A guard is dead after he was beaten and gagged by two men who then raided safes in the Regional Democratic Council (RDC) building and post office at Lethem on Friday evening.
Police said an undisclosed amount of cash was carted off but three suspects—two men and a woman—were later arrested yesterday morning at a police checkpoint at Mabura with $4 million, hidden under the rear seat of their car.
The dead guard was identified as John Friday, of Culvert City, Lethem, who was found dead with pieces of cloth stuffed in his mouth after the robbery. The other guard on duty, Rudolph Bernard, 62, also of Lethem, was attacked by the robbers as well. They chopped him in his head before tying him up. He is now a patient of the Lethem Hospital.
Bernard, who remained in pain yesterday, told Stabroek News that he was left tied up until around 7 am yesterday, when a woman visited the RDC compound. He said it was police officers who untied him and took him to the hospital because he could not walk.
According to a police statement, the robbers struck at the RDC around 8 pm on Friday and attacked the two guards. After assaulting the men, tying them both up, and gagging Friday, police said, the men then broke into the RDC building and the post office, where a cutting torch was used to cut open five safes. They stole an undisclosed sum of money from the safes then escaped.
Police said all divisions were put on alert after they learnt of the robbery and at about 8.15 am yesterday, police ranks at the Mabura Checkpoint stopped and searched a car, during which over $4 million was found hidden under the rear seat. The two men and the woman who were in the vehicle were arrested and remain in police custody assisting with the investigations.
The stolen money belonged to the RDC and the Lethem Post Office, whose funds are held in one account at the building, according to. Regional Chairman Wilson Larantino. He told Stabroek News that the men gained entry into the building from the western door and removed monies from four safes, one of which belonged to the post office. He could not say how much money was taken when asked.
Larantino also said that he was surprised at the incident and they were going to try to ensure an increased security presence in the region. He noted that this is the second time bandits attacked the RDC building, with the first instance being some time last year, although they had failed to gain entry.
‘I thought they had a gun’
Bernard, who has been working at the RDC for almost a year, recounted that he was doing checks at the work site when he heard noise and what appeared to be persons fighting. He said he thought it was persons fighting outside, not knowing it was his colleague Friday, who was being attacked by the bandits.
Bernard said he did not go to see where the noise was coming from but when he returned to his post, he heard someone pelting a tractor that was parked in the compound. He went to investigate and it was then that the bandits pounced upon him.
He said the men started to beat him and he tried to fight them off but he could not. “They told me to shut up or they will shoot me, so I thought they had a gun but I did not see any,” Bernard explained.
The bandits tied his hands and feet and they cut his shirt and stuffed it in his mouth. “One of them put me on his shoulder and carry me to a room inside. I try to drag myself to the door but my foot was tie,” he recalled, while adding that he did not know his head was burst until he saw blood coming from it while he was in the room.
He added that he kept very quiet and listened to what was happening from the room. He also said that he heard Friday groaning and an explosion. The explosion is believed to have occurred when the bandits broke the safes with the torch. When he was certain the bandits had left he began to kick and scream for help but no one came to his aid, he said.
According to Bernard, he had to lie in the room tied until morning, when he heard a woman calling for them followed by screams. The police were then summoned and they went into the building and rescued him.
Efforts by this newspaper to make contact with Friday’s family were unsuccessful.