“I gave them (the area) where the body was buried. If they had gone and dug up, they would have found my nephew. If no work has been done in the area, I believe that it is still there…”
-retired Superintendant of Police, Ignatius Birchnell Browne
By Michael Jordan
He disappeared without a trace seven years ago, but an uncle of missing the US citizen Kwame Rumel Jobronewet remains convinced that he knows what has happened to his 67-year-old nephew.
Ignatius Birchnell Browne, a retired Superintendent of Police, is convinced that his nephew, like British teen Dominic Bernard, was murdered shortly after he arrived in Guyana for money he had in his possession.
Mr. Browne also believes that the killers disposed of the body in a village on the East Coast of Demerara, located just a few villages away from where Mr. Browne himself lives.
He claims that his nephew “was loaded with cash,” when he arrived in Guyana, since he had planned to undertake the financial arrangements for his mother’s funeral.
Mr. Brown says that back then, he had provided the police with this information, and though two suspects were detained, the retired policeman alleged that police ranks never conducted a thorough search in the area, because “they were afraid” to venture into the community, which had been a main hideout for dangerous gunmen during the ‘crime wave’ period.
“I gave them (the area) where the body was buried. If they had gone and dug up, they would have found my nephew’s body,” Brown said this week.
“If no work has been done in the area, I believe that the body is still there.”
He is also convinced that this was an easier case than the one involving the slain British teen. He pointed out that several weeks had passed before police were aware that Dominic Bernard was missing. In contrast, police were notified within 24 hours about Kwame Rumel Jobronewet’s disappearance.
“This would have been an easier case. It was reported within 24 hrs and they did nothing about it. No detective from Georgetown went to the area. They erred.”
The mystery of Kwame Jobronewet’s fate began on Friday, June 12, 2009, when the former Buxtonian, who had migrated to the US many years ago, returned to Guyana to bury his mother, a well-known Buxton resident.
A Guyanese by birth, Jobronewet had lived some 46 years overseas, and had returned to Guyana some two years before this second visit.
On his arrival, Jobronewet first stopped at Goedverwagting, East Coast Demerara, where his uncle, Mr. Burchnel Browne lives.
But the elderly man wanted to visit his mother’s former home at Company Road, Buxton, so his brother took him there by car. According to Mr. Browne, his nephew promised to be back by three pm.
At the time, the house in Buxton was occupied by Phyllis Browne, (now deceased) a cousin of the elderly American.
In an interview shortly after the disappearance, Ms. Browne had said that Mr. Jobronewet arrived at around 10:00 hrs and took a bath shortly after. According to Ms. Browne, she was in the yard tending to her dogs at around 15:00 hrs when Mr. Jobronewet came downstairs. He was toting three small bags. She says she asked him where he was going, and he said that he was going to visit his uncle in Goedverwagting. Jobronewet reportedly then left through the back gate, which led onto Middle Street, Buxton. Ms. Browne says that was the last time she ever saw her cousin.
Meanwhile, at the Goedverwagting residence, relatives waited for Mr. Jobronewet to show. When he failed to turn up, some assumed that he was exhausted from his trip from the US and had opted to rest in Buxton.
But they became worried when night fell, and Mr. Jobronewet had still not returned. According to Mr. Browne, relatives then notified ranks at the Vigilance Police Station.
Despite checks at hospitals and in various areas, they failed to locate the elderly man. They contacted the U.S. Embassy here and informed officials that Mr. Jobronewet was missing.
Some relatives believed that the elderly man might have been suffering from some memory loss and had gotten lost. Initial reports appeared to support this theory.
Several East Coast residents claimed that two boys had seen Mr. Jobronewet in Beterverwagting. Realizing that he was lost, they had reportedly directed him to the East Coast Demerara Public Road so he could catch a bus to Buxton.
Mr. Browne, his uncle, now believes that some of those stories may have been fabricated by individuals who knew about his nephew’s fate.
Meanwhile, the relatives also received a disturbing report which suggested that Kwame Jobronewet had never left Buxton.
A Buxton shopkeeper stated that on the night of June 12, 2009, a man fitting Jabronewet’s description, and speaking with an American accent, had visited his shop on Company Road.
According to the shopkeeper, the man had a ‘speedy’ look and appeared to be restless.
The shopkeeper claimed that the elderly man had tried to buy a drink with US coins.
But the shopkeeper says he told the stranger that the coins had no value in Guyana and the man had left.
Detectives had detained the shopkeeper as well as Jobronewet’s cousin, Phyllis Browne. They were released the following day.
A few weeks later, Jobronewet’s relatives received a call from someone who claimed to have knowledge of his whereabouts. According to the relatives, the caller claimed that Jobronewet had contracted malaria. The caller also demanded $1.6M from the relatives.
The caller never contacted them again.
Mr. Browne said that he began to receive anonymous calls from individuals who claimed that his nephew was the victim of foul play. According to Mr. Browne, one report indicated that he was seen at an East Coast Demerara residence. Some of the callers even identified two individuals that they claimed had killed Mr. Jobronewet, and also the area where the remains were allegedly buried.
Mr. Browne said that he had passed this information on to Police Commissioner Henry Greene (now deceased). Acting on this information, police scoured a remote section of Buxton for possible signs of a shallow grave containing the missing man’s remains. They found none. Police also arrested two brothers from Friendship, East Coast Demerara. This happened after the police received information that suggested that the brothers had vital information about Jobronewet’s whereabouts. The information indicated that the US citizen had been murdered.
The brothers aged 25 and 31, and known as ‘Psycho’ and ‘Madman’, had had previous brushes with the law. But the siblings denied having any knowledge of the missing man’s whereabouts. Detectives also searched the backyard of a house belonging to the suspects’ mother, but found nothing. They were forced to release the brothers after searches in other areas yielded nothing.
During a press conference, Police Commissioner Henry Greene had said that investigators had unearthed no new leads about the missing man’s fate.
According to Green, the initial reports that investigators received indicated that Jobronewet “might not be stable”, and that he was seen in several places.
“Since then, nobody has seen him in recent times. We don’t have a lead or anything to work with.”
But Mr. Browne is not impressed with the attempts by the police to locate his missing nephew.
From reports he received, ranks from the East Coast of Demerara did not dig up any areas during their search.
He believes that the ranks were afraid of criminal elements that were reportedly still in the community.
Yesterday, the ex-policeman maintained that his nephew was abducted shortly after his East Coast Demerara visit. He has repeatedly stated that his Mr. Jobronewet had walked with a substantial sum of currency to assist with his mother’s burial, although relatives had already made their arrangements before he arrived.
Dismissing suggestions that Jobronewet may have be suffering from the onset of Alzheimer’s disease, Mr. Browne said he corresponded regularly with his nephew, who always appeared to be mentally alert.
The relatives subsequently posted a reward for information on Jobronewet’s whereabouts. No one responded. But after seven years, there is still no clue about his fate.
According to Mr. Browne, a relative of the missing man recently contacted officials at the
US Embassy here, as well as officials of the present APNU/AFC coalition, with a view to having the case re-opened.
The missing man reportedly has substantial assets in the US, but these cannot be disposed of until ten years have elapsed since his disappearance.
Kwame Jobronewet was reportedly last seen wearing a white shirt, blue jeans, a pair of black shoes and a white Kangol cap. He was also carrying three bags, including a red one marked ‘California.’
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