Who killed 'informant' Bacchus?
-Four held after slaying, high level probe team assembled
By Samantha Alleyne
June 25, 2004
A high-level team of investigators is probing yesterday's shocking murder of death squad informant, George Bacchus and four persons have since been taken into custody.
Commissioner of Police, Winston Felix announced yesterday afternoon at a press conference that four persons were held and pledged that the police will go in whichever direction their investigation takes them. Felix also announced that the police would be investigating the death squad allegations following the handing over of a sworn affidavit by Bacchus and a taped statement by the PNCR.
Bacchus, 51, was gunned down around 2.40 am yesterday at his 76 Princes Street, Lodge home, while lying in his bed in the second flat of the four-storey building.
The man, who has been at the centre of the death squad allegations over the last few months, was shot in his face, armpit and leg. His corpse, clad only in a pair of white briefs, was taken away by staff from the Lyken's Funeral Home almost four hours later. The bloodied mattress, pillow and bed linen were removed shortly after. The murder rocked the country and speculation and conspiracy theories dominated conversations yesterday.
The man's nephew, Derick, told reporters yesterday morning that he heard three gunshots and shortly after other persons living in the yard ran to his room and asked whether he had heard them.
The young man said they came out into the yard and he was surprised not to see his uncle, who would usually be the first out of his room whenever such incidents occurred. "So I went up into his room and I see he lying on the bed and I shake he but he ent move. And den I see blood on he face and realise he get shoot."
The young man said that he alerted people in the area and told them to contact the police and the hospital.
Stabroek News understands that an ambulance visited the home but it was sent away by relatives who pointed out that the man was already dead.
Under a window
Bacchus had been lying just beneath a window, by which, according to reports, his killer(s) gained entrance. People said later that this was a strange decision by him since he knew that persons wanted to kill him.
Relatives said they have dogs in the yard, but no one heard them barking and they were only alerted that something was amiss when the shots were fired.
The commissioner did not say what calibre of weapon was used to kill Bacchus, stating that a single warhead was all that was found in the room. Nor did he disclose anything about the persons taken into custody. However, he did say that more persons are expected to be pulled in as the investigation intensifies.
According to the commissioner, Bacchus became a well-known man, since January 5, the day his brother Shafeek was killed.
Bacchus had said that he was the intended target of the killers because he had begun to complain that the `hitmen' were being hired willy-nilly for contract killings and he had made his objections known to persons who had control over them. He had alleged that Home Affairs Minister, Ronald Gajraj had knowledge of the operations of the death squad. Gajraj has repeatedly denied this allegation.
Felix was flanked at the press conference by Crime Chief, Deputy Commissioner, Henry Greene; Head of Operations, Deputy Commissioner Edward Wills; Commander of `A' Division Assistant Commissioner Paul Slowe; and Public Relations Officer Assistant Superintendent John Sauers. Felix told the media that a little after 2.45 am yesterday, a report was received at the East La Penitence Police Station about gunshots at Bacchus' home. "The police visited the scene and found him lying on a bed on the second flat... with three gun shot wounds, one somewhere on the cheek, one under the arm and one on the right leg..."
Questioned as to why Bacchus had no police protection even though he had received several death threats, the commissioner said that if Bacchus needed protection he would have approached the force for it. "Let me make this very clear, if George Bacchus wanted protection the commissioner's office was open to him. But he never came here, he never approached me for protection and I say that with a very clear conscience."
Asked why the police had not taken the initiative to offer protection to Bacchus, Felix said that for the force to provide protection it must be at the "instance of the person who wants to be protected. We cannot enforce protection on someone who doesn't want it and if he wants it he must seek after it in the correct manner, he or she."
The seriousness of Bacchus' death squad allegations was not an issue for the force since according to Felix the allegations were made in other places and not to the police. "The matter must come to the police in the proper manner. The television studio is not the place to make allegations. Serious allegations must be made to the police in the proper manner."
Felix confirmed that he received a sworn affidavit made by Bacchus and a taped statement from the PNCR yesterday. "I have just come from looking at the tape… The tape was not of good quality and I had to get another copy and I have just finished looking... I have read the affidavit and the investigation will proceed. The investigation will proceed."
According to the top cop, the level of seriousness placed on the information supplied by the opposition party will have to be assessed. "The level of seriousness will have to be assessed. I can't talk about it like how you [the reporter asking the question] are talking about it. You have to assess the seriousness based on how we deal with it."
He stated that whatever allegations are being made will be investigated and "appropriate actions will be taken. That is all I wish to say on this issue."
He reiterated that no allegation of witness tampering was made to the police and when it was pointed out that the man was now dead, the commissioner said, "well he never came, I am telling you that he never came."
And the commissioner then took a swipe at Bacchus saying that the police, while not going into details, knew him.
Bacchus had told this newspaper that he was charged twice with murder but it has been reported that he faced three murder charges among others, during his lifetime.
"Let me make this very clear, George Bacchus was well known to the police, well known. And we know how to deal with Bacchus and we have dealt with him based on how we know him and we are not running to Bacchus because we know Bacchus. We ran to him in the past and we were burnt." Asked what he meant by the force being burnt by Bacchus before Felix said: "I will say nothing further. The man is dead and I will say nothing further."
Since the commissioner said he knew Bacchus well, he was asked whether he knew what the man's occupation was and he responded: "Bacchus would say he was a cattle farmer, he will tell you that... What I know him as, will be inappropriate to mention in public. I am a police officer and I will conduct myself properly more particularly that the gentleman now deceased."
Many persons have been calling for a witness protection programme in Guyana and when asked about it yesterday Felix said it is something that is being looked at. But he pointed out that there are some issues that need to be taken into consideration when contemplating such a move.
"Well I know that it has engaged some attention. It has engaged attention, but we have to study, and particularly because of the smallness of our society, how feasible it would be to run such a programme in our society bearing in mind what happened in a Caribbean country a few short years ago. This is a very sensitive issue." Several years ago in Trinidad a key witness in the Dole Chadee murder case was killed even though he was under the protection of the police.