– Justice Trotman “very surprised” at DPP’s decision to close case
Commissioner of Police Seelall Persaud faced almost two hours of questioning yesterday about the alleged absence of evidence that any postmortems were conducted on the Lindo Creek miners, and on the story of an alleged eyewitness to the killings.
Persaud’s statement that he was not surprised by the decision of the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) to close the case, caused COI Chairman to respond that he was “very surprised” at the DPP’s decision.
The retiring Top Cop, who was the Crime Chief at the time, told the Commission that the investigation into the deaths of the eight miners was spearheaded by the Office of Professional Responsibility.
He said that “many months after,” the then Commissioner of Police, Henry Greene, instructed that he supervise the completion of the investigation.
He said that the file was then sent to the DPP, who advised that the investigation be closed.
Persaud also told the Commission that the individuals who were being investigated had been identified and killed, “except for one who was cooperating” with the police.
“I was satisfied that the matter be closed and no one prosecuted.”
Justice Trotman: “Before the DPP’s final decision, were the police satisfied there was sufficient evidence as to who had killed these men?”
Seelall Persaud: “Yes!”
Justice Trotman: “Were you surprised at the DPP’s advice that the file be closed?”
Police Commissioner Seelall Persaud: “ No!”
Justice Trotman: “I am very surprised.”
Persaud was repeatedly questioned by attorney-at law, Patrice Henry as to what forensic and other evidence the police had gathered to link the Rondel ‘Fine Man’ Rawlins gang to the June, 2008 slayings at Lindo Creek.
Attorney Henry repeatedly told the Top Cop that the Commission had no evidence that Government pathologist Nehaul Singh had conducted any postmortems on the remains, or visited the area where the remains were found due to the challenging terrain.
“From the investigation that was concluded, would you agree that there was no scientific or forensic findings to support the conclusion that would have come from the alleged eyewitness?” Attorney-at-law Henry queried.
Commissioner Persaud: “I think there is (evidence) in the way he (the eyewitness) described the way the men were killed, and I think there is scientific evidence of gunshot injuries, blunt trauma injuries to the skull.”
Attorney Henry: “And that certainly would have come from a postmortem.”
Police Commissioner Persaud: “Yes!”
Attorney Henry: “And could you say who conducted the postmortems and where is that report?”
Police Commissioner Persaud: “I’m not sure; it might have been Dr Nehaul Singh; he was at the scene as well. The report is in the file.”
Attorney Henry: “Commissioner, from the file given to this Commission, there is no postmortem report, at least from the file we received. At least one witness would have testified in relation to the coroner’s report.
“Dr Nehaul Singh did not perform any postmortems on any of the bodies. So my question to you still stands, is there any scientific of forensic proof that you have to support this alleged eyewitness story (as to how the miners were killed)?”
Christmas Falls Shootout
Persaud testified that in June 2008, while he was the Crime Chief, Police Commissioner Henry Greene gave him instructions and a map. The map showed a portion of the Upper Berbice River, with areas such as Christmas Falls, another location just above the left bank of the Berbice River, Kwakwani and the Unamco Road.
He was told by Greene, “that a criminal gang wanted for several murders and robberies, and headed by Rondel Rawlins, was in the location and I was instructed to conduct an operation to have him arrested.”
Intelligence gathered indicated the gang had rifles and other weapons.
At the time, there was a $20M reward out for ‘Fine Man’s’ capture.
“I went back to my office and researched on the internet…I then searched for persons who knew the area, and a few were identified who I was satisfied knew the area, Christmas Falls.
“I mobilised resources and during June 5, I headed an operation, which included six other police ranks and civilians who knew area, and went to Christmas Falls.
The ranks included Assistant Police Commissioner Clifton Hicken, Inspector Layne, and Inspector Narine and others.
Attorney Patrice Henry: “Can you say if the area had any commercial activity?”
Police Commissioner Persaud: “At UNAMCO road, we observed logging activities, and there were camps and trucks moving logs. We saw across the river a camp and a road.
Attorney Henry: “As Crime Chief, at Christmas Falls, you would agree with me that that concession would have been owned by some individual? Can you say who owned that concession?”
Police Commissioner: “Investigators reported to me and subsequently to (then Top Cop) Henry Greene, that information from Forestry suggested that the concession is owned by one (former treason accused) Philip Bynoe.”
Persaud said that they picked up Hicken at Kwakwani, and travelled to the right bank of Christmas Falls.
The following day, Hicken led a team to the left bank of Christmas Falls, while Seelall Persaud and others remained on the right bank, which is separated by the Berbice River.
“Shortly after, we heard a series of gunshots, including rapid fire which lasted for a while, the Top Cop testified.
“Using the same boat, I crossed the river and observed a body of an individual who I later learned to be Otis Fifee, known as ‘Mud Up’, with what appeared to be gunshot injuries to his face.”
He said that the ranks seized nine firearms and a quantity of ammunition. According to Commissioner Persaud, Hicken later told him that they came under fire when approaching the camp. They had then returned fire.
Asked if there was any sighting of ‘Fine Man,’ he said that Hicken also indicated that the fugitive was seen.
He was informed that the gang had fled north over a bridge that spanned a creek.
Looking at a map of the area, Persaud told the Commission that he saw Lindo River on the map.
“It is north of Christmas Falls, so it would have been in the direction towards Lindo Creek (that the gang fled).”
He agreed that the Berbice River separated the two areas. He conceded that no other boat was seen in the area.
“After being briefed by Hicken, I called Commissioner Greene on his cell and reported what had transpired. He called back and instructed that I withdrew and indicated that the Joint Services will be deployed to the area (on June 6).”
He insisted that no police ranks were in the Lindo Creek area after he returned to the city.
He said that after learning of the Lindo Creek murders, Commissioner Greene informed him that a team, led by the head of the OPR, and comprising ‘E’ & ‘F’ Divisional ranks, would investigate the matter.
He also confirmed that the police had received information from the owner of the Lindo Creek mining concession, George Arokium, that Joint Services ranks had killed the miners.
“Arokium went to the press and told them that it was members of the Joint Services that had killed his employees. As a result, I received instructions to join a team, headed then by then PM Sam Hinds.”
The team went to a South Ruimveldt house and then to Tuschen, where they contacted Mr. Arokium and took statements from him.
Commissioner Persaud said that the Army later sent out a statement regarding Arokium’s allegations.
Commissioner Persaud told the Commission that the distance between Christmas Falls and Lindo Creek were “not far.” He conceded that the area was hilly, but said he had not gone to the area.
The public hearings continue on Thursday.
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