An Enmore business was yesterday morning raided and robbed of over $1.5M in cash and jewellery.
The robbery occurred at around 8:30am at the S&K Lumber Yard and General Store, Blossom Scheme, Enmore South, East Coast Demerara.
When Stabroek News visited the home of Sahodra Kuldip, the 63-year-old proprietrix, police were still there conducting their investigations, which included reviewing a tape from a camera that is situated just outside the office of the hardware store. Most of the victims – except for Kuldip, her daughter and son-in-law, who were upstairs giving statements to police – from the attack were present, and they each gave their accounts on the incident.
According to Rajdei Gomes, 49, who is a clerk at the store, she came in at around 8:20am and the store had already opened. The still shaking woman explained that she was tending to a customer when a man came in cranking a gun and he instructed everyone present to “get inside and go and lay on the floor.”
“Before I lie down he tell me tek off everything I had,” she related, adding that she had on a pair of earrings, a band and a watch, all gold plated, which she handed over to the gunman, who also took possession of her purse. In Rajdei’s purse, was $6000, along with TTD$520, her ID card and keys. “I gave it all to them and I lie down as I was told. As I lay there I heard another guy come in and ask for the camera monitor,” she said. A little after this, the store’s other clerk entered and was also held-up.
This clerk, Chandroutie Deonarine, 44, called “Dolly”, related that she arrived at work at around 8:45. “I saw a silver-coloured car out there with a driver behind the wheel and the car was just starting up and the trunk was open. I noticed that the number plate for the car was covered with a thin blue plastic but I couldn’t make out the numbers,” she said. This, she added, looked abnormal, but she thought nothing further of it until she entered the compound and was confronted at the door to their office by one of the bandits. “When I got in, I was met at the open office door by a tall man holding a long gun and he told me to “get in” and I complied. He said take off all your jewels and empty your bag. I had a pair of gold bangles and my wedding band with two diamond rings and I took them off, but he didn’t worry with my bag,” she added.
Upon looking into the inner part of the office, which houses a storeroom for the hardware products, Dolly said she saw about six persons lying face-down on the ground. This group, she said, comprised three customers, Kuldip’s son-in-law Amar Lall, 24, Rajdei, and one of two labourers. In tears and crying loudly, Dolly was told to join the others on the floor and she complied. She said that shortly after, the bandit left the office and one of the men got up and checked to see if they had left, which they had and they all got up. Dolly continued that they all went upstairs, where they met Kuldip and the others, the former relating that the gunmen had made away with all her cash and jewellery. The clerk added that she was also later made to understand that Lall as well as Kuldip’s daughter Seema Latchman, 22, were also beaten by the bandits. The former suffered a beating to the stomach with a gun and was also kicked by one of the bandits, while the latter was struck in the back. According to police, the two were taken for medical treatment.
Meanwhile, Harriram Samaroo, the labourer who was among the hostages in the storeroom, related that he arrived at work around 7:50 and when he got there he set off to look into some lumber a customer had requested. As he was doing this, he explained, a car pulled up and a man entered the yard. He went on to say that he paid no mind to the stranger, until he saw him put his hand into his jacket and he heard a gun crank. Upon hearing the sound, Samaroo said he froze and the gunman commanded him and the others present to “get inside and don’t make a sound or I will shoot you”. Once inside, he said he was relieved of $3000 he had in his pocket and a silver chain he wore around his neck. The gunman, he said, was neatly dressed in a white overcoat “and well-shaven.”
As the seven were being held hostage downstairs, Kuldip’s daughter and granddaughter, Shalini Latchman, were accosted and also made to lie facedown on the floor. According to the 15-year-old Shalini, she was in the kitchen searching for a flashlight, when she felt someone grab her arm. Upon turning, she saw a man with a handgun and he “asked me where the money and who else left in the house.” She explained that her cousin Seema was also in the kitchen mixing flour and the bandit instructed them both to go into a room and lie on the ground, all the while demanding money and jewels. “I didn’t have any jewels on me and my cousin only had her wedding ring and he didn’t touch it,” she said. She continued that the gunman then proceeded to tumble the room, pulling out and searching the drawers and so forth, after which he turned to Seema and enquired on the whereabouts of “the lady for the house”. Seema, Shalini said, kept telling the gunman that she didn’t know where her mother was. The man then entered Kuldip’s room, which he ransacked also and he kept asking his two hostages for money. She said too that “another tall man with a long gun also came upstairs afterwards and he asked me for money too and I told him I don’t have and he told us to lie down back on the ground.” A few minutes passed, she said, during which the bandits left the room and she subsequently heard the start of a car engine and “afterwards nothing more.” Her grandmother, she explained, had all the while been hiding downstairs.
When Stabroek News contacted Kuldip last night, she related that she was not present when the incident occurred. “I went and walk. Every morning I does exercise,” she explained. The audibly shaken woman related that she was on her way back from her walk when she heard her alarm and wondered what could’ve triggered it. She said that as she attempted to speed up, she heard her daughter and granddaughter shouting for her. By the time she arrived on the scene, she said, “everything done”. The distressed woman, who is ailing, told this newspaper that she had a safe with her money and jewellery and the bandits found it and carted off everything.
The victims were all in agreement that the incident took about fifteen minutes and after their departure, someone sounded the alarm following which the police arrived on the scene, about ten minutes later.
This newspaper was informed by a resident that the silver-green car that was driven by the bandits, was seen by his wife and children passing the general store twice that morning. The first time, according to the son, was around 7:30am, and then about an hour later. This last time, he explained, the vehicle remained at the store for about 15 minutes, after which they speeded back the way they came. The eyewitness stated that there were about four occupants, inclusive of the driver, in the vehicle both times.
Kuldip resides in her house above the store with her daughter, her son-in-law and her granddaughter. Having no husband, and as a result of her falling ill recently, Kuldip explained that her son-in-law quit his job to assist her in the store as the supervisor.