Feb 04, 2019 News
– $25M equipment expected next month to speed up testing
By Michael Jordan
Poison and other toxicology cases being investigated by the police or the courts are being delayed because the Guyana Forensic Science Laboratory (GFSL) is unable to conduct its tests speedily.
The Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) and some Magistrates have written to the GFL enquiring about the cause for the delays.
But Director of the Guyana Forensic Science Laboratory (GFSL) Delon France hopes to change things around by next month. He is seeking to acquire a $25M Gas Chromatograph Mass Spectrometer to conduct these tests.
The equipment, already paid for with funds from the GFSL’s budget, will be shipped from Singapore “in six to eight weeks’ time,” France said.
Explaining the reasons for the backlog, France said that the laboratory already has a gas chromatograph mass spectrometer.
It is used for toxicology tests and to conduct tests on samples of suspected illicit substances, including cocaine, marijuana, heroin and Ecstasy. It is also used for toxicology tests.
“We processed over 8,000 drug samples in 2018,” France said. The machine can only test 60 samples (toxicology or illicit drugs) at a time.
“Sometimes you have several samples for one case alone. For instance, we had to test over 300 samples for the recent cocaine in lumber case,” the Director revealed.
Two tests (preliminary and confirmatory) tests are conducted.
He said that the toxicology tests are more complex, since substances (such as illicit drugs and poisons) have to be first extracted from blood, urine and stomach samples.
“So the process of analyzing these samples is different (from testing of suspected narcotics). We have to extract (poisons, drugs) from substances and then put them in the machine.”
He said that the new Gas Chromatograph Mass Spectrometer will be used solely for toxicology tests.
The laboratory is believed to be in possession of toxicology samples that were taken from the 16-year-old Mae’s Secondary School student who committed suicide last month.
France revealed that he had a meeting last week with the DPP about the backlog. But he stressed that the results the lab delivers must stand up to scrutiny when presented in a court of law.
“One of my concerns is that somebody (in a court case) might sub-contract a lab from Trinidad or the US, and if that lab can contradict our findings we will be embarrassed.”
Meanwhile, the GFSL laboratory is still seeking assistance from the Inter American Development Bank (IDB) to acquire equipment to conduct tests for the presence of gunpowder residue.
France had revealed last year that the equipment it acquired from the Guyana Police Force has been inoperable.
This has resulted in a hold being placed on a number of murder investigations.
These include the January, 2018 shooting death of Korner Kick Manager, Tevin Parris, and the January 14, 2018 deaths of Pomeroon farmers, Ambrose Baharally and Martin Godette.
The 27-year-old Parris was found dead in his bed, in the upper flat of his Lot 66 Garnett Street, Newtown home.
He had been shot to the head.
An unlicenced 9mm pistol, with 14 live rounds was found in his right hand.
But a postmortem indicated that the injury was not self inflicted.
Investigators detained an individual who was close to some members of the slain man’s family. They also swabbed the suspect and victim for traces of gunpowder residue.
Coconut farmers Ambrose Baharally, 28, of Grant Stelling, Hope Lower Pomeroon, and Martin Godette, 23, of Friendship Canal, Lower Pomeroon were found dead with gunshot wounds to their heads at Baharally’s home on January 14.
A postmortem revealed that Godette was shot from a distance, while Baharally was shot at close range.
One report alleged that the two coconut farmers and a third man were drinking and smoking marijuana when Baharally shot Godette.
There are suggestions that Baharally then took his own life.
Baharally’s wife later led detectives to an area where she had allegedly disposed of the murder weapon after discovering the two bodies.
Police recovered a 9mm Beretta pistol with a magazine, one .38 revolver, 16 live cartridges, 21 live .38 rounds, 19 live 9mm rounds, six .32 rounds, two 9mm spent shells and 51.5 grams of cannabis.
The GFSL began conducting tests for the Guyana Police Force on March 1, 2017.
The Director had said that the lab had “boxes upon boxes of evidence” to process, including toxicology tests, and tests on currency, and for blood.
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