The details surrounding the Lindo Creek mining camp massacre, reportedly given by former Fineman gang member Dwane Williams, were presented to the Commission of Inquiry (CoI) investigating the matter, yesterday.
Williams, called “Small Fry”, who was 15-years-old at the time he was captured by police, reportedly claimed that his gang had shot and killed the miners before burning their bodies. The killings were said to have occurred about two days after they would have arrived at the camp, which was (if his timeline can be followed closely), approximately three days after they escaped an encounter with police at Christmas Falls. That run-in reportedly occurred on June 6.
On June 21, 2008, the bodies of eight miners were discovered at Lindo Creek, burnt, and in a pile. It was widely reported that there were claims that members of the Joint Services were responsible for the men’s deaths.
According to information presented before the commission, the Joint Services, at the time, were in the area pursuing the Fineman gang, following the shootout at Christmas Falls. Christmas Falls is located on the opposite bank of the Berbice River, across from Lindo Creek.
Superintendent Trevor Reid, who was the then subordinate officer in charge of the Major Crimes Investigations Unit, at the police CID, had been responsible for penning the caution statement given by Williams. Reid stated that when he took the statement on July 4, 2008, Pastors King and Gilbert, along with Corporal Sarabo, had been present.
Reid noted that the version of events related to him by Williams differed vastly from what had been widely circulated in the media. Those reports relate to claims made by owner of the camp Leonard Arokium, that he received information that men dressed in camouflage clothing had killed the men at his camp.
The statement from Williams was taken after Reid was asked to lend support to the Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR), which was tasked with investigating the matter. This was following Arokium’s allegations.
Reid related that he had taken a statement from Williams prior, on June 16, after his arrest, but the interview did not cover the events at Lindo Creek.
On Monday, when the lawyers representing the Guyana Defence Force (GDF) had enquired into whether Williams would be called before the commission, they were informed by Commission Counsel Patrice Henry that Williams remains in the protective custody of the police, and will only be brought before the tribunal if the GDF can guarantee his safety.
According to the statement read by Reid, Williams gave a very detailed account of the June 2008 events, beginning with the gang’s encounter with police at Christmas Falls on June 6, chronicling the days that followed (including what reportedly happened at the Lindo Creek campsite), and ending with his eventual capture.
“We went up Ituni and the soldier and them police come. Chung boy see them, he come back and seh wan man deh lie down in the bush with camouflage. Everybody put on dem boots and collect dem bag and by that time, bare gunshots start buss. “Mud Up” went by the kitchen and he get knock. We run cross the bridge and run away, and when night come, we sleep,” Reid read, continuing:
“The next day, we see the creek. We keep walking alongside the creek. When night come, we sleep again. We wake up the morning and keep walking alongside the creek, and the next day, Magic build a raft with conga pum (Congo Pump) and we cross the river,” said the statement.
The commission later learnt that “Magic” was Cecil Ramcharan, who was killed a few days later, along with Robin Chung (Chung Boy), by members of the Guyana Defence Force, at Goat Farm.
“We cross the river, we keep walking for the entire day and we walk into them man camp. We hold on pon dem and Magic tie dem up. We cook a chowmein and we stay deh til next morning. The morning time we mek tea and give them fuh drink. The night time, rain deh falling. We gon fi beat out the said night, but we didn’t worry. I spoke with Dax and he tell me he know “Sir”. Me and he start gaff and gaff and when night done, the next day, then night come back again. Rain start falling again.”
“About 12 o’ clock time, me been sleeping and meh hear shot start buss. When meh look, meh see dem man wah dem tie up, dem shoot up dem man. Eight man been deh and all a dem geh shoot,” Williams reportedly stated.
“Deh pull down deh blue tarpaulin from one of deh camp and Magic throw gasoline pon dem and light dem afire. We go away deh morning and when we walking, we see di checkpoint and we run in the bush and keep walking all the time and when night time come, we sleep.”
According to the statement, the next day, the group began walking again, and that night, Williams got separated from the pack when “Fineman”, “Magic” and “Chung Boy” walked away and left him.
He said he walked until he saw a grader with a trailer, and requested a lift. The man obliged, but stopped along the way to assist a truck driver, who had been stuck in the mud, and it was the truck driver that gave him a “drop out”.
“The man stop by one shop and buy channa and drink, den anoda man come over and ask, wah dis Fineman does do wid you? Den he said, “Nobody don’t move. Police in plain clothes.” The police hol on pon me. The story done deh…” he related.
Asked by Henry if Williams had been questioned on the contents of the statement, Reid related that he had been, by other persons, but noted that he was tasked with collecting a caution statement from the witness.
Based on Williams’ account of the method utilized by the gang to cross the Berbice River, Forde asked his client, Colonel Lloyd Souvenir, who was the second to testify yesterday, about his experience in jungle training and about whether such a feat was actually possible.
The witness, who related that he was an instructor at the Jungle and Fitness training school, as well as participated in a jungle warfare course and a commander course which provided some experience in that type of training, stated that it was indeed possible.
He related that in the military, Congo Pump would be used to build rafts, and transport equipment and heavy items.
“The Congo Pump is a light wood and if you get a number of pieces and strap them together, it could float, it could bear a considerable amount of weight,” Souvenir explained.
He stated that from what he had heard, the men placed their items on a log, which was also carrying one of the gang members, and swam part of the way, while using the log as a floatation device.
The Joint Special Operations Group
During the time between the shootout at Christmas Falls and the killing of the miners, army ranks were reportedly combing the area, which raised questions among members of the public as to how the men could have been killed and burnt without their knowledge.
Souvenir, the second in charge of the Joint Special Operations Group deployed to the Kwakwani area at the time, responding to questions from Justice Donald Trotman, noted that while he and Colonel Fitzroy Ward, who was in command of the GDF team, were present on board for most of the aerial recognizance related to the mission, it is possible that the canopy could have been covering the campsite, or they had not flown over that particular area.
In addition, it should be noted that according to Williams’ statement, the eight miners were killed on a rainy night in June.
To give an idea of the spread of the operation, Souvenir yesterday described the setup of the teams.
He stated that there had been a task force stationed at the headquarters in Kwakwani; a joint special operations team patrolling along the UNAMCO trail in a 4×4 vehicle; Special Forces quadrants along with Coast Guards patrolling the area around Christmas Falls; a standing patrol at a spot on the Corentyne River; and on the eastern bank of the Berbice River, mobile patrols along the trails in the event that the gang members wandered along those paths.
“We went into the area with limited information on the area and we were told that it might be logging trails connecting—trails going to Orealla, trails going to the Corentyne—we had a number of information, we had to filter it and try to make some sense of it,” he stated.
It was reported on Monday that the special ops teams (A and B) were made up of 24 persons, including two officers and 10 ranks each. Their makeup comprised members from the Tactical Services Unit of the Guyana Police Force and the GDF’s Special Forces Squad.
Souvenir said he had been deployed to Kwakwani between June 6 and 26.
In relation to the aerial reconnaissance mentioned by Souvenir, Trotman enquired as to whether any photographs had been taken, but Souvenir related that the GDF had not had that type of equipment available to them at the time.
However, the witness said that a report of their work had been submitted to the Military Criminal Intelligence Department, which was then headed by Omar Khan. He stated that he made efforts to retrieve the report but was unsuccessful.
He stated that a similar report should have been submitted by Ward, and possibly by Timmerman, who was in charge of the GPF half of the Joint Special Operations Group.
Superintendent Reid opined that a lot more work could have been done while investigating the Lindo Creek killings, noting if it had been done, a CoI would not be needed today.
Reid’s department had been responsible for supporting the investigation into the matter, which was conducted by the OPR.
The officer stated that while his department was not given responsibility for the matter, in 2012, four years after the bodies were discovered and an investigation launched, he learnt that a report into the matter had never been put together and he was handed the task, so that advice could be sought.
The request reportedly came after the DNA results were sent back by the Jamaica team.
Reid related that while he heard a post-mortem examination had been conducted, he never saw a post-mortem report. He also alluded to inefficiencies in the coroner’s order, stating that there are “certain things that ought to happen in an investigation” that did not.
He noted too that he never saw a report from the OPR on the matter.
On the handling of the investigation by the OPR, Reid related that in the case where members of the Joint Services are implicated, rather than being passed to Major Crimes, which would usually deal with murders, it is passed to the OPR.
Asked by attorney Roysdale Forde how the GPF categorized the matter involving the eight miners, Reid could not state (as he emphasized that Major Crimes just lent support to OPR by interviewing persons), but said that the document referred to the “death of eight miners” (as opposed to murder), something he said was not uncommon.
Asked then if matters of that kind, where the nature of the death is not determined, are not usually subject to a coroner’s inquest, Reid agreed, but said he had no knowledge of one being requested. He noted, however, that inquests would usually be done on the advice of the DPP.
On Monday, the issue of whether camouflage clothing was found at the scene at Goat Farm, where Robin Chung, 15 and Cecil Ramcharran, 54, two members of the Fineman gang were killed, had proved to be a topic of contention.
Only four of the photos from the crime scene were presented by Henry to witness Colonel Omar Khan, and Henry had speculated that any photos taken located around the body could have been planted there.
Khan had testified to seeing, through a hole in the jersey of one of the slain men, fabric from a camouflage vest visible underneath.
Yesterday, Souvenir, who had been a part of the team that had the run in with the now dead men, after being shown photos of the scene (additional photos were later presented to the commission by Henry), testified to seeing camouflage fabric visible from the hole in a shirt, and in another photo, the vest visible, exposed at the bottom of the jersey.
Souvenir had stated that Chung was wearing a “brownish jersey” with a camouflage vest underneath, along with a belt, and Ramcharran a shirt and pants.
It was yesterday established that the photographs taken by Colonel Ward were not taken at the scene of the crime, but at the GDF’s headquarters in Kwakwani, where a detailed search of the two haversacks found on the men were also conducted. The men were also reportedly in possession of two AK-47s at the time.
Souvenir stated that the reason the photos were not taken at the scene was because the men were bleeding, motionless, and unresponsive and so a decision was taken to transport them to the headquarters, where they could receive medical attention.
The public hearings of the Lindo Creek CoI will resume on Monday.