Chapter closed, book open
The Guyana Police Force may have closed the chapter on the Lindo Creek massacre on Tuesday when it interred the burnt remains of the eight victims after a funeral service, but the complete book has not been written – at least not for some of the relatives of the slain men – and perhaps it never will be.
It is painful enough to have one’s loved ones murdered; too many families have experienced that in Guyana. It is much worse when their bodies are also burned in order to cover up the crime. So horrific was it that identification was impossible without the use of DNA technology, which unfortunately the Guyana Police Force was and still is not in a position to provide. Despite requests made by the relatives, the police took the decision to send body parts and DNA samples to Jamaica for testing. It took four years for the results to be returned to Guyana.
They confirmed what was known all along: that Dax Arokium, Cecil Arokium, Clifton Wong, Nigel Torres, Compton Speirs, Bonny Harry, Horace Drakes and Lancelot Lee were brutally murdered at a mining camp at Lindo Creek where they worked and that their bodies and the camp were subsequently set on fire, most likely to conceal who the real killer/s were. The police had fingered Rondell ‘Fineman’ Rawlins and his gang, all of whom were subsequently killed by the police over short a period of time. Leonard Arokium, the owner of the mining camp and the father and brother respectively of Dax and Cecil Arokium, was the person who discovered the bodies in the burned out camp after being alerted that there was something amiss. He had maintained repeatedly that the Fineman Gang could not have committed the murderous acts. He had pointed a finger at the Joint Services, members of which were in the area hunting for the Fineman Gang. This was steadfastly denied by the police and after a while, Leonard Arokium ceased to verbalise on the issue.
No doubt, however, for him and for other relatives of the deceased, as well as many Guyanese, questions linger. The police move to quietly bury the remains of the men on Tuesday has raised new questions.
Just one family, that of Nigel Torres of Kwakwani, was present at the ‘funeral’. And though Crime Chief Seelall Persaud said that the police had informed them all, at least one mother, when contacted, said she had received no such information and would have liked to have been there for her son’s interment. Perhaps attempts were made to get in contact with the relatives of the dead men which were not successful, which begs the question, why the haste to bury the burned bones now? These families waited four years for answers and closure. Surely, the police could have given them enough time to come together for a proper memorial. The burial should have been done at a time mutually agreed by all of the relatives of the dead men, instead of at a time convenient to the police.
The next question is why did the police undertake the burials? Would the relatives have refused permission to take possession of the remains for burial? This would seem not to be the case in the instance of Torres. His mother was anxious for a last look at the remains but this was denied.
Then there is the issue of the coffins. Why only three when eight men were murdered? Who took the decision to lump the bones of eight men into three coffins? This newspaper was told that the experts were unable to group the body parts of each of the men, but why three coffins? Why not eight? Why not two or four?
Why did the funeral home take on the task of just picking three of the names for display on the coffins, as the crime chief said it did? And how was the selection of the names done? The funeral home has declined comment on this, deepening the mystery.
What of the families of the other five men? How do they get closure? The police crime chief said they had been contacted. Suppose they had shown up on Tuesday for the funeral? How would they have felt?
One hopes that at the very least the families are made aware of the burial place of the slain men if, as in the case of Teresa Lee, mother of Lancelot Lee, they have the desire to pay their last respects at some point.
The police had said at the height of the investigation into the murders that there was an eyewitness and that the person had been taken into custody. This newspaper was also told of an eyewitness who was hiding in the upper Demerara River area. This person’s account of the events was never taken and no one even knows if he is still alive today.
The case may be closed but Yonette Torres’s aching grief displayed on Tuesday indicates that the wounds remain open. One hopes now that at least for her family some sort of healing can begin.