By Michael Jordan
The woman was at her window that Monday afternoon, on November 30, 2009, when the minibus carrying schoolchildren stopped near her Lot 69, Bagotville, West Bank Demerara home. She watched as her eight-year-old granddaughter, Jasmine Harding, exited the bus.The child just needed to take a few short steps. Just a few short steps, and she would be safe in her home.
Jasmine was just about to cross the roadway when a speeding car, which was heading out of the community, slammed into her.
Family members reportedly blocked the roadway, thus preventing the driver from escaping.They then put the mangled and unconscious child in the driver’s car and took her to the West Demerara Regional Hospital.
Doctors later transferred Jasmine to the Georgetown Public Hospital Corporation’s Intensive Care Unit, where she was hooked up on a life support machine. She had severe head injuries, a broken right arm and a broken right leg.
Meanwhile, police detained the driver, Mohammed Zamrudeen, an overseas-based Guyanese who was staying at Meten–Meer–Zorg, West Coast Demerara. But after 72 hours had passed, he was released from La Grange Police Station on $30,000 station bail, with instructions that he report there daily.
Furious at his release, Jasmine’s relatives and Bagotville residents staged a fiery protest on the Canal Number One roadway, blocking the road with tyres and other debris before setting them alight.
Nine days later, and still on a life support machine, little Jasmine Harding passed away.
As he had been instructed, accused driver Mohammed Zamrudeen had been reporting to the police. But before charges were laid against him, Zamrudeen disappeared. The word is that he fled the country.
A police official had explained that only the court had the authority to instruct the man to lodge his passport.
I visited the Hardings’ home twice and discovered that this incident has a sad and disturbing twist, which I’ll reveal later.
MORE ‘KILLER DRIVERS’
But let’s take a look at another ‘killer driver’ who has apparently disappeared without a trace, leaving relatives of the victim unable to find closure.
Herbert Thompson and his wife Mavis know this feeling all too well. And in their case, they can rightly claim that lapses on the part of some police ranks denied them justice.
On the night of Monday, December 17, 2007, 23-year-old Quacy Thompson, the youngest of the couple’s three children, travelled to Kairuni on the Soesdyke/Linden Highway to fix a blocked fuel line on a Canter truck which his father was driving.
Thompson slipped under the vehicle, which was parked off the highway. He was fixing the fuel line when a speeding car, PKK 5885, driven by 40-year-old Winston Hinds of Blue Berry Hill, swerved off the roadway and slammed into the back of the Canter.
The truck rolled forward. One of the back wheels crushed Thompson’s skull.
On Wednesday January 2, 2008, Winston Hinds, called ‘Sonna Boy’, appeared before Magistrate Gordon Gilhuys on a charge of causing death by dangerous driving. He was unable to post the $250,000 bail and was remanded to prison.
Mavis Thompson, the victim’s mother, recalled that Hinds, who had also sustained injures during the accident, was lifted into court and allowed to lie on a bench.
She said that Magistrate Gilhuys suggested to a traffic rank that the accused be placed in the infirmary at the Georgetown Prisons or kept in a hospital.
The rank recommended that Hinds be kept in the Mackenzie Hospital under guard.
But Mavis Thompson wondered whether the driver who had caused the death of her youngest child was as helpless as he seemed.
Seventy-seven-year-old Rural Constable Winston Proctor remembers what happened next.
Mr. Proctor told me that he was at home that Wednesday night, when a rank from the Mackenzie Police Station asked him to go to the Mackenzie Hospital to relieve another police rank who was guarding a prisoner there.
”I say ‘no problem’ and he say he would get somebody to take me to the hospital.”
Mr. Proctor alleged that a woman arrived at his home in a bus and the vehicle took him to his destination.
The Rural Constable claimed that when he entered the hospital, he saw the police constable standing by a male patient’s bed. He alleged that there were other persons with the patient, who had a cell phone on his stomach. He also recalled that the man on the bed was not handcuffed.
Mr. Proctor is adamant that no one informed him that the prisoner, Winston Hinds, was the accused in a fatal accident.
”If I had known he responsible for a hit-and-run I woulda been more responsible.”
After relieving the police rank, Mr. Proctor reportedly sat outside the ward, and “dropped into a doze.”
When the RC eventually awoke and went inside, the prisoner’s bed was empty.
”I ask: ‘where the chap deh?’ and the boy (a hospital employee) say he believe that he (Hinds) gone in the urinal.”
Mr. Proctor checked the urinal. No one was in there.
Again, Mr. Proctor asked about the prisoner’s whereabouts. This time, he was told that Hinds had “passed out” the gate.
The R.C said he then contacted a sergeant at the Mackenzie Police Station. They then launched a fruitless search for the missing prisoner.
Mr. Proctor’s account is supported somewhat by the victim’s mother.
Because of her suspicions the prisoner might have been feigning weakness during his court appearance, Mavis Thompson had also gone to the hospital that night. She recalled seeing a familiar bus there
“When I went inside, he (the accused) was on a cell phone and the Rural Constable who was with him was leaning back (in his seat).”
Mrs. Thompson said she went outside for a short while and observed that the minibus had gone. This made her suspicious and she went back inside, only to realise that Hinds had vanished. She believes that he was whisked away in the minibus via the hospital’s back entrance.
All reports indicated that he fled the country and is in the United States, where some of his relatives reside. This was confirmed in 2008 by Hinds’s attorney, Michael Somersall, when Magistrate Ann McLennan issued an arrest warrant for the accused, following his failure to appear in court. Attorney-at-Law Sommersall told the court that Hinds was undergoing physiotherapy for the injuries he sustained in the crash. But that was ten years ago.
A female sibling who spoke with me by phone said that she has no information about her brother’s whereabouts. She also told me that her mother, who resides in the US, also has no idea where her son is.
Meanwhile, Herbert and Mavis Thompson say they are determined to do all they can to have the fugitive located and apprehended.
Reportedly living overseas and still at large is a hit-and-run driver who allegedly killed 17-year-old Alicea Goveia.
The former St. Joseph High School student was close to her parents’ Oleander Gardens home on Friday, August 23, 1996, when an allegedly drunk driver struck her down. The suspect fled the scene but was apprehended shortly after. The accused appeared in court and was released on $700,000 bail. He subsequently disappeared, reportedly slipping out of the country via the Cheddi Jagan International Airport, on a Bermuda passport.
But the agony is even more acute for some families, where the identity of the ‘driver’ is unknown.
It was Monday, September 21, 2009, and Rawle Mohan was driving near Farm, on the East Bank of Demerara, when he observed several people standing around a man’s body on the western parapet. Curious to know the identity of the victim, Mohan exited the car and went over to the onlookers. He peered at the corpse and saw that the victim was his brother, 36-year-old Rory Mohan.
Rory spent most of his time at Howes Street, Charlestown, where his ailing mother lived. However, he would also ride daily to Grove, East Bank Demerara, to check on a family property and to feed the dogs there. Relatives last saw him alive at around 17:00 hrs on Sunday, September 20, 2009, when he left the Howes Street residence for the East Bank of Demerara.
Traffic ranks retrieved Mohan’s bicycle, a trafficator and a large mirror from the scene of the accident. They surmised that the victim was heading back to Georgetown when a vehicle—reportedly a Canter truck— struck him. But police have never been able to identify the driver.
And in the 2010 case of Ramona Harris, police know what vehicle ran her over, but the identity of the driver is in dispute. Just before 22:00 hrs on Good Friday night, Harris, a 27-year-old waitress, put her one-year-old daughter to sleep and headed to a Chinese restaurant on the main road in Diamond Housing Scheme. She then left the restaurant and was walking home when a vehicle struck her from behind. She was dragged some 70 feet.
Ignoring the mangled woman on the roadway, the driver of the silver-grey car continued east before turning into Grove Housing Scheme. Ramona Harris passed away shortly after.
A shattered headlamp with the licence number HB 6471 inscribed on it was found at the scene. Initially, police had assumed that the vehicle was a hire car. But the following day, a 40-year-old Better Hope resident turned up at the Brickdam Police Station with an attorney.
According to the police, the man claimed that he owned the car, a silver-grey Toyota, licence number PMM 3248. But he is alleged to have told investigators that he had loaned the car to a US-based relative on Good Friday. According to him, the relative brought back the vehicle and returned to the US.
The man claimed that after observing that the vehicle had sustained some damage, he decided to speak to the police. At the time, Traffic Chief Neil Semple repeatedly told me that every effort was being made to get to the bottom of the matter.
Will the “overseas-based relative” ever be brought back for questioning? I don’t know. I doubt it.
THE MOST CRUEL TWIST OF ALL…
And that brings me back to the death of little Jasmine Harding.
In 2008, I visited the family’s Bagotville home and spoke with the child’s mother, Cindy Miggins, and to the victim’s grandmother. They indicated that they were still traumatised by the tragedy and angry that the driver had not been apprehended.
I observed that the police had painted white lines on the spot where Jasmine was killed.
Jasmine’s mother told me that she would be overcome with terror when she walks near that spot.
I then rang the telephone number for the Meten-Meer-Zorg residence where the accused driver, Mohamed Zamrudeen, had stayed. The woman who answered said she had no idea where the accused driver was. She told me something else.
What she said made me realise that I had to speak to Jasmine’s family again. But for some strange reason, I was unable to reach Jasmine’s mother or grandmother on the phone numbers they had given me. I had no option but to return to Bagotville. This time, I received an unusual reception.
A middle-aged man, accompanied by Jasmine’s mother, came to the front door. None of them appeared to be happy to see me. The man wanted to know what I wanted.
He then told me in no uncertain terms that the child had died and as far as the family was concerned, the matter was finished. I was flabbergasted.
Was this the same family that had staged that fiery protest over the driver’s release?
Was this the same family that had greeted me with smiles the first time? Was this the same mother who had told me of breaking down in tears at the sight of a school bus?
Of her daily trauma of living near to the spot where her little daughter was killed?
I informed him that I had called the Meten-Meer-Zorg residence where the accused driver had stayed. I let him know that a woman who answered had told me that the victim’s family had been compensated.
I asked him if this was true. He ignored the question, and repeated that the child was dead and they were finished with the matter. I later learnt that the family collected a pittance as compensation.
On my trip back to Georgetown, I reflected on how angry I had been at those callous drivers, how furious I was at the apparent indifference by the police to locate them. I still am angry at them.
But, for me, the reluctance of family members to relentlessly pursue those who have killed their loved ones, is the most cruel twist of all…
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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