Forensic samples for a number of cases, including murders and last year’s plane crash at Sparendaam, East Coast Demerara, have been delivered to a lab in Brasilia, Brazil, according to Crime Chief Seelall Persaud, who seems confident that the wait for the results will not be long.
Persaud told Stabroek News that the samples were taken from Guyana last Monday by a police official. Asked which cases the samples were related to, Persaud said that information was not immediately available as he had not spoken to the rank since his return and was still awaiting his report.
He, however, said that there were samples for about 12 cases, including the rape/murder of 90-year-old Millicent Prince-Cummings and the plane crash that claimed the lives of two foreigners—Pierre Angiel, a 71-year-old American pilot and 54-year-old Canadian Engineer Nick Dmitriev—in April last year. In the latter case, the police are looking to confirm the identity of one of the men who was burnt beyond recognition during the crash.
Asked about the timeframe, Persaud told Stabroek News that the testing of the samples started in the presence of the rank, according to what he was told. As a result, he said, “It looks like there is going to be a significant difference from our experience in the Caribbean.”
Persaud had told this newspaper about the new arrangement between the two countries to have the forensic testing done in Brazil. He said that the first request to Brazil for assistance in the area of forensics was made through a liaison officer based in Georgetown and subsequently a formal request was made during a joint annual cooperation meeting.
After the meeting, which was held in Brazil, the discussions went back and forth until the two sides finally reached an agreement to have samples sent to Brazil for forensic analysis. He had noted that this new arrangement will be very beneficial as forensic analysis complements the work of detectives. He noted that it is used all around the world and he had cited cases in the United States solved on forensic analysis alone.
Finding reliable access to forensic analysis has been a challenge for police over the years. Attempts were made with labs in Barbados and Jamaica more than likely to cut costs but these did not turn out too well. Jamaica’s delay in delivering the DNA results for the Lindo Creek miners, was the most noticeable. Jamaica received the samples in 2008 not long after the suspected remains of the men were found. The bodies were badly burnt and were unidentifiable in the state that they were found in. The results were never made available until 2012.
A source told this newspaper recently that while little is known about the Brazilian arrangement or the lab that the samples were being taken to, there is no reason why a similar arrangement with Barbados should cease.
The source noted that it is well known that Brazil is a very developed country with capacity for things such as forensic analysis. However, the source said, “We were going to Barbados and they were doing a good job,” and added that if the idea of seeking help from Brazil is intended to cut cost, it may actually work out to be more expensive.
It was explained that with Brazil, it would take several days to get to the lab in question and by extension money would have to be allotted for meals and accommodation while in the case on Barbados the objective was to complete the mission within a day. According to the source, the lab that was used on the island had good equipment and was reputable and delays like what occurred with Jamaica were never an issue.
It was explained that one has to understand that the more complicated the analysis, the longer it would take for the results to become available. “It is not magic. It takes time…,” the source said, while adding that the aim is always for there to be accuracy.
The source explained further that with the Lindo Creek samples, the testing would have been complex and as such required a lot of time to be analysed. In addition to the complex nature of the samples, the source said, the lab in that country also apparently had their own internal issues that the needed to deal with.
Observers have repeatedly said that forensic analysis should have been one of the priorities for the state-funded forensic lab, located at the University of Guyana’s Turkeyen Campus. It has not been opened as yet although Home Affairs Minister Clement Rohee that it would have been opened by the end of last year.
There have been several newspaper notices regarding staffing needs and equipment for the facility.
In June 2011, when the foundation for the $450 million state-of-the-art forensic laboratory was being built, government had given the expected completion date as May 2012.
Security sources had questioned the purpose of the facility if forensic analysis was not going to be done. It was observed that this lab will be nothing different from the police’s crime lab. The security sources had pointed out that since the government was making such a high financial investment in having the lab built, it should have gone all the way and ensure that it was up to par with other labs in the Caribbean.