Wanted bulletins issued for two more escaped inmates, another duo still unidentified

The police, in wanted bulletins issued yesterday afternoon, released the identities of two more inmates who had escaped from the Georgetown Prison on Sunday; another two are left to be identified.

The bulletins were issued for Cobena Stephens also known as ‘OJ’ and Desmond James. The number of prisoners who escaped during Sunday’s fire at the prison was given as eight up to yesterday.

Four other escapees had been earlier identified as Bartica massacre convict Mark Royden Williams, accused Trinidadian drug trafficker Cornelius Thomas and murder accused Stafrei Alexander and Uree Varswyk. Wanted bulletins had been issued for them earlier this week.

Director of Prisons Gladwyn Samuels had previously identified Williams, Alexander and Varswyk as the main orchestrators of the breakout; he had said he believed the fires were set at the facility as a smokescreen for their escape.

Following the breakout, taxi driver Matthew Shivtahal had said that four of the prisoners had hijacked his motorcar.

He had related to this newspaper that after abandoning the car at North Ruimveldt, the men took him to the backlands and later left him at Land of Canaan, East Bank Demerara. After a day of walking, Shivtahal said, he found his way to Annandale, East Coast Demerara.

Crime Chief Wendell Blanhum had earlier this week told this newspaper that several measures have been put in place to recapture the escapees including the establishment of countrywide roadblocks.

Apart from that, he had said that the police have been working along with intelligence operatives and they have informed their overseas counterparts including neighbouring countries to be on the alert.

Joint services comb backlands

Under the auspices of ‘Operation Safeguard’, members of the Guyana Police Force, including its SWAT team and the Guyana Defence Force (GDF) were deployed yesterday afternoon to the Buxton backlands in search of the escapees.

Stabroek News was reliably informed that based on intelligence received it was suspected that the prisoners might have been hiding out in the backlands and as such a search was conducted.

The search lasted for about four hours.

When Stabroek News visited the community yesterday, ranks were seen in full operational mode searching the backlands for clues of the escapees’ presence there. A few members of the GDF were also plunging into the trenches.

Some members of the SWAT team yesterday returning from the backlands at Buxton

A source informed this newspaper that during the process, the police attempted to arrest a man, who was seen acting in a suspicious manner, but he managed to escape. The police reportedly opened fire and another man who was in the vicinity was picked up for questioning.

The Department of Public Information (DPI) had stated on Tuesday that on Sunday, there were 1,018 prisoners registered at the Georgetown Prison, but only 980 of them were at the prison at the time of the fire/breakout.

The other 38 inmates were out of the prison on labour duties. They were returned to the location on Sunday evening and are all accounted for.

As a result, the DPI said, 1,010 inmates from the Georgetown Prison were accounted for. “Of the 1,010 inmates some were moved to Mazaruni while the majority remain at Lusignan at this time,” it said.

Two prisoners had escaped while the transfers were being done from Georgetown to Lusignan on Sunday: Shawn Collins and Shamudeen Mohamed. Both were recaptured the same night.

Escapees charge log

James, 24, whose last known address was Hotoquai Creek, North West District, was one of the inmates who had testified during the Commission of Inquiry (CoI) into the fire that had claimed the lives of 17 prisoners at the Camp Street facility during March last year. He had been incarcerated over the 2004 fatal stabbing of Glendon Cox. The murder had occurred at 4 Miles Arakaka Village, North West District.

It was not clear which murder Stephens was arraigned for. His age was given as 26 and his last known address was Lot 82, Gopie St, Middle Walk, Buxton.

Williams, who had previously attempted to escape lawful custody, was in February of this year sentenced to death after being convicted on seven of the twelve counts of murder in the February 17, 2008 Bartica massacre.

Alexander, who had escaped and was later recaptured, had been charged with multiple murders, including that of Linden businesswoman Shevon Gordon.

Varswyk, a former Tactical Services Unit trainer, was last year committed to stand trial for the murder of Sterling Products Ltd security guard Wilfred Stewart, who was shot multiple times during a foiled robbery of the East Bank Demerara establishment.

Meanwhile, Thomas, a Trinidadian, who resided at Lot 36 Guyhoc Gardens, Georgetown, was remanded to prison two months ago after he was allegedly found with almost two pounds of cannabis. He had been found guilty in Dominica on a fraud matter some time back, the court was told.

Anyone with information that may lead to the arrests of the escapees is asked to contact the police on telephone numbers 225-6411, 225-8196, 225-2227, 227-1149, 226-7065, 911 or the nearest police station.

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