Two more bodies recovered from capsized ‘bandit’ boat

Two more bodies, which are yet to be identified, have been recovered from the Piari Landing robbery boat mishap.
According to Crime Chief Seelall Persaud, the two bodies were discovered late Tuesday night. He added that persons in the area who viewed the bodies did not identify either of the two as a resident, but noted that it is yet to be confirmed whether they were bandits.

Meanwhile, the two bodies recovered on Tuesday afternoon by police have been positively identified but their names are yet to be released.
One of the men was identified as a bandit by one of the three suspected robbers now in custody, while the other was identified by residents in the area as the man who was forced by bandits to man the boat. This newspaper was told by sources in Bartica that one of men, known by the call names ‘Kingston’ and ‘Rastaman,’ was from Linden but worked in the interior as a boat hand.

Persaud said yesterday that police are still in pursuit of four bandits who are still at-large. He said that it would appear as though more than eight men carried out the robbery on Sunday at Piari.

The robbery occurred around 7 pm on Sunday, when the group of men armed with handguns stormed Piari Landing, at Puruni and wounded three Brazilians in the process. Millions of dollars were stolen in the raid.

According to the police, as the men approached, a number of shop owners and other persons fled into the bushes, but eight persons were robbed of cash, raw gold and jewellery, including the three who were shot and injured. The perpetrators, police said, attempted to escape in a boat that they had stolen from Piari Landing but while travelling along the Mazaruni River, it overturned.

The three suspects in custody were held after that a team of police ranks, acting on information received, went into another area in the Mazaruni, where they made the arrests and recovered an Uzi sub-machine gun and a handgun.

A source at Bartica informed Stabroek News that the getaway boat was supposedly heading to Bartica, east along the Mazaruni River. This newspaper was also told that there were three hostages who escaped from the getaway boat; one of them was allegedly grabbed by the bandits and forced to drive the boat. Reports are that the hostage deliberately drove the boat towards “Looking Glass Falls,” an area that is seldom traversed given its dangerous rapids. Upon nearing the drop, he and the other two hostages jumped overboard and swam to safety. A 40hp boat, believed to have been used by the bandits to travel to the area, has been recovered by the police.

‘Action film’
Owner of the capsized boat, Cool Confidence, Kevin Woolford, is currently assisting with investigations. According to his mother-in-law, who asked not to be named, he had told her and the rest of the family that on the afternoon before the incident, he had gone up to the landing to take up a four-wheel bike in his boat. The woman said that after it got dark, Woolford decided to spend the night there. It was while he was at a shop making a purchase that someone there said “turn down the music like something happening next door.” Upon turning down the music, they heard the gunshots and realised that a robbery was taking place at the shop next door, and everyone, including Woolford, dispersed.

The woman related that Woolford told her that he and a sailor ran and hid next to a fallen tree among some bushes until the episode had passed, and he added that it was while in hiding that he saw a boat passing. He did not realise that it was his until he had returned to where he had docked it. After the robbery, he saw beaten and bleeding people in the different shops. He later called home at around 3am the next day and informed his family of what had transpired.

Woolford’s mother-in-law said that he only purchased the boat and 75 hp engine about two months ago. She said the remains of the boat were recovered by police yesterday afternoon. She added that her son-in-law is still shaken over the entire “action-film” like incident.

Curtis Barnett, one of the victims, yesterday related that he was robed of $110,000, US$105 and a cellular phone. He said he was just about to shut up shop when he heard the gunfire and he quickly locked his doors, set up an internet connection and ran under his bed to make a call to his uncle-in-law.

The still shaken man said that two of the men went around to the back and began kicking and hitting the back door, forcing their way in, while two others went to the front and were successful in opening a trap door there. When they found him, they began beating him in his shoulder and legs with a hammer, while demanding money and gold. He said the men even demanded to see his gold purchase record book along with his internet sales book to ensure that he had given them all he had. The four men then proceeded to “smash up” all the computer monitors and destroy all the phone lines, before escaping. Barnett has since travelled out from Bartica and is at home in the city.

When questioned yesterday about what the police plan to do about the apparent increase in robberies and murders in the interior, the crime chief said that there has been a decline in crime in the interior over the years. He did, however, say that planning has been ongoing for a long time and this includes setting up additional police outposts and checkpoints built in the interior, and to have more All Terrain Vehicles (ATVs) and motorcycles available for transportation purposes. He noted that on the night of the incident, police arrived a few hours after the robbery and were able to make arrests.

During the robbery, Brazilian shopkeeper Joao De Freitas Mattos was shot to his right leg and robbed of $60,000; Brazilian shopkeeper Benedito Dourado Oliveira, 56, was shot to his right hip and robbed of $500,000 and a quantity of raw gold; and Brazilian Francisco Da Cruz Morias, 44, was shot to his right thigh and left foot and robbed of $140,000.  After being treated at the Bartica Hospital like the others, Oliviera was transported to the Georgetown Public Hospital. Two other Brazilians, Joao Da Conceicao, 56, and Mario Odessa Da Silva, were robbed of $30,000 and jewellery and $500,000, respectively.

Police have said that two men, who claimed that they were abducted and held hostage by the armed men as they were escaping, have been found by the police and are assisting with the investigations.

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