Gang busted after million-dollar Bel Air heist

-gunfire exchanged

By Oluatoyin Alleyne and Abigail Semple

Bandits yesterday attacked and robbed the family of businessman Malcolm Panday in a Bel Air Gardens home invasion, but they were later nabbed by police after a chase through the streets of George-town and the exchange of gunfire.

The fleeing men, who were said to have taken millions in the robbery, sought to escape through the compound of the Ocean Spray Hotel, located along Vlissengen Road, where they parked their car and fired at the trailing policemen before scaling the fence. Police, who returned fire, followed and arrested three of the four men with a sum of cash. Further investigations by police led to the arrest of three other men at Front Road, West Ruimveldt and the recovery of more cash.

Two men, one of whom was armed with a handgun, attacked and robbed Panday’s wife Annie Ramsood, 32, at their Bel Air Gardens home, according to police. Also at the home at the time were Panday, the couple’s children and their household staff.

Two of the bandits in the tray of a police vehicle, after they were captured yesterday morning. (Oluatoyin Alleyne photo)

While Panday managed to slip away and summon the police from a neighbouring residence, police said the bandits forced Ramsood to open a safe from where they took an undisclosed sum of cash, comprising local and foreign currency, and escaped in a waiting car, bearing registration plates PKK 3700.

Police said a prompt response resulted in their intercepting the men in the compound of the Ocean Spray Hotel, where they exchanged gunfire with one of the four men who fled the vehicle. Three of the men were arrested and an unlicensed 9mm pistol with 8 rounds and a sum of cash were recovered.

According to police, further investigations led to the interception of a car, PMM 9436, at Front Road, West Ruimveldt, Georgetown, and the arrest of three other men and the recovery of a further sum of cash.

One of the captured men is seen talking to lawmen as he lay handcuffed at the back of a vehicle. (Oluatoyin Alleyne photo)

When Stabroek News arrived at the hotel, armed policemen were seen in the compound and two of the captured bandits were sitting in the trailer of a police vehicle, while the third was in another vehicle. Police were seen grilling the men, who denied being involved in the robbery and attempted to hide their faces from the glare of the many cameras that were being pointed at them by media operatives. They were all placed in the back of one vehicle and taken away.

However, shortly after, they were returned to the location after Malcolm Panday and his relatives rushed down to the scene.

“Is this one hit me in the face and point he gun at me,” the businessman said, as he approached one of the men and punched him to his mouth. Other relatives also swarmed the vehicle and they had to be cautioned by the police, who then drove out of the compound with the men.

“Is them yes, is this same one went in the house and point he gun at we,” a female employee of the family said, as she pointed to one of the three men who bowed his head and refused to make eye contact with his accuser.

Other employees and Ramsood also identified the men as the ones who robbed them.

‘They said they
would shoot us’

The getaway car used in the robbery being towed out of the Ocean Spray Hotel compound yesterday. (Oluatoyin Alleyne photo)

According to Annie Ramsood, it was around 11:30 yesterday morning when two of the bandits walked into the yard and one of her employees went to the door to see what was happening. The woman said she heard screaming and she rushed to the door to close it, but one of the bandits pointed a gun at her and told her not move or he would shoot her.

“So I took my children and went and sit on the ground,” the still obviously-terrified woman said, while noting that at the time, her two children, ages three years and four years, and about five female employees were in the house.

After the man was joined by an accomplice, one of them asked who was the owner of the house.

“…But nobody was answering and they said they would shoot us and kill us if they don’t get an answer,” Ramsood recounted, while adding that the bandits then demanded money and whatever valuables they had.

A close up of the getaway car as it was being towed away by police. (Oluatoyin Alleyne photo)

“We were not answering them then he took out the gun and I said ‘I would give the money’ and I got up and I gave them the money from the attaché case.”

However, the bandits were not satisfied and then asked where the safe was. Ramsood said she did not answer, as she was startled that the men knew there was a safe in the house. At this point, a third bandit entered the house and instructed the others to beat and shoot her, since she had to give them the money from the safe.

“I said, ‘I don’t know the code for the safe’ and after that they dragged me into the room and said I must find the code and I think about it, and then I tried and [one of them] took his gun to hit me in the head because I said I don’t know the number,” she related. Eventually, she opened the safe and the men packed what she described as millions of dollars in local and US currency into a bag. They then fled.

Asked if her front door was opened when the bandits came, Ramsood said it was pulled in and one of the bandits turned the knob and opened it.

However, Panday then interrupted her and said: “The door was closed and then one of the staff open the door and go through the door. You talking the story upside down. And when the staff opened the door and go out and I see and say ‘wah nonsense you doing, those are bandits lock the door’ and then they come in.”

Panday declined to offer further comment on the robbery.

The chase

Police seen taking one of the bandits to their vehicle, where two others are being held. (Oluatoyin Alleyne photo)

Ramsood’s brother, Sanjay, who assisted the police in trailing the bandits, said he received a call from his wife stating that his sister was being robbed. He said the police arrived on the scene first and he followed shortly after.

“When I near reach, I see a white 212 [PKK 3700] speeding out the yard and the police behind and they signaled to me that that is the car and I follow them ’til they turn in at the hotel,” he said.

Sanjay related that the men drove into the hotel compound and parked at the rear, after which two of them quickly scaled the fence into an alleyway next door. As a result, the police continued their chase, he said, and the cornered bandits opened fire at them to which they responded. During the exchange the armed bandit’s gun fell to the ground in the passageway. The third man, according to Sanjay, was caught in the back yard of the hotel.

Sanjay said he trailed the bandits from Bel Air Gardens into Sheriff Street and into the Kitty Public Road, from where they made a detour into the hotel’s compound. He noted that one of the men tried to “bluff me with one of the phone them fuh let me think is a gun, but me de done know de gun drop.”

‘Fantastic job’

Meanwhile, after having searched the alleyway for sometime, the police along with Malcolm Panday returned to the hotel compound. Panday relayed to this newspaper that “some” of the money had been recovered.

The bag which contained the local and US currency was not recovered. According to sources, a small amount of money, said to be around $300,000, was found in the vicinity of the hotel.

The only comment Panday would offer then was his praise for members of the Guyana Police Force, who he said did a “fantastic job” in chasing and capturing the men. He also called his brother-in-law a hero.

He singled out two senior policemen whom he said coordinated the chase. “People must stop talking bad about the police. The police [force] is not what it used to be. They do their jobs. They risk their lives. They corner the people…They were here in a few minutes, just about one minute thirty seconds was lost. They came just in time to follow them. So the Commissioner of Police and Mr Seelall Persaud… and the President, those people above (the two senior policemen) must know that they do a fantastic job and they are going to help stop the crime in this country,” Panday told reporters.

He said that the two senior police officers and the other lawmen must be given the opportunity to continue to fight crime. “We are very, very grateful. They really deserve to be complimented, congratulated and recognised for this job and many other jobs we notice they are doing,” the businessman said.

The owners of the Cops Security Services were also praised by Panday for rendering assistance.

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