Brazilian miner was slain by masked attackers

-cops under fire for slow response

Murdered Brazilian dredge owner Jose Francisco De Sousa Lema was robbed of raw gold by three masked men with guns and after the attack his body was left lying on the roadway for most of Tuesday because police at the nearest stations did not have any transportation to get them to the isolated area.

Lema and his father-in-law, Julian Cummings, were attacked by bandits early Tuesday morning in the Barama area,

Jose Francisco De Sousa Lema
Jose Francisco De Sousa Lema

some 100 kilometres from Port Kaituma. The Brazilian was shot dead while Cummings was gun-butted several times to the head.

Crime Chief Seelall Persaud told Stabroek News that investigations have so far revealed that the Lema and Cummings were attacked by three men with guns who were also masked. He said that the robbers later escaped with seven ounces and three pennyweight of raw gold. Investigators had no leads and had not arrested anyone up to the time this newspaper spoke with Persaud.

The two had left their mining camp around 6am for Port Kaituma on the day of the attack.

The dead man’s wife, Rabica, speaking from her home on the Essequibo Coast, said that reports that her husband was shot in the head are inaccurate. She said that when police reached the scene, they found that he had been shot in the side. She noted that when he was found, he was lying in a pool of blood.

Asked about how persons became aware of the attack, the woman said that after being beaten, Cummings fell unconscious. When he regained consciousness, he managed to walk back to the mining camp. “Meh stepfather barely mek it back to the camp. He call out when he nearly reach and them workers hear he,” she said, recounting what she had been told.

The woman, who believes that the men were set up, also noted that prior to the attack the workers from the mining camp went to an area some distance away, where they partied. She said she does not know what was said while they were there but on their way back to the camp they noticed three strange men on the trail.

It is unclear what happened to the all-terrain vehicle the men were on when they were attacked.

Rabica said that when she was informed about the attack, her immediate reaction was shock. However, her shock turned to anger when she learned that her husband’s body had been left lying on the road.

Police at Port Kaituma and Matthews Ridge, which are where the closest stations are located, were unable to secure transportation to travel to the area quickly.

Rabica said that after being told of the attack, she kept calling persons in the North West area and the reports she got was that police kept saying that they were going to the area but they took a very long time to do so. She subsequently learnt that it was because they were unable to get an All-Terrain Vehicle (ATV) to get them into the area.

Other residents also said that the police did not have transportation. One resident said that persons refused to help the police because of their intimidating attitude of recent. The resident explained that persons are constantly being harassed and they are now frustrated. Stabroek News was told of many instances where residents and members of the mining community would make ATVs and fuel available to the police for free to do patrols or to conduct their patrol duties. The resident said that police/community relations are very important in interior locations but the attitudes of some ranks are beginning to destroy that relationship.

Persaud told Stabroek News that he is not aware of the length of time the dead man’s body was left on the road but he noted that the ranks might have had difficulties finding people to take them to the area where Lema was.

He noted knowing where to go and transportation would have been the main considerations in the police’s response. He said that by the time Cummings regained consciousness, the bandits were already gone. However, he said he believed that had the police reached the area half an hour or even an hour after the attack, it wouldn’t have made a difference.

An upset Rabica said that she has lost confidence that she will get justice. “…The men will go free… look how long they tek to go. He get shot at 7 o’clock and they go till night,” she lamented.

She said that the police collected Lema’s body on Tuesday night and transported it to Port Kaituma. The body was from there transported to the Lyken’s Funeral Home in the city. Cummings, who was hospitalised at the Matthew’s Ridge Hospital, was also air-dashed to the city and is now a patient of the Georgetown Hospital. Rabica said that she will be traveling to the city to see him and to identify her husband’s remains.

Lema had been a miner in Guyana for the past nine years and his wife described him as “an alright man. He ain’t got problems with no one”. Rabica explained that she and Lema have been living together for five years and have two children together, ages five months and two years. She has two older children from a previous relationship. She last saw him last week, when she was at the mining camp. She returned home, however, after her mother begged her to because of the age of the baby.

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