The Agricola Massacre: One year later
By Melanie Allicock
February 25, 2007
“If I had a place to go I would move from here, if only for a while. A day does not pass when I could put the incident out of my mind. It's with me all the time. It's hard, very hard...” – Victims' relative.
It would be difficult for anyone passing through the quaint village of Agricola on the East Bank of Demerara to imagine that one of the country's most horrific massacres occurred there only a year ago – February 26, 2006.
There is almost no remaining physical evidence of the horrific tragedy that left in its wake eight persons dead and six injured when a brazen group of heavily armed gunmen descended on the community during a spate of serious crimes that had permeated its environs.
The house at lot 40 Brutus Street in which an elderly couple David Brummel, 74, and Hannah Cameron, 73 were burnt in their beds has been repaired and repainted.
So too has the adjoining internet café from which its proprietor, 26-year-old Fenton Rudder, Cameron's grandson died.
Efforts at reconstruction are also visible at the Third Street home of former Assistant Town Clerk Lavern-Garraway who was gunned down and set alight in it.
However, for the relatives of the eight who lost their lives, each day is a painful, nostalgic journey, made even more so by the fact that even after one year - though it remains one of the largest mass murders this country has witnessed - no related arrests have been made by the police.
Similarly, the events of that terrible night will remain etched in the minds of the residents of Agricola, forever, and although the village is somewhat calmer as a result of the removal of a number of notorious criminals, there is an underlying fear of a recurrence.
Police reported that the assault began at around 22:00 hrs at the Eccles gas station on that fateful Sunday.
Three MMC guards - Loris Semple, Sheldon Smartt, and Cedric Dummett - were at the Eccles filling station putting air into their vehicle's tyres when several armed men, who were on foot, came from a northern direction and entered the compound.
The bandits opened fire killing the men, instantly. They then proceeded to rob the female pump attendants, reportedly carting off about $60,000.
The gunmen then headed into Brutus Street, Agricola, to the house which was occupied by pensioners Hannah Cameron and David Brummel, as well as 43-year-old Maxine Cameron.
At the time Cameron's grandson, 26-year-old Fenton Rudder was in the ‘Telegenic' Internet Café, which he operated in another section of the same building.
Police believe that Rudder was one of the gunmen's main targets.
The men then entered the bedroom nearest to the hallway, which the two pensioners occupied. They then shot them and set their bodies alight in the bed.
During the attack, Maxine Cameron escaped the gunmen's wrath by concealing herself under her bed.
According to the police, Rudder attempted to escape through the back door of the internet café, but the men spotted him, gave chase and shot him.
He ran but eventually collapsed in the Agricola Primary School compound some 200 yards away.
It is believed that after killing Rudder and the two pensioners, the gunmen headed for the Third Street, Agricola home of City Hall's Assistant Town Clerk Laverne Garraway-Scott where, after demanding money, they shot Scott then torched the house with her inside. She was burnt beyond recognition.
A number of innocent passersby were also victims of the gruesome attack
These included Internet café operator Cecil Duncan, 26, who was also killed by a stray bullet while driving his mother's car, and Basdeo Sattaur, Chetmattie Sattaur, Simone Savory, Stacy Chinapen and Jason Thomas, who were injured.
The relatives of the six men and two women who were brutally murdered on February 26, 2006 related to this newspaper that the process of healing and moving on with their lives has been extremely difficult
STRUGGLING TO MOVE ON
Despite receiving counseling, Scott's daughter, seven-year-old Damali is finding it hard to cope with her mother's death. She was alone with her mother at the time of the tragedy and was reportedly sent to a neighbour's house by the gunmen while they carried out the heinous act on her mother.
The child's maternal grandmother, Marcia Garraway, with whom she resides, related that since the death the child is prone to suddenly bursting into tears for no apparent reason. She also still asks for her mother and experiences constant nightmares.
“The other night I heard her crying in her room and when I asked her what was wrong she said ‘if only I could see my mother one more time and tell her how much I love her'” Garraway said.
Meanwhile Garrway's mother related that she herself has not been doing too well.
As she describes it, her daughter's death has caused her to lose her interest in things that she used to do since a part of her has died with her child.
“I hardly leave the house anymore, I just don't find the motivation to do anything anymore because me and my daughter used to do a lot together. I cry every day for my daughter and even though I believe that God knows best, I question him why he allowed something like that to happen to my Lavern.”
A hypertensive patient, (Marcia) Garraway said in the last year, her blood pressure has not been stable and at times has fluctuated out of control.
Her voice breaking, she related that the gruesome manner in which her daughter died, and the fact that no arrests have been made worries her the most, and is prohibiting her from gaining emotional closure.
“If I had a proper body of my daughter to bury I think it would have been easier. But the charred remains that I saw is not my Lavern, and at times I still believe that she will come back.”
She has not been able to visit the site where the incident occurred, since, and believes that she never will.
Things have not been much easier for Lavern's husband, David Scott, either.
An operator of a resort on the Soesdyke/Linden Highway, he was not at home at the time of the incident, and came home a few hours later to discover his house completely destroyed and the burnt body of his wife at the front door.
He has been unable to enjoy a good night's rest since then.
“I think about the incident every single day, it's been very hard for me. The fact that they have not arrested anyone for these murders makes me feel the police is incompetent.”
He believes that had he been at home at the time, things would have turned out differently.
He related that although he knows that he will eventually have to find another partner he is finding it hard to even look at another woman.
“We were together for eleven years. She was everything to me, my soul mate,” Scott reflected.
Through the donation of blocks from friends, Scott began reconstructing his razed apartment, but said that he is just not focused enough to complete the process.
“I just can't focus on anything right now. I just live from day to day, but to actually get down to any major plans is hard. My wife has died and it's really difficult to me to carry on in a normal way.”
ALWAYS WITH ME
Loris Semple's ability to make her laugh is what his mother, Fredericka, misses most about him. Loris was one of the security guards who were gunned down at the service station after they stumbled on the bandits.
From her No. 28 Village, West Coast Berbice home, Fredericka recalled that Loris, the fourth of ten children could always bring a smile to her face even in her most depressing moments.
Although he was no longer at home, he paid consistent attention to his mother by visiting often.
“If Loris walked into this home and see me sitting down quiet, he would start teasing me to try to cheer me up and he would continue until I burst out laughing. He told me once that it hurts him when I am sad.”
It is for this reason that Fredericka is desperately trying to cope with her irreplaceable loss. This process is made easier by the fact that Loris still visits the family, and is always with them.
“He is always with me. He still visits us and as usual he is always smiling… just yesterday he was here, we saw him sitting in a chair in the living room ...it's like he just comes around for a while to let me know that he is ok and then leaves… but it does a lot for me, because I don't think that I could have held it up without his occasional visits.”
A staunch Christian, she is adamant that those responsible for ruthlessly cutting her son down in his prime, will not escape the wrath of God, even if they are never brought to justice.
Across in Annandale, Loris' reputed wife Kean Joseph is just taking life one day at a time. Left to cope with the couple's three-year-old son, she understands the added responsibility thrust upon her - of being both mother and father to her child.
However it's a daily uphill task made worse by the fact that her son asks for his father on a daily basis.
Explaining the concept of death, and that Loris is gone for good to her infant is harder since she herself is finding it hard to accept.
However Kean knows that despite the constant pain and sense of loss, she must go on; if only for the sake of her child.
“WOULD MOVE IF I COULD”
During the murders of her mother Hannah Cameron and stepfather David Brummel, 43- year-old Maxine Cameron escaped the gunmen's wrath by concealing herself under her bed.
She heard as the gunmen shot the couple and then set the bed on which they were on alight.
The screams and whimpering of the elderly couple as the gunmen unleashed terror will forever live with her, as will the sounds of the gunshots being fired.
One year later, Maxine lives alone in that very house where the gruesome acts were committed and each day she relives the experience all over again.
This makes the possibility of forgetting the incident and moving on almost impossible, try as she might
“If I had a place to go I would move from here, if only for a while. A day does not pass when I could put the incident out of my mind. It's with me all the time. It's hard, very hard...”
She admits that she harbours some amount of fear too.
“If I hear a noise sometimes, I get a bit afraid, and am on the alert… I am much more vigilant now than before.”
Although the house has been repainted and the room in which the couple was burnt rehabilitated, it only offers a cosmetic solution to the underlying turmoil which lingers within.
She explained that the internet café which adjoins the house and which was operated by Fenton Rudder will be re-opened soon.
Rudder was Brummel's grandson who it is believed they were looking for when they murdered the elderly couple. Rudder was married with two children.
His wife Rushell Greaves had originally operated the café with her husband but has since moved out of the area with her children.