`Death squad’ witness killing: Probe net widens
June 27, 2004
SEVERAL cops remained under close arrest yesterday and more persons connected to self-confessed `Death squad’ informant George Bacchus were pulled in by police for questioning as the probe into Bacchus’ killing widened.
Some colleagues of the cops under close arrest were placed under tight scrutiny and asked to report to police headquarters each day, sources said.
A well-placed source said several persons closely related to Bacchus, who was shot dead in his bed early Thursday morning, were also asked to report to police headquarters where they were grilled for several hours by investigators.
The source said most policemen who were part of the Dragon Alpha Squad based at the Brickdam police station in Georgetown were questioned on Friday. The squad members were transferred and the squad disbanded.
In light of this new development ranks were not pleased and some were already in the process of securing sick leave, the source said.
The Dragon Alpha Squad was a special group that tracked hardcore criminals.
Police Commissioner Mr. Winston Felix last week promised a thorough probe into the killing by a high level team of investigators and more than a dozen persons had been grilled by yesterday.
Among those questioned were the part owner of a funeral parlour in Georgetown who is related to a man accused of killing Bacchus’ brother earlier this year, a Communications Officer in the media, employees of George Bacchus, and a number of well-known and close acquaintances of the dead informant.
Police are expected to this week also question leaders of the main Opposition People’s National Congress Reform (PNCR), TV `talk show’ hosts and media persons who had contact with Bacchus, a source said yesterday.
PNCR Leader, Mr. Robert Corbin on Thursday handed over to Felix a video tape of an interview done with Bacchus and a sworn affidavit by the murdered informant.
People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/Civic) Member of Parliament, Ms. Shirley Edwards and media operative, Mr. Michael Gordon, on Friday voluntarily submitted written statements to the police on their contact with Bacchus.
Bacchus had 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.
He implicated Home Affairs Minister, Mr. Ronald Gajraj in the operations of the death squad, a charge the minister has repeatedly denied.
Bacchus’ subsequent appearances in the media led to calls from several political parties – most notably the 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 Edwards, Bacchus had approached her to facilitate the renouncement of his previous allegations against Gajraj and she had arranged for Gordon to do the interview in which he cleared the minister of the charge.
Bacchus later admitted to having done the interview on video tape but claimed he was offered $10,000,000 and safe passage out of the country to do it.
Bacchus was due to testify in the preliminary inquiry that is under way into the murder charge against the two men he claimed killed his brother, Shafeek Bacchus, outside his home earlier this year. He said in media interviews that he was the intended target of the men who gunned down his brother on January 5.
He claimed that those who shot his brother were members of the death squad.
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, the source said.
Investigators have been 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.
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.