Decision on ‘cold cases’ to be made by early 2022
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EVEN though several cold cases were reopened in 2016, the past five years have gone by with very little to no updates on their progress, or lack thereof. Some of these cases include the murder and dumping of teenager, Monica Reece’s body 28 years ago; the gruesome 2010 murder of young Demerara Bank employee, Sheema Mangar; and the shooting death of prominent fashion designer, Trevor Rose in 2014.

Questioned about the status of these cases on Saturday, Home Affairs Minister, Robeson Benn, told the Sunday Chronicle that upon assuming office in August 2020, he engaged the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) in relation to these past matters. Asked to provide an update on these cases, Minister Benn said that they will all be reviewed, and that “arising out of that review, we will know how we [law enforcement authorities] will go forward with them.”

The minister said that these reviews will be completed before the end of the first quarter of 2022; that means, before March.

Five years ago, the Major Crimes Unit of the Guyana Police Force announced that it will be reopening investigations into the aforementioned cases, and that detectives would begin analysing the evidence in each case to determine the way forward, based on the advice of the force’s legal adviser.

Soon after, a major shakeup took effect and saw then Crime Chief, Wendell Blanhum, being removed from his position, and since then, there were no updates on the way forward with these cases. Soon after the People’s Progressive Party/Civic returned to office, Blanhum was reappointed to his position.

Meanwhile, although years have passed, families of the victims have still been clinging to bits of hope that justice will be served. As a matter of fact, it was the pleas from loved ones that prompted the police to reopen the cases in the first place.

Crime Chief Blanhum had said then that even though the cases were being reopened and authorities are hoping to make significant headways, it would be premature to make any promises of solving the killings, as the evidence and statements still had to be reviewed by investigators, and then the police legal adviser.

In the case of 19-year-old Monica Reece, it was reported that aspects of the crime were not properly probed by investigators on April 9, 1993, when her body was dumped from a moving pickup vehicle on Main Street, Georgetown.

An autopsy report done by forensic pathologist, Dr Leslie Mootoo, had established that Reece, a young security guard, suffered a savage beating, which left her with a broken jaw and multiple other injuries, before she was hastily dumped in the vicinity of Courts Guyana Incorporated building, which once housed a Geddes Grant branch.

The autopsy revealed too that Reece had sexual intercourse just hours before she was killed. Pubic and other hair samples were collected from Reece’s remains for forensic analysis. With Guyana lacking in that field then, these and other sample materials were impounded and claimed to have been sent overseas.

Several weeks after she was laid to rest, Reece’s body was exhumed and more samples taken. These, too, were reportedly sent overseas, but according to police, the results of all the forensic tests returned “inconclusive,” leaving detectives no closer to catching the killer or killers, who might still be alive, living freely.

More than a decade later, in 2010, the death of 21-year-old Sheema Mangar sent similar shockwaves throughout the country. Reports are that the young Demerara Bank employee had just left work on the afternoon of September 11, 2010, and was awaiting transportation in the vicinity of Camp Street and North Road in Georgetown, when a man snatched her blackberry cellular phone and escaped.

Mangar reportedly put up a chase, but the perpetrator, a man, proceeded into a car, which he then used to run her over. The young woman was dragged from Bedford Methodist Church at Camp Street and North Road, all the way to the next intersection at Camp and Church streets.

In this case too, DNA samples were taken from beneath a car, to be sent for testing; it was a piece of cloth which matched the uniform that Mangar had been wearing when she was run over. Reports are that the samples were sent to Trinidad and Tobago, Jamaica and Brazil, however, it is not known whether detectives ever received the results.

For years, Mangar’s mother, Radica Thakoor, decried the manner in which the investigation was handled. To date, the market vendor mourns the death of her daughter, knowing full well that her killer may also be roaming free.

In the wee hours of January 26, 2014, Trevor Rose, a popular costume and fashion designer, was fatally shot in the vicinity of the traffic light at Eccles, East Bank Demerara. Reports are that Rose, along with Latoya Towler, the mother of one of his children, were the passengers of a car being driven by their friend, Troy Nieuenkirk, when a heavily tinted car pulled up alongside them and chided Nieuenkirk on the manner in which he was driving.

It is alleged that an argument ensued, after which a lone gunman exited the vehicle and immediately opened fire on the car that Rose was in. Police said that “a number of rounds” were discharged at Nieuenkirk and the other persons in his vehicle, after which the perpetrator escaped.

A post-mortem examination later revealed that Rose was shot five times. Two persons were subsequently held for questioning but later released. A 9mm pistol and 19 matching rounds were recovered at the scene. Rose’s family had since been adamant that the shooting was no accident; as a matter of fact, they had argued that the entertainment promoter was killed, premeditatedly, because of a woman.

Nonetheless, Minister Benn is hopeful that with new and advanced forensic capabilities, these cold cases could possibly be solved. “Now, they are other approaches in relation to the investigative work,” Benn insisted.

In addition to reopening the cold cases, Minister Benn said that the Guyana Police Force will also be addressing the issue of outstanding warrants for wanted persons who continue to evade the law.

The minister made specific reference to the situation with Kapildeo Gangadin, who, after being arrested for the murder of 21-year-old businessman, Ganesh Persaud earlier this month, was also found to be the man behind the 2020 murder of fisherman, Mukesh Mangra.

“The young man who did the double murder, was in fact, wanted for another murder previously,” Benn said. To this end, he said that the Guyana Police Force has to “review issues in relation to persons who are wanted.”

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