Man found dead in trench had been death squad informant - associate
July 20, 2004
Before he was abducted and shot dead last December, Patrick Gunraj was an informant for a home affairs official who was linked to the death squad, according to a close associate.
The associate believes that Gunraj, who had once been implicated in a spectacular bank robbery and had several brushes with the law, was killed because he had outlived his usefulness and was a liability to the death squad since he knew about its dealings.
Gunraj, 44, of Bel Air, was found dead in the canal that runs along Thomas Lands, in December last year. He was last seen alive four days prior and is believed to have been abducted, tortured and then killed before his body was dumped. Like many others, his death is still unsolved.
The associate who spoke with Stabroek News on the condition of anonymity was a close confidant of Gunraj who says his friend had turned his life around after his past run-ins with the law.
Gunraj had been charged with murder sometime in the late '80s but he was released in 1992 after spending four years in prison awaiting the start of the trial.
The associate said the man's defence team had been led by the late Stanley Hardyal S.C and included, Ronald Gajraj who has recently stepped down as Home Affairs Minister to permit an investigation into death squad allegations made against him.
Gunraj was again charged, along with several others, in the mid-90s for the daring $50M Anna Regina bank robbery. He was acquitted along with the others with whom he had been charged and was earning a living as a poultry and livestock merchant after.
Then came the February 23rd, 2002 jail-break which sparked an unprecedented surge in crime over the 18-month period that followed.
At the start of the year, cattle farmer George Bacchus went public with an incredible story about the activities of a group of men who were targeting wanted criminals during the period.
He also linked Minister Gajraj to the death squad which he credited with the deaths of at least forty men, some of whom were abducted and tortured.
Bacchus claimed to have been an informant for the Minister and also the members of the group, which comprised several serving members of the force as well as ex-lawmen.
Bacchus was murdered last month, but not before giving details of some of the killings committed by the group in two sworn affidavits and a video-taped interview. Two persons have since been charged with Bacchus's murder.
Gunraj was one of the individuals Bacchus identified in an affidavit as having been murdered by the group. Gunraj's associate told Stabroek News that during the period when there were almost daily robberies along the East Coast of Demerara, Gunraj was picked up for questioning on several occasions by the police, who would hold him for days at a time. That was until after he had a meeting with the home affairs official who promised to change things.
"He come a day and tell me the [official] spoke with him and call the police off his back," the man recounted, also explaining that in exchange the now dead man would give information to the official.
But he said Gunraj ended his relationship with the group when they began to kill innocents; Bacchus had cited the same reason for his parting of ways with the group. Gunraj apparently broke off all contact with the group following the abduction and murder of his close friend, Mukesh Boodhoo.
The 41-year-old Boodhoo of Vryheid's Lust, East Coast Demerara, was reportedly picked up some time near the end of September last year by a group of men thought to be police officers. Two weeks later his already decomposing body was found at the back of Eccles, on the East Bank. He was shot in the head and both of his hands were bound behind his back with plastic handcuffs. The corpse was decomposed to such an extent that the police only managed to identify him by the clothes he wore and a ring recovered on the body. Boodhoo was last seen alive while preparing to go to a horse race at Mahaicony.
His relatives had claimed that the police constantly harassed Boodhoo ever since he was released from jail nine years before. After he went missing they contacted a lawyer who initiated Habeas Corpus proceedings to have the police produce him before a court.
When the matter was heard before the court on the very day that the body was identified, the police through their lawyers informed that they did not have any record that the dead man was ever in custody or even arrested by a policeman.
But there were conflicting reports about Boodhoo's abduction; some people claimed he and two other men were handcuffed and taken away by men dressed in khaki police garb, while others maintained it was two men in civilian clothes who took him away in a white car. The latter version bears similarity to other abductions/murders that were reportedly committed by the death squad, like those of Clive Savoury, Clive McLean, Lloyd Bourne and Sherwin Manohar.
Gunraj was reportedly picked up on a Saturday, four days before his body would be found in the Thomas Lands trench. His associate says he has since learnt that Gunraj was picked up near his Bel Air home by the now-dead Axel Williams, who would be killed in the area a week later. After his death, Williams was named as a key figure in the group, linked to a considerable amount of the killings.
At the time he was picked up Gunraj was making last-minute preparations for a trip to Berbice, where one his horses was supposed to have run at races that were being held.
His vehicle was found parked in front of his house, with one of its wheels punctured. His decomposed body was subsequently found in the trench, about a hundred feet away from the Albert Street entrance of the National Park. It was severely decomposed and relatives only managed to identify him from a tattoo on his right hand.
His associate saw the body and he said it appeared as if the man was tortured, which is consistent with the information detailed by Bacchus in relation to other cases. The associate said it looked as if one of his arms was broken, his eyes were shot out and he was also shot at close range in both the abdomen and groin.
"From the time you can't give information, you no longer useful to anyone," his friend said of him, in retrospect.
"Remember they tried to kill Bacchus, but kill his brother (Shafeek Bacchus) instead. If they had gotten him (George) first nobody would've known anything. After you finish giving information and you ain't got nothing more to give they kill you."
He candidly admitted that his information is second- hand at best, but he believed Gunraj to the extent that he (the associate) approached an attorney on how to proceed and was advised to keep the information confidential.
Gunraj's confidant also linked the group to the deaths of two cousins, who were apparently tortured before they were killed.
The bodies of Hasraf Ally and Imtiaz Abass were found on the western side of the Hamilton Gas Station in Buxton, on Saturday, April 5 last year.
Their relatives were baffled by the murders of the men, who were found bound and gagged with gunshot wounds to the back of their heads, which had been shaved clean by the killers.
The men were also without shoes and all their legs were broken. The cousins were last seen the evening before their bodies were found, after they left home to buy food somewhere on the Lusignan Public Road.
A Commission of Inquiry has been established to determine if there is any credible evidence to support the allegations against the minister, who has proceeded on leave to facilitate the probe. Questions have been raised about the mechanisms that would be put in place to facilitate potential witnesses such as Gunraj's associate in light of the murder of Bacchus. Many believe that Bacchus was murdered because of the information he had in his possession. He was to testify at some point in the preliminary inquiry into the murder of his brother Shafeek. One of the persons charged with George Bacchus's murder is the wife of one of the men charged with the murder of Shafeek Bacchus.