday proved futile.