Gunmen killed a 72-year-old man and badly wounded his employer before snatching a bag containing $8 million they were taking to a bank, in a brazen attack in the heart of Georgetown early yesterday morning.
Victor Da Silva of Lot 10 Covent Garden, East Bank Demerara, died at the scene from at least one gunshot which penetrated the windscreen and hit him in the chest, while gas station owner Cecil Albert Gajadhar, also 72, of Foulis/Enmore, East Coast Demerara sustained a gunshot wound to side of his head near the right ear.
The body of Da Silva remained in the front passenger seat of the silver Honda vehicle that Gajadhar managed to drive into the passageway separating Guyana and Trinidad Mutual Insurance Company (GTM) and Republic Bank, accessed from Robb Street, after the attack.
At the Republic Bank area on Water Street, a large crowd gathered. Workers said the injured Gajadhar sped into the passageway and, bleeding from a wound to his face, jumped out and threw a haversack over the back fence of the bank. He then immediately dialed someone on his phone and explained what had happened to the GTM, workers who arranged for him to be taken to the Georgetown Public Hospital.
Police later said in a press release that the attack occurred at about 8.15 am, when Gajadhar and Da Silva were in a vehicle on their way to a city bank. Two men in another vehicle blocked their path in the vicinity of Water and Cowan streets, Kingston.
“The two men exited the vehicle and began discharging rounds at Cecil Gajadhar, who was struck to his forehead, and Victor Da Silva, who was hit to his chest. The armed men took away $8 million and escaped,” the release said.
Gajadhar managed to drive the vehicle to Robb Street, from where he was taken to the hospital for medical treatment, while Da Silva succumbed to his injury, the release added.
It is unclear what immediate action the police took after the attack occurred. Efforts to contact Police Commissioner (ag) Leroy Brumell for a comment on this were futile. Up to press time, no arrests were made, this newspaper was told.
A composed but still-shaken Gajadhar, speaking from his hospital bed, told Stabroek News that he took the route most times when heading to the bank to conduct business only and recognised the car at High Street.
He recounted that when he approached High and Cowan streets, as he was about to approach the Kingston Koker, he saw a light brown car in front of him with the number plate PNN 28, which caught his attention.
According to him, the car was driving slowly and the number 28 was printed in very small figures. “I said Vic look at dis car. Look how the number small. If he commit a crime and he drive way people can’t see the number. They would a see the PNN but not the 28,” he said.
He said he then turned behind the car and as he did so the car stopped and blocked him. “When I look out so, he start shoot, ‘bow! bow!’ And that was it. Me look at me friend and me see he eye close. Me seh Vic u nah lef me an me start scream,” he said. The shots were fired from the driver’s side.
“I could not understand. Meh sit down deh and watch me friend dead in front of me,” he added. The man said he could not say how many gunmen attacked him other than hearing the shots being fired and the men entering his car.
According to a man who witnessed the shooting, he observed the car used by the gunmen parked on Water Street, not far from the Cowan Street junction. Two men were standing opposite the vehicle. The trunk of the car was up and the man said he figured it was a mistake so he popped it down but it immediately popped right back up. He was buying phone credit at a shop nearby when he later heard the sound of the shooting and he spun around to saw shots being fired at Gajadhar’s car, which had just turned into Water Street.
It was clear that the men were lying in wait for Gajadhar. The eyewitness said that one of the assailants pulled out a haversack from Gajadhar’s vehicle. The two attackers then entered their vehicle and sped away but not without firing a shot in the direction of the eyewitness, who was not hit.
After the attack, Gajadhar told Stabroek News, he backed up his car and drove bloodied to the bank where he related to a woman what had happened and she called the police. He said he drove to the bank thinking that he still had his money inside the vehicle but it was missing when he arrived there. “When I open de back no money, ow God,” he added.
For Gajadhar, it was the fifth time he had been robbed. The previous occasion was on March 25. The elderly man was sitting in his car at Camp Street, Georgetown, when he was confronted by five men who demanded cash. The men then took a bag containing $4.3 million and ran away.
An alarm was raised and a member of the City Constabulary, who was in the vicinity, responded and gave chase. One of the perpetrators was arrested and the bag with the money recovered. Subsequent investigations led to the arrest of another suspect by the police.
Over the years, there have been many instances where businessmen, taking the chance of transporting large sums of cash without security, have been robbed. Crime Chief Seelall Persaud, once again addressed this issue yesterday. He said persons have been repeatedly warned about this dangerous practice, especially since criminals do their own surveillance. He said business persons can either enhance their own personal security or utilise the private security services to courier large sums of money.
Meanwhile, Gajadhar called Da Silva his best friend. He left his home every day around 4 am to work at Gajadhar’s gas station, which is located on the Foulis public road.
At Da Silva’s home, family members and friends were distraught. The man’s granddaughter Maryan Da Silva said that they received a telephone call around 10.30 am and the caller informed that he was at the hospital and they should check since he had been in an accident. Later, they learnt from one of Gajadhar’s relatives that Da Silva had already been dead for two hours. She said that the father of four was a peaceful and respectable person.
At the Lyken’s Funeral home, Evelyn Da Silva was distraught as she spoke about her husband. The woman said her husband and his employer were “like brothera,” while noting they worked together about ten to twelve years. The woman said he was like company for Gajadhar.
The woman, who was with relatives, had to be supported so that she could walk.
Amidst tears, she said that her husband left his home around 4.30 am for Foulis and she only realised something was wrong when they received the call hours later.
After a fruitless trip to the hospital, she called Gajadhar’s wife, who confirmed that Da Silva had been shot and that his body was at the funeral parlour. Later, the police took her to Lyken’s Funeral Home to identify the body, which bore two wounds on the chest.
She and other relatives pleaded for the police to catch the perpetrators. “He was innocent,” they said, while describing Da Silva as a good man who cannot be replaced.