By Michael Jordan
Hiding in a nearby church, three young men heard old Mohamed and Bibi Munir screaming for help as they were roasted alive in their Good Hope, East Bank Essequibo home.
The youths, including a 25-year-old neighbour, had broken into the Munir property on the night of April 17, 2016, to steal $20M that was rumoured to be hidden there.
But when Mohamed, 75, and his 69-year-old wife awoke and refused to open their bedroom door, the young men became incensed. One of them set the heavily-grilled house ablaze, with the elderly couple still inside.
They then fled empty-handed.
The charred bodies of the victims were found in their home, after the flames died down.
Reports had indicated that the blaze was set by intruders, but police had seemed to be making no headway in tracking down the killers.
But the entire murder plot was revealed to detectives late last week, after investigators captured one of the alleged gang members, who is also one of the two youths who robbed a Hotel Tower employee last Wednesday.
Also in custody are a 25-year-old neighbor of the slain couple, and two other youths.
Crime Chief Wendell Blanhum said yesterday that detectives are trying to track down a deportee known as ‘Pepsi’ and a taxi driver known as ‘Coolie Boy’, who allegedly transported the killers.
A statement that investigators obtained from one suspect indicated that the youth who was implicated in the Hotel Tower robbery is the individual who started the deadly inferno.
Kaieteur News understands that the 21-year-old suspect in the Hotel Tower robbery also implicated his accomplices. He was reportedly taken back to the scene, and showed detectives where the gang hid after fleeing the blazing house.
$20M HIDDED IN HOME
The plot was reportedly hatched by a 25-year-old part-time fisherman who lives in a street behind the Munirs. The fisherman reportedly spoke with another young resident, known as ‘Plank,’ who had overheard that the Munirs, who had vast rice farming property, kept $20 M in their home.
The men then contacted ‘Pepsi’ a deportee who reportedly also lives on the East Bank of Essequibo. The gang then recruited ‘Coolie Boy’ as a driver and the 21-year-old hotel robbery suspect.
On the night of April 17, 2016, the neighbor, the 21-year-old robbery suspect and a third youth clambered onto the Munirs’ verandah. While some of their accomplices stood watch outside, the trio entered and began to ransack the house.
But the couple heard the commotion, awoke and raised an alarm. The two elderly people also refused to come out of their bedroom. According to reports, the 21-year-old suspect then set a sofa alight and tossed a fuel cylinder near the burning sofa.
The youths then fled through a track that led to a church and a cemetery in a street behind the couple’s home. From their hiding place, they heard Mohamed and Bibi Munir screaming for help.
Kaieteur News understands that the deportee, known as ‘Pepsi’, was furious when the youths told him they did not get the $20M.
Yesterday, Crime Chief Wendell Blanhum expressed shock at the ages of the alleged perpetrators, and their callousness.
“It is hoped that the revelations by these perpetrators shock all of us.
“It is hoped that they face the full force of the law, and that this serves to deter other young persons who are predisposed to criminal activity.” Blanhum recalled that the police had received some criticism from some religious organizations, at their apparent inability to catch the killers.
Eyewitnesses had recalled that the blaze started in the upper flat and that the entire flat was engulfed within minutes. While some residents said that they had heard gunshots, post mortem examinations performed on the victims showed that they had died from severe burns.
Residents, and a passing family who were among the first on the scene, could only stand by helplessly, listening to the elderly couple’s screams, which eventually ceased as the flames overwhelmed them.
Police have received reports from at least one female neighbour, who said that she saw two people in the couple’s verandah before the fire broke out. The neighbour also claimed to have heard Mrs. Munir screaming that ‘bandits’ were in the house.
Shamiza Khosial said that she was up at around 23:00 hrs, when her son told her that there were people fighting at the Munirs’ residence.
On peeping outside, Mrs. Khosial said that she saw two people on the couple’s verandah. She also heard the Munirs screaming for help.
“The place was dark and I see two persons on the verandah and then I started to hear they (the couple) shouting that bandits were in the house,” Khosial said.
The woman said that she also heard Mrs. Munir apparently calling their family friend, businessman, Shiraz Ali, to tell him that bandits were on the property. She also said that she saw the couple thrusting their hands through their grilled-up bedroom window.
Khosial said that shortly after, she saw “a ball of fire” in the living room area and within minutes the entire property was engulfed in flames. The woman said that the victims were trapped in their bedroom, since the window, like other areas in the house, had grill-work.
Businessman Shiraz Ali said that Bibi Jamila Munir had contacted him by phone to say that bandits were in the house, while pleading with him to help. Ali said he arrived in about seven minutes, but by then the entire property was in flames.
Among those first on the scene was a family that was heading to Parika, East Bank Essequibo by bus.
One family member recalled that they were passing Good Hope when they saw flames emanating from the upper flat of a house.
”We started blowing the (vehicle’s) horn, but nobody looked out. We start shouting ‘fire, fire,’ and knocked on the gate, and finally, the next door neighbour looked out and two other people came to us.”
He also recalled that the Munirs’ front gate was not bolted, and two young men climbed over the gate.
Seeing that the flames were spreading to the neighbour’s house, the man and others helped the family to remove their valuables from the property. Another young man from the group said that he entered the yard and it was then that he heard someone screaming in the top flat.
Mr. Munir, who was in his bedroom, flung some keys through the bedroom window and told those trying to rescue them to drive one of his tractors out of the yard.
This was done, and Mr. Munir began shouting for the neighbours to use a second tractor to pull down the grill from the bedroom window.
The young man said that he suggested that they hitch a length of chain to the tractor and to the grill, but by then the flames had begun to engulf the entire upper flat and the heat was immense.
“Then he (Mr. Munir) say that his wife not breathing anymore, and after awhile he (too) stopped talking.”
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