Cops accused of cover-up attempt in burning of prisoner

Police are being accused of trying to cover up the alleged torture of detainee Junior Thorrington, the 19-year-old who claims he was burnt by police officers while in custody at the Sparendaam Police Station.

Thorrington says lawmen soaked his hands with methylated spirits before lighting them on fire and then kept him in the lock-ups for three days before taking him to the hospital.

Thorrington, of Lot 1 Eastville, Annandale, East Coast Demerara, is now a patient in the Georgetown Public Hospital Burn Care Unit, while police have launched an internal investigation into his alleged torture. However, even before the announcement of the investigation, police allegedly attempted to get Thorrington to forego legal action by reportedly paying over $100,000 to a relative of the man.

Thorrington’s allegations, which recall the use of methylated spirits by police to burn the genitals of a 15-year-old detainee at the Leonora Police Station in 2009, are just the latest to be made against the police force, which has been trying to repair its public image under the tenure of new acting Commissioner Seelall Persaud in the face of continuing abuses by its members.

Junior Thorrington
Junior Thorrington

Recalling his arrest, Thorrington told Stabroek News yesterday that he was walking his dogs in his neighbourhood when he was approached by police officers. He said that the officers accused him of wandering and asked him to get into the police pick-up vehicle.

However, he said he refused and he was grabbed and thrown into the tray of the vehicle.

Later the same day, he said, he was taken to the back of the police station, where one of the officers threw methylated spirit on his hands. With the help of other police officers, one of the officers started a fire and burnt his soaked hands.

His attorney, Dexter Todd, who is a former policeman, said the recent occurrences of violent behaviour portrayed by police officers is not acceptable. He referred to the alleged shooting of Alex Griffith, 15, by a policeman who was playing Russian Roulette with him.

He said someone has to account for these situations.

He noted that the police will be given a full opportunity to investigate the matter because they have initiated the investigation.

Statements from Thorrington, Todd explained, were taken yesterday. He added that he hopes the investigation is finished before a month is up.

Addressing the $100,000 allegedly taken by Thorrington’s father from police officers at Sparendaam Police Station, for which he supposedly signed a paper stating that he will not take legal action against officers, Todd said that he was not told of the transaction. He, however, said that he believes the money was given to the man to assist with his son’s transportation and not to pervert the course of justice.

The teen’s father refused to comment on the accusation.

Activist Mark Benschop said that after the attack, police officers through an officer in the hierarchy, bombarded the teen’s father and coaxed the man into taking the money for payment of medical bills.

He added that after the attack, a relative of the teen contacted him from overseas and informed him of what had transpired and he then made contact with the teen’s father.

He stated that the family has agreed that no money will be taken outside of court. He also warned that since officers attempted to offer money supposedly to avoid legal complications, it clearly shows that the police were ready to cover up the case.

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