Not so soon

Chairman of the Lindo Creek CoI Justice Ret’d Donald Trotman (Photos by Delano Williams)

…Lindo Creek commissioner shocked at police decision to close case

CHAIRMAN of the Lindo Creek Commission of Inquiry (CoI) Justice (Ret’d) Donald Trotman has expressed surprise that the Guyana Police Force closed the case into the mass murder at Lindo Creek back in 2008.

Outgoing Commissioner of Police Seelall Persaud

Justice Trotman made the comments during the testimony of outgoing Commissioner of Police Seelall Persaud on Tuesday. Persuad, who was the crime chief at the time of the Lindo Creek Massacre in June 2008, was instructed by then Commissioner of Police Henry Green to complete the murder investigation several months after the charred remains of the eight miners were discovered at a mining camp at Lindo Creek in the Upper Berbice River, Region 10. Initially, the matter was investigated by the Office of Professional Responsibility.

Under cross-examination by the Commission’s Chairman and Legal Counsel Patrice Henry, Persaud explained that upon completion of the case, a report was sent to the DPP for legal advice. Commissioner Trotman questioned Persaud on whether advice given by the DPP has to be followed. The DPP had reportedly advised that the case be closed.
“Matters involving criminal jurisdiction, we do. In matters involving disciplinary action against members of the force, not in all cases…most times the advice I see involving civil jurisdiction matters would be forwarded to the attorney general for further advice,” he explained.

Pressing for more answers, Justice Trotman asked if there are times when the DPP’s recommendations are not in keeping with those of the police, and if such would be followed; Persaud responded in the positive. “There are several times where the DPP’s advice is not in keeping with the recommendations of the investigator, or even the crime chief’s recommendations, but we take action in accordance with the advice of the DPP..,” he explained.

However, Persaud said in this case, he as the crime chief was comfortable with the advice of the DPP to close the case. “As crime chief, given the fact that the perpetrators that the investigation had identified had all been killed, except for one, who had been cooperating with prosecutors and others, and given that…I was comfortable with that,” Persaud told the Commission.

Persaud further indicated that he was not surprised at the recommendation of the DPP, and was comfortable with the decision to close the case. But Justice Trotman said he was “very surprised.”

Earlier in the hearing, the outgoing commissioner of police disclosed that from the DNA samples taken from relatives of all of the deceased miners, only three came back with positive results, based on a report submitted by the authorities in Jamaica. The DNA tests confirmed that Nigel Torres, Bonny Harry and another miner, whose name he could not recall, were among those murdered at Lindo Creek. The Trinidadian investigators had also submitted a report to the then police commissioer, that it did not include results from DNA samples taken.

He confirmed that the remains were kept at the Lyken Funeral Parlour, but could not confirm whether autopsies had been conducted. According to the Coroner’s Order, Pathologist Dr Nehaul Singh was identified to conduct the post-mortems but his name was crossed out, and replaced by another name. According to Persaud, upon the closure of the investigation, he instructed that the parlour bury the remains, but not before relatives of the identified men were informed, along with the camp owner Leonard Arokium.

“I am informed that one family indicated an interest, but also indicated that they cannot bear the expense and as a result, I instructed that the said parlour as per procedure bury the remains,” he recalled. Co-owner of Lyken’s Funeral Home, Dr Dawn Stewart, who had appeared before the Commissioner earlier this month, had said that the remains were buried at Le Repentir Cemetery on September 11, 2012, some four years after they were discovered.

All the family members who took the stand thus far have alleged that they were never informed of the murder of their loved ones by the Guyana Police Force, and had been left in the dark when the decision was made for the remains to be buried some four years after. The CoI is investigating the circumstances surrounding the killing of Cecil Arokium, Dax Arokium, Horace Drakes, Bonny Harry, Lancelot Lee, Compton Speirs, Nigel Torres and Clifton Berry Wong, on or about June 21, 2008 at Lindo Creek in the Upper Demerara/Upper Berbice Region.