“I was pulled from pursuing ‘Fineman’ gang
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Outgoing Commissioner of Police Seelall Persaud marking off key locations in the Upper Berbice River, relevant to the investigation including Christmas Falls and the UNAMCO trail.
Outgoing Commissioner of Police Seelall Persaud marking off key locations in the Upper Berbice River, relevant to the investigation including Christmas Falls and the UNAMCO trail.

…Seelall Persaud tells Lindo Creek CoI

OUTGOING Commissioner of Police Seelall Persaud, said in June 2008 he was instructed by then Commissioner of Police Henry Greene to pursue the notorious ‘Fine Man’ gang at Christmas Falls, but it was not long after that he was instructed to withdraw his team to give way to the Joint Services.

The Lindo Creek Commission Legal Counsel Patrice Henry posing a question to the outgoing Commissioner of Police, Seelall Persaud

The decision was reportedly made after Persaud’s team had engaged in a fierce gun battle with the criminal elements at Christmas Falls – a shootout that left one gang member dead. The remaining gunmen allegedly managed to escape and according to Persuad, were heading in the direction of Lindo Creek. Persaud, who is currently on his pre-retirement leave, appeared before Chairman of the Lindo Creek Commission of Inquiry (CoI), Justice (Ret’d) Donald Trotman on Tuesday at Department of the Public Service, where relatives and friends of the eight murdered miners turned out in their numbers.

At the time of the Lindo Creek Massacre, Persaud was the crime chief, heading the Criminal Investigations Department (CID) of the Guyana Police Force as a senior superintendent. Responding to a series of questions put to him by the Commission’s Legal Counsel Patrice Henry, Persaud recalled that prior to June 5, 2008, he was informed by the then Commissioner of Police that Rondell ‘Fineman’ Rawlins and his gang were hiding out at Christmas Falls in the Upper Berbice River.

The five criminals were wanted for a number of murders and robberies, and Greene had instructed Persaud to conduct an operation to have them arrested. He reportedly provided the crime chief with a map of the hideout location. “…I was given some information by Commissioner Henry Greene, also a map showing a portion of the Upper Berbice River. Some other features on that map were a location name Christmas Falls, a particular location just immediately above Christmas Falls on the left bank of the Berbice River was identified. I also saw on that map a location named Kwakwani and a road named the UNAMCO road,” Persaud recalled.

Relatives, friends and other persons who gathered in the Commission’s Secretariat Chamber at the Department of Public Service to listen to the public hearings.
(Photos by Delano Williams)

Upon receiving the classified information, the outgoing police commissioner said he returned to his office, and further researched the area before mobilising his team of policemen to pursue the criminal gang. At the time, a reward of $20M was being offered for information that would lead to capturing of the men, who, based on intelligence, were equipped with rifles.

Armed with rifles, handguns, and a boat equipped with an outboard engine and accessories, Persaud said he led a team of police officers from CID Headquarters in the city by road to Christmas Falls on June 5, 2008. A group of civilians who were familiar with the area had also accompanied the police. Assistant Commissioner of Police, Clifton Hickens; Deputy Superintendent Withrite; Inspector Layne, Inspector Narine, Assistant Superintendent Lowenfield, and Deputy Superintendent Nurse were those who comprised the team led by Persaud.

At around 17:00hrs on June 5, Persaud said they arrived on the right bank of the Upper Berbice River in the vicinity of Christmas Falls where they camped out until the next morning. On the morning of June 6, 2008, Assistant Commissioner Hickens led a team to the left bank.

“Hickens and team crossed the river (about 200ft wide) and shortly after that I heard a series of gunshot sounds including rocket fire, and it lasted for a while. I thereafter crossed the river in the same boat and observed there was a body of a person I later learnt was Otis ‘Mudduh’ Fiffee, with a gunshot injury to his face, or what appears to be a gunshot injury,” the outgoing police commissioner recalled.

He said the ranks had also seized nine firearms such as rifles, shotguns and handguns and a quantity of ammunition. Persaud told the Commission that after the shooting incident, Assistant Commissioner Hickens informed him that the team of police officers was approaching the camp on the left side of the river, when they came under heavy gunfire, and as a result, they returned fire, killing Fiffee in the process.

Questioned whether Hickens had reported seeing ‘Fineman’ and his other gang members, Persaud responded in the affirmative, adding that they (the criminals) were proceeding to the right of Christmas Falls in the direction of Lindo Creek. “There was a creek just south of the camp, there was a bridge across that creek and he indicated to me that they crossed the bridge…north of the camp… going north…,” he posited, while pointing to the location on a map provided by the Commission.

According to Persaud, he led his team out of the area the same day and returned to the city. During the process, contact was made with the then police Commissioner, who was informed of the shooting. “He [Commissioner Greene] called me back shortly after and instructed that I withdraw and indicated to me that the Joint Services would be deployed to the area to pursue the gunmen,” Persuad told the Commission.

Persaud made it clear that at no time did he or members of his team visit Lindo Creek, although admitting that the Joint Services had comprised both members of the Guyana Police Force and the Guyana Defence Force. The Joint Services had taken over the manhunt for the gunmen. Further pressed for answers by the legal counsel, Persaud told the Commission that as the crime chief of the day, he was informed of the Lindo Creek Massacre; however, he was not the person mandated to lead the investigation into the mass murder.

“I was informed by Commissioner Greene that a team led by Head of the Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR) comprising members from CID Headquarters and the police ‘E’ and ‘F’ Divisions will investigate the matter. Officer in Charge of the Major Crime Investigation Unit, Assistant Superintendent Trevor Reid, was instructed to provide assistance to the OPR as well as retired Senior Superintendent Thomas, who was Head of the Crime Laboratory which would have included the crime scene investigators,” Persaud recollected.

Head of the Office of Professional Responsibility was Heeralall Mackhanlall at the time. It was noted that after the owner of the mining camp at Lindo Creek, Leonard Arokium, had told reporters that it was the Joint Services who had killed the miners, he accompanied a team led by the then Prime Minister Samuel Hinds, who was acting president at the time, to Arokium’s home, firstly at South Ruimveldt and then at Tuschen on the East Bank of Essequibo, where statements were taken on the incident.

During Persaud’s testimony, it was pointed out that along the UNAMCO trail there were visible logging concessions. Additionally, based on information from the Guyana Forestry Commission, former treason accused Phillip Bynoe had a logging concession in the Christmas Falls area.

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