Oct 17, 2021 News
The Court Journal…
By Renay Sambach
Kaieteur News – In this week’s edition of ‘The Court Journal’ I will highlight some matters where persons were charged with arson. Arson is the criminal act of deliberately setting fire to property.
Recently, the Guyana Police Force (GPF) recorded one of its most horrific tragedies, the fiery destruction of the Brickdam Police Station.
On October 7, 2021, Clarence Greene, 24, the confessed Brickdam Police Station arsonist, was remanded to prison for the offence.
Greene, a labourer of Howes and Russell Streets, Charlestown, Georgetown, had appeared in the Georgetown Magistrates’ Courts, before Chief Magistrate, Ann McLennan.
The defendant was slapped with two charges – robbery under arms and arson.
It is alleged that around 00:03hrs on Saturday, October 2, 2021, Greene in the company of an accomplice, and armed with a gun, robbed two vendors at Stabroek Market of two cellphones valued at a total of $160,000.
The second charge alleges that around 11:06hrs that same day, Greene committed an act of arson by setting fire to the Brickdam Police Station. The charges were laid indictable and he was not required to plea.
Greene’s lawyer had made an application to the court requesting that the matters be tried summarily rather than indictably. The prosecutor in the matter, however, requested the charges remain indictable considering the seriousness of the offences.
According to the facts of the matter, Greene was arrested around 04:00hrs on the day in question at Leopold Street, Georgetown, after he and another man had allegedly robbed two vendors – a male and female – at Stabroek Market. The female vendor, after being robbed, alerted a security guard and had gone in search of the suspects and caught up with one of them (Greene) on Leopold Street. Ranks who were notified made the arrest.
According to an arresting rank, the stolen cell phones were found in Greene’s possession, and he was taken to the Brickdam Police Station and placed in cell #4 of the lock-ups.
Around 11:06hrs that Saturday, a fire erupted at the police station and eventually destroyed 80 percent of the buildings in the compound.
Kaieteur News’ reports had visited the scene that day and were told by officers on the ground that it was suspected that the prisoners held in the lock-ups might have started the fire.
Later that day, investigators decided to question the prisoners. Two of them then related to police that it was Greene who had started the fire.
Those prisoners claimed that, after they were evacuated, they were placed in a cell with Greene, and he had told them that he had set the fire.
Greene was later interviewed at the Criminal Investigations Department (CID) located at Eve Leary. Around 22:56hrs, according to police, Greene allegedly agreed to a video recording, in which he confessed to setting the fire because he was frustrated over being detained regarding a matter in which he claimed he is innocent.
That confession tape was seen by the various media houses and it showed that he admitted willingly to setting the fire that left the Brickdam Police Station in ruins. Greene is presently on remand and is expected to make his next court appearance on October 28, 2021.
On July 9, 2021, three men were remanded to prison for allegedly committing arson on the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) building at Burnham Drive, Wismar, Linden.
Teon February, called ‘Nut’, 23, of Canvas City, Wismar, Linden, and Marlon Hunter, called ‘Bushy’, 21, of Silver Town, Wismar, Linden, and Bryon Kendell, 48, of Kara-Kara Linden, appeared virtually before Magistrate Wanda Fortune at the Linden Magistrate’s Court.
The trio was not required to plead to the joint charge which alleges that on July 14, 2020, they unlawfully and maliciously set fire to the GECOM building.
February was slapped with two firearm related charges, and a series of break-and-enter with simple larceny charges committed in the Linden District.
After they were arrested, the men confessed to being paid $75,000 each to set the building on fire. It was reported that February told police that Kendall called him on July 13, 2020, in the evening and told him to burn the GECOM building. February said, he subsequently contacted his cousin, Marlon Hunter, to carry out the instructions on a promise that they would be remunerated with $150,000 total once it was done.
They were then driven to the building at night in the company of Kendall who then handed them a five-gallon bottle of gas from his car trunk. The suspect said that Kendall then left and he and his cousin hid the gas in a nearby clump of bushes, not too far away from the GECOM building.
It was just around midnight on July 14, 2020, according to February, when he left with his cousin on foot to the building and retrieved the gas they had stashed. He said they entered the compound from the back and ventured to the upper flat where a storeroom was located. There they splattered the gasoline and set the building on fire. However, the blaze caused an explosion and the two arsonists received burns to their feet. They then escaped on foot and went home.
At February’s home, they met three other female cousins with whom they told what had happened, and as the female cousins were tending to their wounds, Kendall arrived with $75,000 cash and handed it over to February. February said he gave his cousin, Hunter, the money and the following day Kendall paid him another $75,000, which he kept. February told police that sometime after, Kendall told him that they burnt the building because David Granger’s swearing in was delayed. Kendall was subsequently arrested.
Firefighters responded to a fire report at the Linden GECOM building in the early hours of July 4, 2020. The security guard on duty then had told police that she saw two men running from the scene.
In another matter, a 22-year-old man was remanded to prison for allegedly setting fire to three George Street houses.
On July 7, 2021, Calvin Lawrence, of Lot 101 Leopold Street, Werk-en-Rust, Georgetown, appeared in the Georgetown Magistrates’ Courts before Chief Magistrate, Ann McLennan.
He was not required to plead to the indictable charges that were read to him. The first charge alleges that June 24, 2021, at Lot 1 George Street, Werk-en-Rust, Lawrence had, unlawfully and maliciously, set fire to a dwelling house valued $18 million containing articles valued at $6 million, property of Collin Bentley.
The second charge states that on the same date and at the same location he had, unlawfully and maliciously, set fire to a dwelling house valued $38 million owned by Nalini Baboolall containing articles valued $16 million belonging to Kevin Phillips.
The final charge alleges that on the same date, at the same location, Lawrence had, unlawfully, and maliciously, set fire to a dwelling house valued $250 million containing articles amounting to $30 million, property of Hardat Maniram.
According to reports, Lawrence is accused of setting fire to three houses in an early morning arson attack. As a result of that fire, 27 persons were displaced.
Based on a report from the Guyana Fire Service (GFS), the fire at D’Urban and George Streets started around 01:00hr. The fire destroyed a vulcanising shop and houses nearby. Phillips, the owner of the vulcanising shop, had stated that around 01:00hrs he was awakened by his barking dogs. He further stated that upon checking, he noticed two persons riding away on a motorcycle from his home. Moments later, the man said he heard his neighbour shouting, “fire, fire” and that’s when he noticed his building was ablaze.
According to the GFS report, the fire first gutted Phillips’ two-storey wooden building and resulted in the entire building and contents being destroyed. Kaieteur News understands that Phillips lived on the upper floor of his vulcanising shop with his family, which includes six others.
This publication had reported that firefighters managed to eventually control the flames but not before it destroyed neighbouring houses, which displaced a Venezuelan family of 20.
The final matter is that of an arson/murder.
Kenford Downer, the man who allegedly burnt his wife and children alive in December 2020, made his first court appearance on February 6, 2021. The defendant, who was at the Bartica Magistrate’s Court, appeared virtually before Magistrate Crystal Lambert in the Vreed-en-Hoop Magistrate’s Court.
He was not required to plead to the indictable offence, which alleges that on December 12, 2020 at Four Miles Squatting Area, Potaro Road, Bartica, he murdered Carolina Kennedy, 48, a housewife, and their two daughters – five-year-old Mariana and three-year-old Gabriella Kennedy – during the course or furtherance of arson.
He is presently on remand for the offence.
According to information, Downer was hospitalised at the Bartica Regional Hospital and was being treated for injuries he sustained during the fire.
After spending almost four weeks in hospital, he was discharged and taken into custody.
Following advice from the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), Shalimar Ali-Hack, S.C., the GPF was able to lay charges against Downer.
According to a police report, at around 21:30hrs. on December 12, 2020, an unknown caller telephoned the Bartica Police Station and reported a fire. The fire service was alerted and dispatched to the area.
However, a fire truck was unable to reach the location and a bucket brigade was formed. When police and fire service ranks arrived, the wooden structure was completely engulfed in flames.
After the fire was extinguished, the ranks discovered the charred remains of Kennedy and her two daughters in the southeastern corner of the house. The bodies of the victims were subsequently removed and transported to the Bartica Hospital Mortuary.
A search was launched for Downer and he was discovered in some bushes in close proximity to the house. While he was being placed in the back of a police vehicle, the suspect admitted to the gruesome crime.
Based on information received, Kennedy and Downer had been living together for the past six months, and during that period, the woman had made several complaints to her mother about the suspect threatening her when he was intoxicated.
One week before the incident, Downer had allegedly threatened to burn the house down with Kennedy and her daughters. The woman was encouraged to report the matter to the police and she had planned to visit the station on Monday, December 14, 2020 to do so. She never made it.
Downer was previously convicted in 2018 for assaulting Kennedy.
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