By Michael Jordan
Taxi drivers claim to have a built-in instinct about danger, but the driver in the burgundy Toyota Carina felt no apprehension when the three boys approached his car.
Maybe it had to do with the fact that they didn’t fit the profile of the young men the cops were blaming for the three-year spree of robberies, kidnappings, and murders.
So, when they asked, he readily agreed to drop them up the East Coast of Demerara.
Some of his buddies at the Demico Park would later say that he was just a bit reckless when it came to picking up strangers.
During the journey, the passengers stopped at UG Road, where they picked up some other friends.
They then informed their driver that they wanted to go to a night spot at Lusignan.
Shortly after nine o’clock on Sunday, October 24, 2004, persons living near the St. Mary the Virgin Anglican Church in Beterverwagting heard screams of ‘Murder!’ and ‘Thief!’ coming from the vicinity of the church.
Those who looked outside saw a man stagger from a burgundy car. Still screaming, the man stumbled south along Quamina Road, before collapsing at the roadside. Meanwhile, the car headed in the direction of Georgetown.
The older residents went to the scene, where they found a man of mixed ancestry lying there who had literally been stabbed all over his body. He was clearly dead.
Detectives eventually arrived, but found no documents on the victim. Finally, one of the detectives suggested that Kaieteur News reporter Dale Andrews, who was also there, photograph the ‘John Doe’ and have the picture published.
The slain man’s photograph appeared in the October 25, 2004 Kaieteur News edition.
Because the victim had exited a vehicle, there was speculation that the victim might be a taxi driver.
Following that slim lead, I took a copy of the Kaieteur News and headed to the Demico car park. The second driver to whom who I showed the picture said with certainty: “That is Teddy Smith.”
It couldn’t be this easy, I thought.
But I entered his car and we journeyed over the Demerara Harbour Bridge to Goed Fortuin, West Bank Demerara, where Teddy Smith lived.
I rapped at the front door and an attractive young woman, who identified herself as Sonia Garryva, invited me in. With some trepidation and a sense of guilt, I showed her the newspaper.
Sonia Garryva screamed.
Yes, the sobbing woman said. The man was Teddy Smith, the father of her three children.
Dressed in a white and red jersey, jeans and brown boots, 35-year-old Teddy Smith, called ‘Fine man’, had left home at around 18:00 hrs on Sunday, October 24, 2004.
Sonia did not suspect that anything was amiss when Teddy failed to come home the following day, since he often worked until morning.
The car he drove was a burgundy vehicle, PGG 9723. At the time, not even the police had this information.
I had already completed my story when we were tipped off about an intriguing development.
The night after Teddy Smith was slain, taxi driver Deochand Debidayar was in the Cummings Lodge area when two young men hired him to take them to Ogle.
Debidayar had no idea that the occupants of a burgundy car were trailing him.
When he arrived at Ogle Airstrip Road, the passengers, who were armed with knives, began to beat Debidayar. But luck was with him that night. A Special Constabulary mobile patrol was traversing the Ogle Airstrip road at the same time and heard his screams.
When they arrived at the spot, some of the youths fled from the burgundy car that was trailing Debidayar’s. However, one of them was nabbed in the vehicle.
According to the police, the suspect led then to five other accomplices. One of the youths was reportedly hiding in a wardrobe when the cops arrived at his home.
Although the licence plates had been removed, detectives quickly confirmed that the burgundy Toyota the suspects had used was the same one that Teddy Smith had driven when he was slain.
According to the police, the youths confessed to murdering Smith, while a fingerprint expert lifted their prints from the dead man’s car.
Detectives were somewhat disturbed about the cold-blooded nature of the attacks.
After all, none of the teens—five from Cummings Lodge and one from Prashad Nagar—was from an impoverished home.
The alleged mastermind and four others, all aged 17, were charged with murder and armed robbery.
One 15-year-old lad was also charged with murder, while another 15-year-old was charged with robbery under arms.
Eventually, only the alleged mastermind and three other 17-year-olds appeared in the High Court on murder charges.
They had caught the accused in Teddy Smith’s car. They had confessions and fingerprints. But the state’s case began to fall apart.
The battery of defence attorneys began to pick the State’s case apart and to expose their sloppy preparation.
During cross-examination, the police rank who had uplifted the fingerprints from the murdered man’s car admitted that both he and his assistant had omitted to sign the card on which the fingerprints had been mounted.
The detective also could not say with certainty which officer he had asked to sign the document and was not in a position to recognize the signature on it.
As a result, the Presiding Judge ruled that the fingerprints were inadmissible as evidence.
The defence also queried whether the police had forced the ‘confession statements’ out of their clients.
The alleged mastermind and one other accused would later claim in unsworn statements from the dock that they had signed blank papers after police ranks beat them in an effort to achieve confessions.
The Judge accepted no-case submissions in relation to two other accused and ordered them to be freed.
A jury, directed by the Presiding Judge, then found the alleged mastermind and the number two accused not guilty of murder.
I suppose it’s impossible to cover the crime beat without taking some cases personally.
There are the cases that you feel could have been solved, had some detective shown more diligence.
Then there are the times when your gut tells you that you know who the killer is but can’t prove it.
But the ones that hit you hardest are those in which the cops seem to have the killers in their grasp—and yet they walk free.
I have added the tragic case of Teddy Smith to this list.
If you have any information about other unusual cases, please contact Kaieteur News at our Lot 24 Saffon Street, Charlestown location. We can be reached on telephone numbers 225-8465, 225-8491 or 225-8473. You need not disclose your identity.
You can also contact Michael Jordan at his email address [email protected]
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