A property dispute between a 75-year-old businessman and a family is at the centre of the trial of two men who are accused of the murders of Randolph Thomas and his two daughters Tressa Rozario, 14, and Feresa Rozario, 11, who were trapped in their home at Lot 65 Robb and King Streets, Georgetown, which was razed by a fire in the wee hours of November 17, 2014.
This was revealed during the testimony of John Pyneandy, who was called to testify against the businessman, Ganga Kishna, also known as, ‘Scientist’ and ‘Buddy’ and his employee, Avishkar Bissoon, whose trial commenced yesterday morning before Justice Brassington Reynolds and a 12-person jury at the High Court in Demerara.
The state has indicted the duo for three counts of murder. They have pleaded not guilty to the charge which alleged that on November 17, 2014, in the County of Demerara, they murdered Tressa and Feresa Rozario during the course of a fire. They have also denied another charge, which alleges that between November 17, 2014 and December 21, 2014, in the County of Demerara, they murdered Randolph Thomas, during the furtherance of a fire.
The men are being represented by lawyers Dexter Todd and Mursaline Bacchus.
State Prosecutor Seeta Bishundial in her opening remarks to the jury stated that the sisters and their father were asleep around 2am when their home was set on fire. Based on reports, the sisters were trapped in the early morning inferno. Thomas, 63, managed to jump through a window to escape the flames. He, however, sustained second and third degree burns and later succumbed – on December 21, 2014 – while receiving treatment at the Georgetown Public Hospital.
During his testimony, Pyneandy, who said he has been a businessman for over 20 years, told the court that during 2014, he operated a beverage depot, ice cream parlour and restaurant at the lower flat of the premises at Lot 65 Robb and King Streets, which he described as a three-storey wooden and concrete structure, which had no electricity from the Guyana Power and Light.
He said that the only source of electricity for the family who lived in the top flat was a 12-volt battery, which they used to power several fluorescent tubes. He also said that he renovated the lower flat of the building after an agreement between him and Jeffrey Thomas, Randolph Thomas’s brother, who sold palm trees at the premises.
The witness told the jury that a few months prior to him establishing the business, he saw Ganga Kishna at the premises with a blow torch in his hand. He said that the equipment was hooked up to two 100-pound gas cylinders that were inside of his car.
He recalled, “Two other boys were present with him (Kishna). They were cutting the locks and grills off of the hinges from my business. The police (ranks who were at the scene) warned them to stop, but they ignored the police and continued to cut. The police got a little more aggressive with them and that was when they stopped.”
At this point, the witness recalled that Kishna went into his car and retrieved some documents, which he showed to the police, telling them that he was the owner of the building.
According to Pyneandy, “I told the police that it wasn’t his building and the police told us to accompany them to the Brickdam Police Station. We met woman Sergeant Lewis who documented the issue in the Occurrence Book.” He added that Kishna was warned by woman Sergeant Lewis to refrain from going to the premises and to let the court deal with the matter. However, Pyneandy recalled that Kishna returned two days later and began using threatening language.
“I came out and met him there, and he was talking to a couple of people there saying that the property is his own. I approached him and asked him to leave, and he turned to me and said that the property is his own and that he was not going to leave.”
Pyneandy said he replied and told Kishna, “You’re a mad man” and he responded, “You’re going to see who is a mad man when I burn it (the building).”
The witness recalled, “I made a phone call to the Brickdam Police Station and spoke to Sergeant Lewis and she sent a patrol. He (Kishna) was taken to the Brickdam Police Station Enquiries Office. I followed behind the patrol in my vehicle. Sergeant Lewis warned him (Kishna) again. When we were leaving the station together, Ganga Kishna told me that I will regret all the monies I have invested in the building.”
According to Pyneandy, Kishna told him, “The first time I burnt it (the building), it didn’t come down, but this time I will bring it down.”
“You will go to jail,” the witness said he responded to Kishna, who replied; “I will get people to burn it.”
Asked by the prosecutor to detail what transpired on the day in question, Pyneandy recalled, “That morning, I received a phone call from one of my staff. I left in a hurry and went down to Robb and King Streets. When I approached the building, I saw the whole top flat (where the family resided) and the middle floor were on fire. It was already burnt out. The businessman said that he did not see Thomas or his two daughters.”
The witness told the court that later that same day, he went back to the station to tender CCTV footage he obtained from one Mr. Khan who resided a short distance from the property. He revealed that the building was not insured.
Asked by Prosecutor Bishundial if he would be able to identify the man who was holding the blow torch, Pyneandy replied in the affirmative, and looked around the courtroom from where he pointed to Ganga Kishna who was seated in the prisoner’s dock clad in a blue chequered shirt and black pants. Pyneandy explained that he had known Kishna for 15 to 16 years prior to 2014.
As it related to Avishkar Bissoon, Pyneandy said that he knew him, since he was an employee of Kishna, and he would see him every day cutting steel and welding iron a short distance from his business place. He recalled that Bissoon was one of the men cutting the grill of the hinges to his business place.
This trial is continuing and is projected to last for several weeks.
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