Jun 26, 2008 News Comments Off on External forensic experts to help in miners’ death probe
– Jagdeo calls for end to speculations
President Bharrat Jagdeo has confirmed that his government has requested assistance from the United States of America to conduct a forensic examination of the site where eight miners were found dead.
To this end he is urging that the media and the public as a whole refrain from speculation and to await the outcome of the investigations.
Theories are flying left, right and centre about who may have been responsible for the killings with newspaper reports quoting a source saying that the spent shells found at the scene did not match those used by the Rondell ‘Fine Man’ Rawlins gang that was being pursued by the Joint Services in the area.
However, the police are contending otherwise.
The eight miners were discovered dead by their employer Leonard Arokium when he visited the camp on Saturday. Their bodies were burnt and reduced to skulls and bones.
Speaking to the media on his return from his recent overseas visits, President Jagdeo said that he was informed about the incident while he was in Toronto, Canada.
According to the President, he had spoken with Arokium on Saturday evening and expressed his condolences and outrage at what transpired.
“I want to do so again to Mr. Arokium and to all the families who have lost loved ones. These people were brutally murdered and I hope that the country will at this point in time express our outrage at what happened and also to be fully supportive of these families,” the president stated.
He acknowledged that the incident has raised a major controversy and he assured that the matter will be investigated fully.
“We have already asked for some forensic help from America and all of the findings will be made public,” President Jagdeo assured.
“I want to urge people, at this stage, not to speculate because we a have syndrome in Guyana where from the time an incident happens, we have people on both sides who know exactly who did it and who didn’t do it. If that were true then we didn’t need any investigation,” the president added.
Opposition Leader Robert Corbin had earlier issued a call for an independent enquiry into the slaughter but according to President Jagdeo such an enquiry should also take in all the killings that have occurred since the beginning of the year.
Jagdeo said that he has received a letter from Alliance for Change leader Raphael Trotman calling for the enquiry.
“If we are to go this route then we will look at all the killings that took place and the circumstances that led to these killings, who may be involved and whether there are ties in the political circles of the country,” the president said.
However, President Jagdeo did not commit to an enquiry, pointing out that he is not too sure if this is the correct vehicle for the investigation of this matter.
He explained that it is critical that external expertise be brought into the picture and Government is trying to secure this.
The matter, he said, will be kept under constant review.
He added that he has seen some internal analysis which suggests a scenario that is contrary to what is being reported in the media. Kaieteur News was told that investigators who located the remains on Monday observed what appeared to be bullet wounds in some of the skulls.
Police officials said yesterday that some of the assault rifle shells found at the scene of the Lindo Valley slaughter match those retrieved from the Lusignan and Bartica massacres.
The ballistics results on four 7.62×39 shells appear to indicate that the brutal killings were the work of the notorious Rondell Rawlins gang, which has been implicated in the massacres that claimed 23 lives. Examination of the other skulls also indicated that some of the miners were beaten to death with a hammer.
A small sledge hammer, reportedly smeared with dried blood and hair, was found in the area where the brutal killings occurred.
An official confirmed that the killers had placed the bodies in a heap, along with several items from the camp, and then set them alight. The corpses were literally cremated, leaving only the eight skulls and a few bones.
Ever since the gruesome discovery was made, there have been suggestions that the men were slain by persons other than the gang the Joint Services is pursuing.
Yesterday, questions were already being raised as to why the gang would have left spent shells that could link them to the crime at the scene, after burning the bodies in an apparent attempt to destroy forensic evidence.
However, there is speculation that the burning of the bodies may have been the modus operandi of a gang that felt betrayed.
Questions are also being raised as to why the Joint Services team that was said to be scouring the area for the gunmen had not observed the fire from the makeshift crematorium and had not stumbled on the remains.
Mining camp boss Leonard Arokium, who found the bodies, remains adamant that the attack which wiped out his entire crew was not carried out by the Rondell Rawlins gang.
Mr. Arokium, who gave a detailed explanation of the layout of the area, said that it would be improbable for the gunmen to attack his camp.
According to Arokium, his camp is situated near a mountain range, and it is unlikely that the fleeing gunmen would have traveled that area in their bid to escape, since they would have been risking running right into the arms of the Joint Services ranks who were guarding the Unamco Road which leads out from the area.
Some relatives of the slain miners have also expressed suspicion that the men were slain by members of the security services, a suggestion that the army has strongly refuted.
According to President Jagdeo, he would assume that if Guyana has sought external help, the site of the massacre would have been secured to protect the evidence.
The President referred all other queries to the Police Commissioner, who for some reason has been avoiding the media ever since the June 6 attack on the gunmen’s hideout at Christmas Falls in the Berbice River.
He said that a lot will revolve around the forensics because no one was there and no one saw what happened.
“We have already requested an external group to come and assist with the forensics and I hope that their report will be done and then made public,” Jagdeo stated.
He said that four persons have been identified as having knowledge that the Joint Services might have committed the act.
The police, he said, have already taken statements from two of these persons and are looking for the two others.
“From what I gather, it is that both persons said they did not see, they heard,” he explained.
Kaieteur News was informed that the authorities had indicated to persons who operate in the area to vacate in light of the military presence there.
It is not clear if the Arokium camp was so advised.
Arokium himself indicated that his employees would from time to time intermingle with the security forces who were stationed at a place called ‘the gate’ some eight kilometers from the mining camp.
Meanwhile, the President said that there will be a national day of mourning for the slain miners.
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