Donna Herod killing

Chairman of the Police Complaints Authority (PCA), former Chancellor of the Judiciary, Cecil Kennard last week Thursday handed over the report into the killing of Buxtonian Donna Herod to Director of Public Prosecu-tion and recommended that a coroner’s inquest be speedily held into the matter.

Stabroek News was told by a source close to the DPP’s Chambers that Kennard in his recommendation urged DPP Shalimar Ali-Hack that in view of the public interest in the matter Chief Justice Carl Singh should be approached to take urgent steps to appoint a magistrate to hear the case as early as possible. Kennard in his submission to the DPP said that there was no clear-cut case to show that the police were responsible for the death of Herod as their ballistics findings showed that the bullet that struck her had not been fired from their weapons. The final decision whether to hold an inquest rests with the DPP. Stabroek News was told that the police had provided a ballistic report of their weapons used in the operation in which Herod was killed. It is expected that the DPP will make her final comments before any further action is taken in the case. Legal sources believe that a lot could come out of the inquest during cross examinations and those looking into the interest of Herod should pursue this vigorously.

Kennard had argued a few weeks ago that the police report into Herod’s killing should have been sent to his office first before it went to the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP). The report from the police was sent to the DPP first. Justice Kennard who was out of the jurisdiction when Herod was killed told Stabroek News last week that the file was subsequently sent to him. In the aftermath of Herod’s killing Commissioner of Police (ag) Henry Greene told this newspaper that ballistics tests conducted on all the police weapons used in the Buxton operation concluded that the police had not fired the fatal bullet. Relatives of the dead mother of nine are adamant that the police were responsible for the woman’s death, but the force has vehemently denied this, saying that their weapons did not kill her.

The police said in an earlier statement that ballistics tests done so far had not matched the warhead recovered from Herod’s body to shells retrieved at previous scenes involving Buxton gunmen. Greene had told this newspaper previously that the police on the operation were heading in a different direction from where Herod was shot. He said the police were heading south in pursuit of the wanted men when they heard that someone had been shot in the other direction. He said that on hearing this, the policemen retreated, picked the woman up off the road and took her to the hospital. He also told this newspaper previously that the most he could say was that Herod was probably shot in the crossfire. Sources have said the bullet that killed Herod could have been fired from a weapon that was not previously used by the gunmen or it could have been the police.

Speaking at a police function on Thursday Greene declared that the force had received a lot of criticism over the death of Herod, but no one had taken the time out to consider the possibility that the bullet could have come from the bandits. He said the force’s policy had always been to use minimum force where necessary. In a statement the police had said that ranks had crossed over the embankment going south when they had come under fire and they had returned fire. The statement said ranks had continued moving towards the identified targets and had come under fire again while giving chase behind 11 men who had run into the bushes in the backlands area. The police said the bullet that struck Herod could have been fired either from an AK-47 or an M-70 rifle. Both of these high-powered weapons are used by the police as well as by gunmen.

Stabroek News understands that residents who witnessed the shooting gave statements to a lawyer representing the family. The death of Herod had sparked outrage in the Buxton community and several organizations and political parties had issued statements condemning the operation and calling for an independent investigation to be conducted. The Guyana Human Rights Association (GHRA) in condemning the killing of the 47-year-old mother said that the police operation in the village was ill-conceived, badly executed and poorly led. The association said the Guyana Police Force and the government needed to move decisively to erase any impression that they were dissembling or evading responsibility for what it termed a bungled operation. “Nothing which has emerged thus far is encouraging,” the GHRA said. On the morning of September 4 Herod had just collected her children from a nearby school after learning about a joint services operation in the village. It was while she was on her way home when she was fatally struck with the bullet. Her children were not injured.

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