– hunt on for eight others
What started out as a daring daylight ambush and robbery at Stanleytown, West Bank Demerara, ended in an exchange of gunfire between members of the Joint Services and bandits, resulting in one man being shot dead.
The dead gunman, who has been identified as Eric Williams, called ‘Eddo’, and his colleagues had tried to escape via the Demerara River aback of Nismes village, a few villages from where the robbery occurred.
It is believed that another bandit was wounded but up to press time no other bandit had been captured. They reportedly escaped with a whopping $17.2M.
The series of events started around 11:25 hours when a GEB security vehicle which was transporting the Wales GuySuCo Estate payroll was ambushed and robbed by about nine heavily armed men.
According to a statement from the police, investigations revealed that the driver and three armed members attached to the GEB Private Security Service were escorting a locked canister with an undisclosed sum of cash to the Wales Estate.
In the vicinity of the bridge at Stanleytown, their path was blocked by a silver grey motor car that was parked across the road. The police said that when they stopped, the nine men surrounded their vehicle and held them at gunpoint.
Recounting the event was the driver of the vehicle who identified himself as Mr. Haynes. He said that he along with three other security men had uplifted the cash from a Vreed-en-Hoop bank and were heading to the estate when the men pounced on them as they were approaching a sluice in Stanleytown on the Public Road.
He said while approaching the sluice which is at a very narrow part of the road, a vehicle attached to the Wales Estate overtook their vehicle and began driving slowly in front of them.
There are reports that the driver of that vehicle has been detained to assist with investigation.
According to the security guards, it was strange that a GuySuCo vehicle was escorting them since this is not the norm.
“Is when we just about to go over the sluice bridge that a car pull up behind, and is like six to eight men jump out with gun and stick we up.”
He added that the men, after placing guns to the heads of two security men who were in the front seat of the vehicle, ordered them out to the vehicle. In the process, one of the guards was gun butted.
The gunmen then ordered the security men to open the back of the vehicle and the guards complied.
The security men were then relieved of three weapons including two 12-gauge shotguns and one .38 pistol.
After ordering the security men out of their vehicles, the bandits then took over the GEB vehicle and made good their escape. The vehicle was later found abandoned on the Nismes Old Road.
Police also recovered a boat equipped with an outboard engine in the Demerara River not far from the scene of the robbery.
It is believed that the bandits had used the boat to aid their escape but encountered difficulties in the river and were forced to abandon it.
Following the robbery, ranks subsequently surrounded a large bushy area in the Nismes community where they believed that the bandits were holed up.
The police said that their ranks responded promptly and launched a search for the perpetrators during which two of them were confronted at the riverside behind the Service Station where the security vehicle was found.
According to the police, the men opened fire on the ranks who returned fire, fatally wounding Williams, of no fixed place of abode. The other managed to escape.
A 9mm pistol with 12 matching rounds was recovered from the dead man.
In the aftermath of the robbery, members of the Joint Services who were deployed to the area launched a cordon and search operation at the Demerara Harbour Bridge, during which several vehicles were searched.
Meanwhile, back at Nismes, there was sporadic gunfire as the gunmen tried fleeing into the dense vegetation in the backlands, heading towards the sea dam.
Within minutes, police ranks were given backup in the form of more members of the Joint Services Operating Group as well as one of the GDF helicopters which hovered over the area for several minutes.
Even as some ranks carried out their massive manhunt, others were in the Demerara River monitoring the waterways.
Also joining the search were tracker dogs which were used in the three-hour manhunt.
At one point during the search, the ranks received word that another bandit was spotted and several of them took up positions on the ground to confront him. Even members of the media had to seek cover.
It turned out that it was a false alarm.
Meanwhile, a plainclothes police rank was detained while passing through the cordon.
The rank claimed that he is living in the Stanleytown area and was heading home.
However, some of his colleagues were suspicious, indicating that he is in the habit of turning up at robbery scenes shortly after the acts were committed.
There was also a confrontation between police ranks and their colleagues from the army after the police briefly detained an off duty GDF officer.
During this period, no traffic was allowed to pass through the police blockade. Motorists were forced to wait for almost two hours while the police carried out their search.
At the scene people were heard commenting that the slain gunman was no stranger to the law.
Eric Williams has had brushes with the police since the late eighties.
Around that time, he had sustained injuries after attempting to relieve a Presidential Guard of a bicycle. However, he slipped his handcuffs and escaped from the Georgetown Public Hospital.
Williams was eventually captured about a year later and sent to jail.
Police said that a car that was parked on the public road at Nismes and which is suspected to have been used during the robbery has been detained and three men have been arrested as the investigation continues.
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