Bacchus death probe: Cops, relatives grilled
Guyana Chronicle
June 26, 2004

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SEVERAL policemen were yesterday placed under close arrest while others who were part of a special team based at the Brickdam station in Georgetown were removed as the probe into the killing of self-confessed `death squad’ informant George Bacchus intensified.

About 12 persons, including five cops, those closely connected to Bacchus, and relatives, had been held for questioning up to last night, police sources said.

According to a well-placed source, cops who were part of the Dragon Alpha Squad based at the Brickdam station were removed after the Divisional Commander instructed them to remain in the compound until they had been detailed to do otherwise.

The source said some of the ranks were questioned individually by senior officers regarding the early Thursday morning death of Bacchus.

The Dragon Alpha Squad, a special group that tracked hardcore criminals, broke up yesterday morning and some ranks were transferred, the source said.

Some of those under close arrest were later released.

Two policemen who had recently grilled a close relative about Bacchus, 51, were held Thursday for questioning, the Chronicle understands.

Indications are that Bacchus was shot with a .38 gun at close range in his bed at his Princes Street, Georgetown home at about 02:45 hrs Thursday, police sources said.

One man told investigators he saw two men on a motorcycle ride up to the yard and shortly after shots rang out.

But he claimed he saw only one man riding away, source said.

Investigators were yesterday still baffled by other aspects of the case.

Bacchus kept several dogs in his yard, including a pit bull, but neighbours did not hear any of them barking or attacking any intruder or intruders.

“We don’t know what happened to those dogs that night”, a source said yesterday.

Then there was the apparent ease of entry available to possible killers, especially in light of Bacchus’ repeated claims that there was a price on his head, the source said.

He said main doors and a side window adjacent to the stairway on the southern side of the building were left open.

Investigators are also looking into the absence of anybody else sleeping that night in the area of the house where Bacchus slept.

Bacchus, one source said, usually slept in his room with two male members of the household sleeping just outside the door.

However, due to a recent spat, the two men decided to sleep on the ground floor of the four-storey building while Bacchus slept on the first floor.

Bacchus’ extended family usually occupied the house along with two handymen, neighbours said.

“Most of the people living there were not there Thursday night”, the source said, adding that investigators were also looking into this aspect of the case.

“There are several puzzling aspects we are trying to unravel”, he said.

A neighbour said that shortly after he heard the shots, he was asked by Bacchus’ nephew and two of the family’s helpers who reside in the building to call the police.

The neighbour said that at no time did he hear any vehicle or any other sounds of movement after the gunshots rang out.

He said it was hard to conceive of anybody getting easy access to the Bacchus residence because of the numerous floodlights on the property.

Commissioner of Police, Mr. Winston Felix yesterday continued reviewing a video tape and affidavit made by Bacchus, which were handed over to him just after noon on Thursday by Leader of the main Opposition People’s National Congress Reform (PNCR) Mr. Robert Corbin.

Felix told a news conference Thursday afternoon that he had put together a high-level team to investigate the murder of Bacchus.

Bacchus had confessed to being an informant to the alleged ‘Phantom Squad’ after his brother Shafeek Bacchus was shot dead in January this year by gunmen whom he claimed were after him.

He had implicated Minister of Home Affairs, Mr. Ronald Gajraj, several businessmen and police officers as being members of the ‘Phantom Squad’, a charge which the minister has repeatedly denied.

Felix has said that there would 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.

George Bacchus came into the public light days after his younger brother, 45-year-old cattle farmer, Shafeek, was gunned down in front of the same yard on January 5.

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 further claimed that he was the 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.

Bacchus’ subsequent appearances in the media led to calls from several political parties – most notably the main opposition PNCR – and civil society organisations for Gajraj to step aside or resign to facilitate a Commission of Inquiry into the allegations.

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.

According to PPP/Civic Member of Parliament, Ms. Shirley Edwards, Bacchus approached her to facilitate the renouncement of his previous allegations against Gajraj.

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.