Crime Chief bemoans dearth of experienced investigators as list of unsolved murders grows

There have been several high-profile killings since the start of the year and as the list of unsolved cases grows, Crime Chief Seelall Persaud says that the force is facing a shortage of experienced investigators.

This situation, he noted is cause for concern and is one of the challenges the police are faced with when conducting investigations.

Confronted with a list of about a dozen killings which have occurred since the start of the year Persaud told Stabroek News that along with the shortage of ranks, another challenge is the reluctance of witnesses to come forward.

He said the shortage is affecting the Criminal Investigations Department (CID), the force’s investigative arm, though the experienced ranks are not leaving in large number. “Since I have been here it has been one by one,” he said adding that overtime when the numbers are added up it is significant.

Opposition Leader David Granger, who has a wealth of knowledge on security issues, and former police commissioner Winston Felix have repeatedly pointed out that the force is below its full strength. They have said that in order for crime to be effectively tackled, among the things needed is for the force to be brought up to strength.

“Yes we have challenges,” Persaud acknowledged while stressing that there are cases where people cooperating with police is a challenge. He said people don’t want to show up for identification parades. As an example, he cited the case of the miner who was murdered at Mc Doom, East Bank Demerara. Persons were arrested, but the man’s relatives who were key witnesses refused to turn up for the ID parades and as such investigators were forced to release the suspects. He said this has been happening since the time he entered the force. “They are reluctant for one reason or the other. They just do not want to have anything to do with the police. This is a problem that has been in the force for a long time,” he said.

Another recent example of witnesses not coming forward is the shooting to death of three Albouystown youth last week by police who alleged that the men were going to commit a robbery. Eyewitnesses who spoke to this newspaper had given a different version. The police had called for those witnesses to come forward to no avail.

 

Unsolved

Earlier this year two policemen, trainee Harold Haimchand Sukhai and Constable Cleto were gunned down in separate incidents. These investigations are still open and the perpetrators are still roaming free.

Sukhai, 25, was killed on February 10 as he walked along a dark and lonely street in Tuschen New Scheme, East Bank Essequibo in the company of a female in what police were investigating as an armed robbery gone bad. His family believes that the young woman who had been detained for questioning is the key to the case.

Asked about this case Persaud told Stabroek News that there has been no further information.

In the case of Cleto, who was gunned down on April 27 as he and other ranks were walking up to a suspicious vehicle at the corner of Regent Street and Avenue of the Republic, Persaud said the release of suspect, Shaka Chase is not being seen as a setback.

Chase’s arrest had generated overwhelming criticism against the police. It was claimed that at the time of the shooting the man was at another location and this was confirmed by several persons.

In spite of this and amidst allegations that he was tortured into confessing into the crime, Chase was charged with murder. The charge was instituted without the legal advice of the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP). The DPP later advised the police to withdraw the charge as there was insufficient evidence.

Persaud stressed that this was not the first time police have charged someone without going to the DPP. He said this is the approach taken in summary matters and some indictable matters including murders.

Asked how he viewed Chase’s release in terms of their progress in the case, Persaud said, “I don’t see a setback”. He said he sees the need for police to probably collect additional evidence. He said the file on the matter is still in the hands of the investigators and no decision has yet been taken to have them do things differently.

At least one other person was held in relation to this investigation but he was released before he could make a court appearance.

Two murders in which fire was used as a distraction have also left the police with little to work with and at the moment these investigations are at a standstill.

Who killed cambio dealer Totaram Mohotoo and his wife Bhagwattie before using a homemade bomb to set fire to their Turkeyen, East Coast Demerara home remains a mystery. While there are suspicions, police investigators have not been able to come up with anything concrete.

At around 00:35 hrs on May 10, the charred remains of the couple were found on their bed located on the upper flat of their home. Mohotoo’s hands were tied behind his back while 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, confirmation that they were both murdered.

Persaud said two weeks ago that there are no new developments in the case and still no clear motive. Three persons were held during the initial stages of the investigations but they were all released when the 72 hours permitted by law expired.

Four months later, on August 31, a similar killing occurred where businesswoman Sirmattie Ramnaress was found badly beaten and stabbed to death in her home at Diamond, East Bank Demerara. Whoever killed her also ransacked her home, set fire to her bond, removed the surveillance tapes from the cameras she had around her home and then drove her car to Liliendaal, East Coast Demerara.

According to Persaud, investigations are still being conducted. He explained that the case is being reviewed by “another unit”. No arrests were made and observers said the perpetrator/s or mastermind had to have been someone close to the woman.

Those responsible for the shooting deaths of teenager Ryan Persaud and biker Kirk Davis also remain at large. Persaud’s murder investigation is at a dead end as police are unable to use the fragment of a bullet extracted from his body for comparison purposes. Without new information, according to the crime chief, the case can go nowhere.

With respect to Davis, police say they still do not know where the suspect Randy Jagdeo is. It took the police sometime after the September 3 shooting to issue a wanted bulletin for Jagdeo although he had been identified as the shooter almost immediately after. Jagdeo has since been sighted in Suriname and although local police had emailed his picture and other details to their counterparts there, he has not yet been held.

The investigation into the fatal shooting at Mambo Bar in Kitty remains open. During the September 29 bold and brutal attack, Shelliza Lall, 33, of Charity, Essequibo Coast was killed. Her husband Raymond Lall, 36, of Charity; Permanand Persaud, of Mon Repos, ECD and Babatunde Nedd, of Parika, East Bank Essequibo were injured during the attack which occurred around 00:20 hours.

A man police believed was the target was arrested in Essequibo and later released. The man was at the bar at the time of the shooting but he later vanished.

Shortly after his release, police arrested businessman Salim Azeez in connection with the investigation but he was released less than 24 hours later, after his lawyer moved to the court.

Asked about this investigation, Persaud said it remained active. He noted that a suspect had been arrested and released, bur said he did not know if anything has happened since.

Meanwhile, Lallapersaud Juggerdeo, 74, a rice mill owner was shot dead last month when bandits invaded his Lot 79 Number 0 Village, Corentyne, Berbice home. Several persons were arrested but they were later released without charge.

Police are also still looking for the perpetrators in the murder of another Corentyne businessman Abdul Majid, 79, of Number 70 Village.

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