“I would like to show the deceased family mercy. I would like to change my life around and
be a better person.”
Those were the words of Michael Caesar shortly before Justice Roxanne George sentenced him to jail on 20 counts of manslaughter.
Innocent lives were lost when gunmen attacked Lusignan, East Coast Demerara; and Bartica, Essequibo, in January and February 2008 respectively.
Residents of Lusignan were asleep when they were awakened by gunshots and men kicking down the doors to their homes.
At Bartica some persons were watching a T20 cricket match when gunmen went on a killing spree.
Five children and three police ranks were among those killed in the two attacks. The victims were murdered by a group of men led by the notorious Rondell ‘Fine Man’ Rawlins, who was later killed by police on August 28, 2008.
All told, 23 people died in the hail of bullets from the guns of the killers—11 at Lusignan and 12 at Bartica.
Yesterday, Justice Roxanne George jailed this latest ‘Fineman’ gang member for the mass killings when he appeared before her at the High Court in Georgetown.
A few weeks ago, she jailed another Fine Man gang member, Clebert Reece, for the Bartica Massacre. Reece who has since opted to offer testimony against his cohorts, was jailed for 36 years.
Justice George sentenced Michael Caesar, 34, who also goes by the aliases of ‘Capone’ and ‘Deon Cort’ to a total of 1080 years in jail, after he pleaded guilty to the lesser count of manslaughter in relation to the Lusignan and Bartica Massacres.
Caesar stood motionless in the prisoners’ dock after he was informed that he was sentenced to 45 years’ jail each on eight counts of manslaughter for the Lusignan massacre—a total of 360 years.
More was to come. He was jailed for 60 years’ jail each on 12 counts of manslaughter for the Bartica Massacre—a total of 720 years.
The combined sentence given for the Lusignan killings was 360 years and 720 for the Bartica killings.
The jail terms handed down on each count of manslaughter in relation to both matters are to run concurrently. These two prison terms will also run concurrently. He would be eligible for parole after serving 40 calendar years.
On the night of January 26, 2008, gunmen stormed the small village of Lusignan, East Coast Demerara, and murdered 11 people including five children.
Those killed were Shazam Mohamed; Shaleem Baksh; Clarence Thomas and his two children Ron and Vanessa Thomas; Mohandai Gourdat and her two sons, Seegobin, 4 and Seegopaul Harrilall 10; Dhanwajie Ramsingh; Seecharran Rooplall and Raywattie Ramsingh.
However, Caesar was indicted for unlawfully killing eight of them – Mohamed, Baksh, Clarence Thomas and his two children and Mohandai Gourdat and her two sons.
The state was represented by Diana Kaulesar and Stacy Gooding.
Kaulesar, during her address, said that Caesar and several other men went to Lusignan Pasture, where they participated in an act in which eleven persons were killed.
According to Kaulesar, Caesar said that he received a call from someone who told him that he had a big pay to go on. That night, she said, Caesar joined a bus and went to Buxton Line Top, East Coast Demerara where he met ‘Fine Man’, ‘Uncle’ (Cecil Ramcharran) and some other men. They were later joined by two other men. The men waited at the location for about two to three hours for two other men to come.
While waiting, they drank Guinness and smoked marijuana.
The prosecutor told the court that Caesar disclosed that ‘Fine Man’ and others were armed with big guns. A car later arrived and some of its occupants spoke with ‘Fine Man’, who told them he heard that there were two houses at Lusignan Pasture with two barrels of money and that they were going for pay.
Kaulesar related that Caesar said he and the others left for Lusignan but did not know which house to go in. The prosecutor stated that Caesar recalled that his accomplices began shooting up and running in persons’ homes.
She said that Caesar claimed he was unarmed, but admitted to barging into homes and ransacking them in search of money.
Prosecutor Kaulesar added that Caesar said the “boys” shot persons in the houses before leaving without finding any barrels with money inside.
The ordeal lasted for about 30 minutes.
Kaulesar told the court that although Caesar claimed he was unarmed, there is evidence that he was carrying an AK 47 rifle.
After the Lusignan Massacre, Caesar fled to Nickerie, Suriname. He was captured on March 7, 2009, and escorted back to Guyana where he was questioned by police. He was later placed on an identification parade and positively identified as one of the persons who participated in the killings.
He was charged.
Those who lost their lives at Bartica were the town’s residents Edwin Gilkes, Dexter Adrian and Irving Ferreira; Lance Corporal Zaheer Zakir and Constables Shane Fredericks and Ron Osborne –all of whom were stationed at the Bartica Police Station; Deonarine Singh of Wakenaam; Ronald Gomes of Kuru Kururu; Ashraf Khan of Essequibo; Abdool Yasseen; Errol Thomas of Tuschen, East Bank Essequibo and Baldeo Singh of Montrose, East Coast Demerara.
On the night of February 17, 2008, around 21:40hrs, several gunmen attacked Bartica, killing a dozen people, including three police ranks, during an hour-long attack.
It was reported that the armed men attacked the police station before killing the three policemen and freeing prisoners.
They then left with the vehicle assigned to the police station and went on a rampage, terrorizing the community.
Based on reports, the gunmen arrived in the area by boat and departed in a similar fashion taking monies and firearms they grabbed from the police station and a mining company.
AFRAID OF BEING KILLED BY ‘FINE MAN’
When asked by the Judge why Caesar should not be given a life sentence or consecutive sentences because he committed the Bartica massacre one month after killing eight persons at Lusignan, Attorney Maxwell McKay said that his client was afraid of being killed by ‘Fine Man’ and also ostracized or beaten.
McKay said that Caesar did not want to disobey orders given by ‘Fine Man’. “When you’re in a gang you’re expected to do certain things and expected to be of certain character.”
The lawyer stated that ‘Fine Man’ killed at least two members of the gang, causing his client being fearful for his life.
McKay added that Caesar accepted responsibility for his actions and was throwing himself at the mercy of the court.
When asked if he had anything to say, Caesar said, “With all due respect your worship, I came to town at a very young age. I follow the wrong set of company and I would like to show the deceased family mercy. I would like to change my life and be a better person.”
Justice George informed Caesar that he would have to do so from jail. The Judge told him that crime does not pay. She said that in the space of one month, 20 innocent lives were lost at the hands of him and others.
Before passing sentence, Justice George considered all mitigating factors coupled with the fact that the lives of innocent children were lost. She said that it is heart-rending.
She said that Caesar showed no respect for human lives when he barged into the homes of persons at Lusignan. The Judge noted that a month later he went on another killing spree at Bartica.
The Judge also considered the nature and circumstances under which the offences occurred; the degree of deliberation and that the killings were planned; the fact that Caesar was not provoked and that violence was used. The Judge also considered aggravating factors and the antecedents of Caesar.
The base sentence for the Lusignan Massacre was set at 65 years.
However, seven years were deducted for the time he spent on remand; 11 years for the early guilty pleas and two years for him showing remorse, and mitigating factors based on what was outlined in a probation report in his favour and what he said in court.
The base sentence for the Bartica Massacre was 75 years. The Judge also removed 15 years for the early guilty pleas.
Aggrey Azore, Senior Probation and Social Services Officer said Caesar told him he came from an unfortunate background.
Azore said that based on investigations, he was informed that some of Caesar’s relatives were allegedly involved in criminal activities.
He stated that Caesar grew up in Fyrish, Corentyne, Berbice with his mother and stepfather, since his biological father was never around to raise him.
Azore related that Caesar was forced to drop out of school at 12 to work and help support his family.
According to Azore, Caesar went to live with his aunt in the interior, where he worked and sent money to maintain his mother and siblings. The fact that he was unable to obtain a formal education, Azore said, resulted in him gravitating to friends of undesirable characters.
“A band of dangerous and deadly friends,” Azore told the court.
However, Azore stressed that this was no reason for him to become involved in criminal activities which led to the loss of lives.
Azore stated that he spoke with people from Caesar’s hometown and some of them expressed that they feared his demeanor and that his name was synonymous with criminal activities.
He however said that some persons contended that Caesar was very helpful and free-handed. Azore recalled that during an interview with him at the Georgetown Prisons, he reiterated that the persons should not have died in such a manner and that he would turn his life around.
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