Police no closer to cracking murders of Turkeyen cambio dealer, wife

It has been almost five months since cambio dealer Totaram Mohotoo and his wife Bhagwattie were found murdered in their partly-burnt Turkeyen, East Coast Demerara home and police investigators are no closer to finding the reason behind the killings.

The only major development took place during the early stages of the investigation when three persons were arrested. They were not treated as suspects but as persons of interest, who may have been in possession of information which could lead to those responsible for the crime. They were released after the 72 hours detention permitted by law had expired.

Crime Chief Seelall Persaud, when contacted recently for an update, said that there have been no new developments in the case and that the motive is still unclear.

Totaram and Bhagwattie Mohotoo
Totaram and Bhagwattie Mohotoo

He disclosed that the police had retrieved some telephone records in connection with the case but he could not say if any important information was gleaned from it. One month after the murders, Persaud revealed that the police had applied for the records and were awaiting the printout.

At  around 00:35 hours on May 10, the charred remains of Totaram, called ‘Beer’ and ‘Fat man,’ 54, and Bhagwattie, 48, both of Area Q, Turkeyen, were found in the bedroom of the upper flat of their home.

Residents had earlier heard loud explosions sounding like gunshots or squibs and it was shortly after this that a security guard nearby started shouting for fire.

After the explosion was heard, a huge hole appeared in the front wall of the house. It was later established that a gas bottle that the couple kept had been used to make a homemade bomb and had been placed in the couple’s bedroom. Although the couple’s car was parked in the yard at the time, persons did not know that the couple was home since calls went unanswered.

After fire-fighters managed to extinguish the blaze, the bodies were found on what was once their bed. Mohotoo’s hands were tied behind his back. His wife was lying next to him.

Post-mortem examinations later revealed that Mohotoo died as a result of smoke inhalation compounded by blunt trauma, while Bhagwattie died of blunt trauma to the back compounded by smoke inhalation.

A security guard in the area had seen a taxi waiting in front of the residence, with the driver tooting for about 15 minutes before the car drove off. The car left after no one came.

A second car, a white Mazda bearing a number plate with the PPP series, was seen speeding out of the area moments after the fire had been spotted. The vehicle had tinted windows so persons could not see who was behind the wheel. It is believed that both or at least one of the killers was in that vehicle.

From all indications neither car was ever found.

There are several properties near the Mohotoo’s residence with security cameras. Asked if any security footage had been collected, Persaud responded in the negative. But despite the lack of information to advance the investigations, he said that the case is open and that the ranks are still working.

A lot at stake
There had been suggestions that a murder that Totaram Mohotoo was charged with years ago might have had something to do with the killings. Asked about this, Persaud said that between the late 1990s and early 2000s, the businessman had been charged with a murder committed at Herstelling, East Bank Demerara.

It has also been suggested that the couple was killed due to a fallout over outstanding monies. From all indications the man was the target of the attack that also left his wife dead.

Stabroek News was unable to make contact with any of the couple’s relatives.

Security experts told this newspaper that the murders were not ordinary given the lengths that the killers went to, suggesting that there was a lot at stake.

Persons close to the couple are adamant that more than one person was involved. They said too that the couple would have known the killers and allowed them access to their home. It was even suggested that the couple and the killers might have been entertaining. Social gatherings, this newspaper was told, were a regular occurrence at the home but it would only be persons the couple were familiar with and trusted who would be there.

Sources say that the first set of people who should have been looked at were those who were closest to the couple.

The sources stated too that looking into the couple’s business background more than likely would yield some clues as from all indications the killings were sparked by some business arrangement gone sour.

They said that without concrete leads for the police to go on, there was nothing much they can do.

The surveillance footage which was at the couple’s home was destroyed during the blaze and a source said was probably another reason why the killers set a fire in addition to trying to destroy any evidence they might have left behind.

One source said that based on the fact that a gas cylinder was used to make a homemade bomb suggests that the killers were professionals and had knowledge of how they could improvise in a difficult situation.

The source expressed surprise though that nobody had been seen exiting the property.

This crime is one that would test the police’s investigative skills, sources said.

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