The Toshao of Omanaik, an Amerindian village near the mining community of Imbaimadai, is concerned that the wrong persons might have been held in connection with the murder of 48-year-old Robert Hunter.
Hunter, a miner, was discovered on a trail around 7.30 am last Sunday with several stab wounds about his neck, chest and throat. Police had reported that five men in whose company Hunter was last seen drinking were detained for questioning. Crime Chief Seelall Persaud had said that from all indications the man was not a victim of a robbery since the sum of $19,000 was still on his person when his body was discovered.
However, Toshao Delph Hunter (no relation to the dead man) said on Monday that he is concerned that poor police investigations may lead to the non-apprehension of the crime’s perpetrators. Delph Hunter said independent investigations carried out by Robert Hunter’s family and his Village Council have produced a version of events different from that reported by police.
According to police reports, Robert Hunter and his relatives were drinking at a night spot and he was among the last of the men to leave the bar.
However, the Toshao said he had conversations with one of the barmaids who revealed that Robert Hunter had left the bar first. In addition to this, he said a patron of the bar claimed to have seen the man speaking to a well-known individual who resides at a riverside area called the “Gullyside”.
The Toshao said that when Robert Hunter’s body was discovered police went in search of the men who were seen drinking with him the night before and apprehended them. He said one of the men, who was still intoxicated after imbibing the night before, told the police that Robert Hunter had also been in the company of four other men and all of the men were rounded up and detained for questioning.
Stabroek News understands that the men were to be released on station bail some time yesterday morning.
On Monday, the Toshao and Robert Hunter’s brother, 50-year-old James Stanley, shared suspicions that the man might have been killed somewhere else and his body taken to the spot where it was found. Stanley said his brother sustained stab wounds across his body and a gashed throat and these would have caused him to bleed profusely on the spot where he was killed. However, the area surrounding Robert Hunter’s body was devoid of any trace of blood.
Speaking to Stabroek News yesterday, a representative from the Amerindian People’s Association (APA) revealed that police from Kamarang went into Imbaimadai to carry out investigations and reportedly uncovered a spot where Robert Hunter might have been killed. The police reported that they found a bloodied area covered with twigs and leaves which indicated that someone may have tried to hide the scene. It has not however been determined if the blood at that scene was Robert Hunter’s.
The Toshao said that this sort crime has become the norm in Imbaimadai and its environs and is taking a toll on the villages surrounding the mining hotspot. He explained that Omanaik and another Amerindian village lie on either side of Imbaimadai, about 15 minutes walking distance in either direction. He said that since the price of gold has soared, there has been a large influx of persons and a surge in activities in the area, including gold and diamond mining and related activities.
Crime, he said, including the trade in narcotics continues to grow and flourish because of the lack of an effective policing unit in the area. The Toshao said that though there is a police station situated in Imbaimadai, its ranks are ineffective and are usually sent to the area as punishment.
The APA representative explained that in the 1940s-1950s areas which were declared Amerindian lands were de-reserved by the government.
Subsequently the area now known as Imbaimadai was established. Since then, persons have been going into to the area, largely to profit from the gold boom. Activities drew to a crawl for a period of time after the price of gold fell, but the increased prices have brought increased activity.
The APA representative said that though the community always had its social ills, “today criminal activity has increased hugely, largely because of the lack of regulation.”
The representative also said that though the Toshao is seen to be the leader of the area his authority is not recognised due the fact that the lands in the area are not titled.
The Toshao said that when he tries to eject persons who are carrying out illegal activities or being troublesome he is constantly told that as long as he cannot produce documents proving ownership they will not move.
The APA shared that the Toshao has been trying since last year, after he was appointed, to attain the title to the land to no avail.