A two-week investigation of the allegations that the Joint Services played a role in the deaths of the eight Lindo Creek miners found dead in 2008 did not yield any results, Head of the Guyana Police Force’s Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR) testified on Tuesday, while noting that he was unable to even ascertain the source of the claims.
Heeralall Mackhanlall appeared on Tuesday before the Commission of Inquiry established to investigate the killing of the miners—Cecil Arokium, Dax Arokium, Horace Drakes, Bonny Harry, Lancelot Lee, Compton Speirs, Nigel Torres and Clifton Wong—whose burnt remains were found on June 21st, 2008.
Mackhanlall agreed that by the time the investigations had concluded, he was “unable to eliminate or implicate” the Joint Services’ involvement in the crime.
The witness stated that about a week after the remains were recovered, he was informed by then Head of the OPR Mohamed Jameer that there were rumours that the Joint Services were involved in the miners’ deaths, and was told that then Commissioner of Police Henry Greene had directed that he visit the scene to determine whether there was any evidence to support the claims.
Mackhanlall, who was the Deputy Head of OPR at the time, stated that he left the next day to go to Lindo Creek.
Mackhanlall’s testimony focused on the steps he took during the investigation, which mostly included details of persons he interviewed during the period.
He said he was accompanied by lead investigator Senior Superintendent Crawford, who was Deputy Crime Chief then, Retired Senior Superintendent Ramsey, who was in charge of the ‘E and F’ Division, and ranks from the Criminal Investigation Department (CID), who took the statements.
He interviewed the aforementioned persons, as well as persons along the UNAMCO Road, guards at the UNAMCO road checkpoint, persons along the Ituni road, and following that, Joint Services ranks and relatives of the deceased.
He stated that he retrieved no relevant information from any of the encounters.
But Mackhanlall also related that he was told by George Arokium, whom he believed to be the father of Dax Arokium, that Yonette Torres, Nigel Torres’ mother, had told him over the phone that the Joint Services were involved in the killings.
But Mackhanlall said that when he questioned Yonette Torres on this, she denied ever stating such.
Mackhanlall admitted that while he took notes in a scratch pad, he had not handed over a report on the matter as he was informed that the CID would be taking over the investigation. He noted that the CID ranks that were responsible for taking statements also formed a part of that team so he was not concerned with the transfer of information.
He later related that he believed the CID had prepared a file on the matter, put together by Ramsey specifically, which should include the names of all the persons interviewed.
Asked by attorney for the inquiry Patrice Henry if he was able to determine whether the Joint Services were patrolling the area at the time, he said yes, but could not remember the names supplied.
He said he was aware of firearms being tested by a team from Jamaica, as well as by local ballistics expert Inspector Eon Jackson, but concluded that by the time this was done, all gunpowder residue was likely to have been eliminated.
The Jamaican team reportedly came about a week after the remains were recovered. While the burnt remains were found on June 21st, it is suspected that the men were killed sometime, between June 9th and June 10th.
Inspector Orin Cameron, who also testified on Tuesday, said that in August, 2012, he was asked by Deputy Crime Chief Winston Cosbert to collect a statement from Yonette Torres. He was a sergeant at the Kwakwani Police Station at the time.
He also reported preparing a statement of his own, but when Henry followed up and asked what his instructions were in relation to the matter, Cameron had said that he was told to inform Torres that her son’s body was at the Lyken’s Funeral Home and she would have to retrieve it.
Cameron, who is attached to the Tactical Services Unit, was also asked about the protocol for storing documents. He stated that they would usually be stored for years before being destroyed, but then corrected and stated that they are transferred to other stations, usually the headquarters.
The next hearing by the inquiry is slated for April 4th at 10 am.