For almost four hours, three “young robbers” terrorized a couple in their Grove home and business place on November 23. It was the fourth time they were attacked.
Businesswoman Lelia Hilton and her husband live on the second floor of their Grove Public Road, East Bank Demerara building. Their business, F&L Hard-ware Store, is located on the ground floor.
The business was opened four years ago and in those four years they have been attacked four times by “young robbers” in each instance. No arrest was ever made in any of the cases, Mr. Hilton stated, and he does not expect police to nab the perpetrators after the most recent attack.
After 11pm on November 23, Mrs. Hilton said she was nudged awake by her husband. The first thing she saw was a man standing on her husband’s side of the bed with a gun to his head. A second man was on her side of the bed and a third in front. The men, she said, had cloth tied over their faces and were dressed in oversized, dark clothing. Despite this, Mrs. Hilton said she could tell that they were very young.
“One of them told us “Don’t move” and started to demand cash from us and the one in front the bed expertly disconnected our surveillance camera set-up,” she said.
The woman said she managed to slip off her wedding ring and drop it on the bed before the men made a move to tie and gag them. For this purpose they used her husband’s ties and tape from the hardware store, Mrs. Hilton said.
It was hours after their ordeal that Mrs. Hilton learnt how the three attackers had gained entry to her home. They had entered the yard by jumping over a back fence, and then used clothes which were on her line to make a walkway along the zinc covered shed to minimize the sound of their footsteps on the shed.
After they gained access to the landing of her back stairway, she explained, they disconnected the light there, hopped on to a side shed and then removed four louvre window panes.
One of the men was armed with a gun and two with knives. One of the knives was from Mrs. Hilton’s kitchen.
With the couple tied and gagged on their bed, the attackers ransacked their closet and found some jewellery the woman had in an inner pocket of a handbag, a quantity of cash her husband had in his briefcase and other small amounts of money in his shirt pockets. “When they got that they kept asking us for more and even though I told them we didn’t have anymore and I told them to look at how simply we live, they still insisted that they knew we had more,” Mrs. Hilton said.
Drink of water
After spending sometime in her bedroom, she recalled, the gunman then escorted her out to the living room and placed her in a chair. It was there that he demanded that she tell him where the rest of the money was and asked for the keys for the hardware store. “I told them I didn’t have the keys and I didn’t know which was which but my husband eventually handed it over to them and I was taken down to the hardware store where they went to the cash register,” she related.
There was nothing much in the cash register, Mrs. Hilton said, and the men took her to the second floor living room again. It was then, the woman reported, that she really started to get scared.
“They said they were going to take me downstairs a second time and I started to get scared because I thought that now they were going to kill me because they could not find anything else,” Mrs. Hilton said.
The woman said she started “palpitating” and the robber who was guarding her started to ask her if she was alright and offered to bring her water. The man, according to Mrs. Hilton, told her: “Aunty, aunty you alright right, hold on I going to bring some water for you.”
Because the woman was afraid of what the man would bring her to drink she asked that he take her to the kitchen. “I really wanted that water and when he took me to the kitchen because my hands were tied he gave me to drink,” she said.
The men then demanded the keys to one of their vehicles, Mrs. Hilton said, and after the key for the canter truck was given to them they returned to the hardware store.
They started to fetch out stock from the business place and to load it into the canter, she said. She and her husband were left in the bedroom while the three robbers looted their store. “After we were satisfied that they had left us on the second floor, we started to struggle with our bindings,” Mrs. Hilton said.
She was the first person to get loose and immediately ran to the front balcony, climbed on to the front shed and started to scream. Neighbours were immediately alerted to the fact that thieves were at the Hiltons and called police.
Mrs. Hilton said that there was another robbery scene in the Grove area that night so investigators were able to respond to their call for help immediately. “All the crime scene guys, the fingerprint specialists and so on came over quickly,” she said.
This latest robbery, she said, was by far the most horrifying of the four attacks and she has little faith that anything will be done about it.
Mr. Hilton, who is not a Guyanese, said that he was encouraged to invest locally by his wife. However, with the experiences he has suffered in recent years, he is beginning to question that decision.
It was with outrage, the man said, that he read of a woman gathering supporters and protesting for the right of a teenager who was “hogtied” by police at Parika last Thursday. He said it was amazing to read of the speed with which a woman mobilized a group to protest on behalf of the teen who has since been charged with attempting to commit a felony. “If Guyanese would speak up for their rights with the same passion then it would certainly make a difference,” he said.
Over the years, Mr. Hilton said, he has observed that business owners and other persons who are licensed firearm holders have not been sufficiently trained on how to store, use and maintain their weapon. Mr. Hilton, a member of a US rifle association, believes that in many cases it is a civilian’s lack of knowledge of where to store a firearm that results in home invaders knowing right where to locate it. “The police should be providing continuous training to these men and women. As a victim I am prepared to reach out to the police, to help them and to equip citizens with the knowledge they need to further secure themselves but I can’t do this without some interest and cooperation from the police,” he said.