Bacchus’s killing leaves more questions than answers
June 28, 2004
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WHISPERS of the existence of a killer squad known in some quarters as “The Phantom” was virtually ignored until the brutal murder of cattle farmer Shafeek Bacchus, earlier this year.
But it has turned out that there is another killing squad. Subsequently, Shafeek’s brother, George, claimed that he was a member of this gang. He also fingered three other people with whom he had acted in concert. George also said that Minister of Home Affairs Ronald Gajraj was the mastermind behind the extra judicial killings.
George Bacchus fingered three men and despite their vehemence in professing their innocence, Ashton King, Shawn Hinds and Mark Thomas were charged with the capital offence. They are behind bars.
President Bharrat Jagdeo is adamant that his Minister is not involved despite Bacchus’s accusations.
Calls by the opposition parties for Gajraj’s head continue to ring out. This group argued that it was prudent for Gajraj to demit office to facilitate an impartial enquiry.
President Jagdeo thought otherwise and said that the evidence against his Minister was inadequate.
Even as the politicians wrangled over the modalities, an evil force was at work. Thomas mysteriously collapsed at the Georgetown Hospital and later died. The opposition parties cited murder and called for an enquiry since they were convinced that Thomas had been ‘done in’. Forensic tests performed in the United States of America failed to clarify the issue.
In prison King and Hinds decided to take precaution. They wanted to be present when their meals arrived at the prison front desk. This request was subsequently granted. Today both men are still alive. Was it because of the proactive stance that was taken regarding their meals?
Meanwhile, George Bacchus remained a captive in the free world. He was convinced that he was being watched and that it was only a matter of time before his killers would strike. George Bacchus continued his rounds. He spoke with almost anyone who would listen.
“Minister Gajraj was responsible for my brother’s death.”
Bacchus then reportedly spilled his guts to officials of the American Embassy. It is not clear whether it was because of information garnered from Bacchus, but officials of the US and Canadian embassies revoked Gajraj’s visa.
Bacchus subsequently disappeared from the scene and word on the streets was that the Americans had secretly facilitated his exodus. This was not so as shortly afterwards he resurfaced and once again recommenced the crusade against Gajraj.
In the meantime, King and Thomas’s preliminary inquiry started before Chief Magistrate Juliet Holder- Allen. Phantom callers disrupted court proceedings with bomb threats. The phone calls were malicious but they caused Holder-Allen to rethink her position and contemplate withdrawing from the case.
Then came news that hit Guyana like a thunderbolt, yet few people were surprised. George Bacchus is dead! This revelation provoked philosophical remarks and speculations that did absolutely nothing to unravel the mystery. In the end the average citizen mooted that there was only one person in the world whose interest would have been best served by Bacchus’s death. To them it was clearly a cut and dried case.
Recently Bacchus seemed to have lost all interest in life. He would stand on his bridge early in the morning totally oblivious of all the madness surrounding him. I once had reason to query his nonchalant approach to life, notwithstanding the many whispers surrounding his possible assassination.
He was adamant that he was afraid of no one. “I will skin up all ah dem when de right time come,” he emphatically remarked.
A few days after our conversation I listened to GINA information officer Michael Gordon and PPP parliamentarian Shirley Edwards revealing that they had solicited a confession from Bacchus that had totally exonerated the beleaguered Minister of Home Affairs, Ronald Gajraj, from any involvement with the notorious phantom squad.
Bacchus then appeared on television and firmly debunked these statements.
He explained that he was forced to renege on an earlier promise to make the disclosure that would have exonerated Gajraj, after the promised inducement of $10 million failed to materialise.
Shortly after the stunning news, throngs of curious citizens converged on Princes Street for a glimpse of the body. The police got there first and set up barriers at strategic points, preventing unauthorised entry.
Even enterprising journalists failed to convince police officers that they were merely interested in acquiring the news and were not interested in hampering the work of the sleuths.
Finally, at around 07:00hrs last Thursday, the barriers were removed and the journalists as well as curious spectators converged on the scene.
The first irregular occurrence that smacked of irregularity, nay stupidity, was the easy access afforded the assassin. It was as though Bacchus, even though aware of the dangers surrounding him, simply presented the perfect scenario for his murder. Access doors were left unlocked and windows, opened.
One would not have been surprised if a sign had been placed on the door that read, “fair game inside, you may enter.”
Here was a man who possessed information that could possibly effect changes on the political front. Here was a man who fully understood the power of the information he possessed and here was a man who loved life so much that after he had witnessed his brother’s assassination in January, he had taken every precaution to avert his own demise.
Evidence points to an inside job. The dogs did not bark. Bacchus’s relatives failed to see anyone departing the crime scene even though they had immediately investigated upon hearing gunshots.
Law abiding citizens are now speculative. What are the implications for King and Thomas now that their accuser has met his end? What about Gajraj?
In the meantime Guyana remains a dangerous place to be.