Ashton King says: “I felt that I was being ‘done in’”
By Michael Benjamin
July 23, 2004
Amidst tears of joy and unrestrained merriment, close friends and relatives of Ashton King gathered at his Pineapple Street residence to bid him a welcome return, moments after he was released from custody at the Camp Street prisons.
King had spent the past six months in the penal institution, the hangman’s noose ominously poised over his head after he was fingered in the assassination of cattle farmer, Shafeek Bacchus, in January this year.
Shortly after his release, an obviously elated King spoke with Kaieteur News of the frustrations, anxieties and depression experienced during his six months behind bars. King reserved much praise to God for sustaining him during those trying moments. He also recounted the details leading up to his arrest, while launching a scathing attack on some who, he said, were all too anxious to see him put away for an extended period, or at worse, hanged for murder.
King’s woes started in January, shortly after Shafeek Bacchus was gunned down in front of his Princes Street house. Shafeek’s brother, George Bacchus, recently killed in his sleep, had fingered King, Shawn Hinds and Mark Thomas for his brother’s death.
King revealed that on February 8, the police had telephoned him requesting his presence at the Brickdam Police Station. Upon arrival, he was questioned and sent home.
The following day, he was again summoned to the station where he was grilled about his whereabouts on the night of the murder. King said that he made certain disclosures to the ranks that were substantiated by his reputed wife, Paula. He was, nevertheless detained and on February 16, he was charged with murder.
“I felt that I was being ‘done in’, since the police failed to carry out an investigation to ascertain the truth,” the highly perturbed King said.
The men jointly charged with King were losing their nerves. Thomas collapsed and soon died while Hinds lost his cool in the courtyard and lashed out at certain politicians.
Thomas’ demise caused King to request heightened security. Permission was then granted to personally scrutinise his meals when it arrived at the prisons.
King also said that he had acceded to his family’s wishes to have his meals monitored because he knew how much his well being meant to them.
King’s trauma was heightened by the pockets of distressing news that were leaked into the prison, none more distressing than Thomas’ untimely death. “I felt stressed out,” King intimated, adding, however, that he was not afraid for his life.
To add to his woes came another devastating revelation. Thomas died even as he lay secure under the watchful eyes of the medical authorities.
When George Bacchus died, the trauma and fatigue intensified for King. “I was extremely aggrieved after learning of Bacchus’ death,” he disclosed. He further said that even though he felt exonerated, Bacchus’ testimony would have fully sealed the deal.
He feels that the Chief Magistrate should have instructed that Bacchus be charged. “No one examined Bacchus’ statements,” King lamented. “He was given a free rein to speak as he liked without anyone bothering to test the authenticity of his pronouncements.” King further said that when he would have appeared in court, Bacchus would have had to subject himself to cross-examination. “Then and only then would the truth have been established,” King said.
George Bacchus had said that he had seen King hurriedly leaving the scene in a car occupied by other men. King scoffed at these allegations. “That is pure rubbish,” he said, adding, “How could he have recognised me in the gloom while I was sitting in the back seat of a fast moving car?” he questioned.
A few weeks before King was charged, Axel Williams was shot dead in a vehicle believed to have belonged to the A&D funeral home. This occurrence fuelled speculations that King knew more than he was letting on. He quickly quelled those beliefs. “I am a businessman and at one time, Williams worked as a driver in my taxi service,” King disclosed.
He said that even though Williams had found more lucrative employment elsewhere he still found time to visit the East End taxi service. During one of these visits, he asked to borrow a vehicle registered to King’s spouse, Deborah. Williams had lost his life while driving the vehicle. “Axel was killed while going about his normal business and not while conducting any illegal business,” King stressed.
Among one of the places visited by King soon after his release was the A&D Funeral Home. He was briefed on operations and also the slump in business. King immediately began to put measures and systems in place to ensure a turn around. The businessman added that he is confident he can attain this feat especially after the public would have been briefed of the facts. King explained that in 2002 just after the crime spree had reached a heightened stage, he had offered a more feasible funeral package to consumers after he realised that they were cash-strapped.
Such innovations saw a boom in his business but his competitors soon became envious.
Now in the comfort of his three-storied home, King anticipates the tough job ahead as he prepares to rebuild his life.
“I will spend the first few days relaxing,” he said.
Nevertheless, he remembers the people who have senselessly lost their lives.
He also extends his sympathy to the relatives of George and Shaffeek Bacchus.
“Someday, I know that they will find out the truth. Then and only then will I feel truly vindicated,” he said.