Slain prison officer hailed as fallen hero

Ranks honour prison warden Odinga Wickham with a 21-gun salute.

Before being laid to rest, Odinga Wain Wickham, the Prison Warden who was gunned down during the July 9 Camp Street jailbreak, was yesterday remembered as a fallen hero who had been a role model to all.

Hundreds of mourners, including family and friends, gathered at the Ann’s Grove Methodist Church before 2 pm to pay their last respects to Wickham, 33, who had succumbed after being shot five times.

The church building and the churchyard were filled with mourners, who spilled out on to the streets as they waited for his casket to be paraded down the road. Close family members and friends were also seen dressed in red t-shirts bearing Wickham’s photo at the back.

In addition to Wickham’s family and friends, a large number of Joint Services ranks, clad in uniforms, lined the streets of the village to pay tribute to Wickham.

“Is like the whole of Ann’s Grove come out today to see he how this place so full. But he deserved it. He was a good boy,” one of the persons standing by told Stabroek News yesterday.

Among those also in attendance were Minister of Public Security Khemraj Ramjattan, acting Director of Prisons Gladwin Samuels and Head of Operations of the Guyana Fire Service Compton Sparman.

Many flowed into the church building to view the open casket with Wickham’s body.

Although the steady rendition of gospel songs from the police band and church members marked the occasion, there were also praises and even dancing by some persons in the church.

At 3 pm, the casket was closed and the Guyana Prison Service’s flag along with Wickham’s service hat and belt were placed on it. Silence soon followed as the eulogy and tributes were delivered.

Samuels expressed his fondness for him, while noting that he could have always been relied on. “Mr. Wickham, as a person, worked beyond the call of duty…,” he said, while pointing out that he worked in several capacities. Wickham, who had a background in the information technology field, would often teach prisoners how to use computers.

“His loss is one that will forever be remembered by the Prison Service. Unless persons can operate in a very professional manner, as sad as this day is and July 9 was, it will not be the last unless we operate the way we ought to,” Samuels added.

He broke down in tears as he said that the Prison Service and the other ranks from the Joint Services have another reason to continue fighting and to ensure that justice is served.

Also speaking, Ramjattan called Wickham a “fallen hero” and said his sacrifice was not in vain. “We know that justice will have to be done in a case like this. It might take some time but certainly will be done,” he said, while pointing out special efforts must be made by the government to ensure that Wickham’s sacrifice was not in vain.

“We have to realise that lots more has to be done for prison officers, lots more has to be done for the sake of our society and yes, indeed, this young man, who I understand was so courageous and hardworking and respected by all and sundry in the institution, who was very compassionate, saw it thoroughly through to help these same inmates,” Ramjattan said, while offering condolences on behalf of President David Granger and the entire government.

Wickham was remembered as a special person by the family and friends who took to the podium to pay tribute. They highlighted his optimism, his dedication to work and family, his nobility and his ambition.

One person remembered him as a vibrant soul, who could have easily lit up any room. “Great encourager and motivator,” another said as emotions began to run high. Wickham was also remembered as a “great family man,” who loved his family unconditionally, especially his daughter, and as someone who worked tirelessly to support them. His family members could not contain themselves amidst the outpouring of tributes and well-wishes.

Shortly after the eulogy and tributes, Wickham’s casket was taken along the Ann’s Grove access road by a parade of members of the disciplined forces.

He was interred at the Ann’s Grove cemetery and a received a 21-gun salute.

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