Sawmill owner freed of arson charge after wife declines to testify

The charred remains of the sawmill.

The owner of the R. Thakur and Sons Sawmill was yesterday charged with torching the business but was freed of the criminal proceedings after his estranged wife refused to provide evidence against him.

Commander of ‘D’ Division Rishi Das yesterday confirmed that Ramesh Thakur was charged for setting fire to the building when he was taken before Magistrate Crystal Lambert at the Vreed-en-Hoop Magistrate’s Court.

He pleaded not guilty and the charge was dismissed after Bibi Shaheeda Thakur refused to present any evidence against him.

The Thakur family sawmill at 40 Alliance, Canal Number 2 Polder, West Bank Demerara, was destroyed by the fire, which caused losses estimated at over $20 million on Sunday.

Police had said that a report was made to them about an arson committed against Bibi Shaheeda Thakur, 39, who was present on the premises at the time.

The police had said that an estranged relative of Bibi Shaheeda visited the sawmill around 10 pm on Saturday armed with a knife in his hand. He subsequently damaged her car, PXX 509, with his canter and then proceeded into the lumberyard, which is located on the northern side of her house, and set it on fire. He was then escorted to the police station and the Guyana Fire Service was summoned but was unable to save the sawmill.

A relative told Stabroek News that Bibi Shaheeda returned home on Saturday night and noticed the main gate to the compound was opened and suspected something was amiss. She subsequently rushed into the house with her children and secured the property.

“When she reached in the house she heard someone running and knocking on the windows and she peeped out and see her husband in the yard. The man ask her to go out and talk to her but she said no,” the relative said.

The relative explained that after she refused to go outside and speak with her husband, he took a knife and damaged her car, which she only purchased three weeks ago.

The man left the scene and returned shortly after with “full speed with his canter and start driving into the car, causing more damages.”

The man then reportedly made several threats to burn the house before he proceeded to the sawmill.

“After he left and gone to the sawmill, the wife start calling up his family and her family and tell them what was happening,” the relative said, while relating that she was speaking on the phone when she heard an explosion. When she looked outside, she saw the sawmill engulfed in flames.

Shortly after, the man’s family arrived and restrained him.

The police arrived soon after and with the help of his brother the man managed to flee the scene. The brother was later arrested and kept in police custody until the man surrendered at the La Grange Police Station at 1 am on Sunday. The brother was then released.

Meanwhile, the relative explained that the couple had been separated for over a year. The wife, she said, decided to leave after the situation became unbearable. During their year apart, the wife filed for a divorce and division of property. Nonetheless, the man asked that she reconsider but the woman refused.

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