Probe into US army doctor’s murder appears stalled

Eight months after US army doctor Max Kungel was found shot to death in his vehicle along an isolated dam in Corentyne, Berbice, the investigation into his murder appears stalled and according to relatives this is no surprise given the dozens of cases that are still to be solved.

Police officials told this newspaper that until there is some new information only then can investigators do some work. They said that ranks have not been able to pick up concrete information although there are a few theories circulating as to why the man was killed and who was possibly involved.

But several of the man’s close relatives told Stabroek News said that they have no confidence that investigators will find anything more.

Max Kungel
Max Kungel

Sources say that with a little more digging, the police might have been able to come up with something concrete but pointed out that there has been no progress after one of the suspects in the murder allegedly committed suicide while in the lock ups and the subsequent release of two more.

Kungel, 42, of North Carolina, USA, was found dead in in his rented Toyota Tacoma in the No 72 Village backlands, about two miles away from the public road, around 8 am on Sunday, March 17 with gunshot wounds. All the doors of the vehicle were open. Investigators are not convinced that he was a victim of robbery and there are suspicions that he was lured to the isolated spot by someone he knew and trusted. At the time of his death, he was holidaying at Number 72 Village, Corentyne

A day after the discovery, Kungel’s paternal cousin Omesh Thakurdin along with another cousin and his friend were arrested and questioned at the Springlands Police Station. Around 8.50 that evening, Thakurdin was transferred to the No 51 Police Station. Police were conducting checks of his cell around 5.20 the following morning when he was discovered hanging from the grillwork.

One of the relatives this newspaper spoke with recently said that he still does not believe Thakurdin committed suicide. “That thing is magic,” the relative said, while noting that he is yet to be convinced that the man took his own life.

Relatives from the onset had questioned why the police made no effort to contact them after the body was found and why police instead rushed to take him to the mortuary. They said too that Thakurdin was not suicidal and had no reason to take his own life.

It is unclear if the police are currently investigating this aspect of the case to see whether was foul play or whether the police should take some responsibility for the death.

 No clear motive

One source said that investigators should have done some more ground work and continued probing those who were close to Kungel. A source added that it is clear that whoever killed Kungel was close to him and was someone that the man trusted enough to have in his vehicle. According to the source, the killer had to have been inside the vehicle with the man at the time that he was killed. The source said that this is where the difficulty arises because no one lives close to where the shooting incident occurred.

According to the source, because of the location the shooter would have escaped undetected. There are suspicions that there might have been more than one perpetrator as Dr. Kungel would have put up a fight if he had been attacked. Based on what this newspaper was told, because of his build and size, it would have been difficult for one man to take him down.

Kungel was apparently stripped of all his jewellery and cash, according to an uncle, who noted that his wallet appeared to be empty and was found outside the vehicle. It is however believed that this was a ploy used by the killer/s to try to throw the police investigators off track.

The man was last seen alive sometime after 7 pm the day before his body was discovered and it is suspected that he would have been killed during the wee hours of the following day.

Kungel’s relatives were unsure if any DNA evidence was collected from the vehicle where his body was found. The relative pointed out that if the killer was in the vehicle, they would have left something behind which could have been useful to the police. The source pointed out that the killer would not have had enough time to clean up and added to that the place would have been dark.

A relative suspects that it was greed that led to the murder. It was pointed out that there are various theories circulating.

The relative said that Dr. Kungel was a “lovely person” who was always friendly and ready to assist anyone in need. “I might be wrong but I have my suspicions that it was greed that killed him. Nobody this side had any reason to harm him,” the relative said.

The relative said that while he does not wish for this case to be added to the list of unsolved crimes, history speaks for its self and the family members do not believe they will get justice.

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