Three men, including a security guard who police say aided in the planning, were yesterday charged with stealing almost $9 million from the Ramada Princess Hotel casino and their lawyers told a city court that they were abused while in custody.
It is alleged that Wayne Griffith, 29, of 105 Nismes, Bagotville, West Bank Demarara, Junior Stewart, 30, of 144 Thomas Street, Kitty, and security guard Andrew Blackman, 35, of 60 Middle Street, McDoom East Bank Demerara, together and while being in the company of others and armed with guns, robbed cashiers of $8,951,000, which was the property of the Princess casino on April 29th, at Providence, East Bank Demerara.
The three men were not required to plead to the indictable charge when it was read to them by Chief Magistrate Ann McLennan in a Georgetown court yesterday afternoon, where they were refused bail.
Appearing on behalf of the men were attorneys George Thomas and Mark Conway, who both complained that their clients had been abused by police while in custody.
Thomas, who represented Griffith and Blackman, told the court that the former, a vendor by trade, received several beatings from an officer, who he identified, while he was in custody. Thomas added that as a result of those beatings, his client received several noticeable injuries and is urinating blood. The lawyer requested bail for Griffith so that he can receive proper medical attention.
Thomas also made a point of telling the court that Blackman had given no oral or written statements to the police regarding the crime.
Police had said Blackman told investigators that he was one of two persons who planned the attack. A source said that under interrogation, he admitted to providing the robbers with the strategic information needed.
Meanwhile, Conway, who represented Stewart, a tint specialist, also said his client has been abused since he had been in custody. The lawyer added that his client made complaints to two officers stationed at the Diamond/Grove Police Station and that he will be looking into those reports.
Police Prosecutor Deniro Jones objected to bail based on the gravity of the charge while citing that the penalty it attracts is close to life imprisonment. He mentioned that the men used guns in the attack and also noted that other charges, being attempted murder and unlawful possession of firearms, are also likely to be laid against the men soon.
The prosecutor also said that two of the accused are already before the court on charges of illegal gun possession.
Jones further noted that Griffith should not be granted bail since he shot at an officer and he was the one caught by police in the casino with a gun. All three of the men have confessed to the crime, Jones added.
After listening to submissions from the lawyers and the prosecution, the Chief Magistrate remanded the men to prison. The matter was adjourned until May 20 for statements.
The attack occurred around 3.45 am and lasted for several minutes. In that time, four casino employees, Eon Garraway, 32, who is a clerk, James Gregory, Orlando Knights and Udairan Sookraj, were shot to their left hand, left foot, left hand and right hand, respectively. Lance Corporal 17352 Andrew Richardson, who is attached to the Brickdam Impact Base, was shot during a gunfight with the men while responding to a report of the robbery.
The Guyana Police Force said in a statement that four gunmen entered the casino and discharged rounds into the air. They held up the security guard who was on duty and took away his shotgun and ammunition.
According to the statement, the men then ordered everyone to lie on the ground and took the security guard to the cashier cage, where they held up the cashier and took away an undisclosed amount of local and foreign currency.
It was during this process that the perpetrators discharged rounds indiscriminately, resulting in four employees sustaining injuries, the statement said. Three patrons of the hotel’s casino—Melissa Ferguson, Jermaine Mason and Roshel Fraser—were also assaulted by the gunmen.
Police ranks responded to a report received and confronted the bandits at the hotel, where there was an exchange of gunfire, which resulted in the police officer being shot, the statement added.
Stabroek News was told that Griffith was held after he reportedly found himself trapped in a maintenance room. He is reported to have attempted to take off his mask and leave the premises, but the police were alerted and he was promptly arrested. A search was conducted on his person and a shotgun was recovered.
Blackman was subsequently arrested and then Stewart, who was held at his sister’s house at Vreed-en-Hoop on Sunday. A bag consisting of $922,000 in cash was also discovered.