Bartica, Lusignan Massacres convict admits to 2017 murders, armed robberies
Convicted murder accused Michael Caesar, 34, also called “Capone” and “Deon Cort”, on Thursday pleaded guilty to two counts of manslaughter and two counts of armed robbery when he appeared before Justice Simone Morris-Ramlall via Zoom at the High Court.
Caesar, who had been part of the notorious Rondell “Fineman” Rawlins gang, was initially indicted for the December 16, 2007 murders of Fazil Hakim, called “Boyee”, 25, and Rajesh Singh, called “Rabbit”, 35, at Mon Repos, East Coast Demerara (ECD).
Caesar opted to plead guilty to the lesser count of manslaughter when he admitted that on the day in question, he killed both men.
Further, he also pleaded guilty to two counts of robbery under arms, which were committed on December 16, 2007. The prosecution team stated that Caesar, along with others, while armed with guns and cutlasses, robbed Singh and Hakim of their cash, jewellery, and other valuables.
Having considered the nature and circumstances under which the offences were committed, along with the fact that firearms were used, Justice Morris-Ramlall sentenced Caesar to nine years’ imprisonment for each of the two counts of robbery under arms and 13 years for the two counts of manslaughter. The sentences will run concurrently.
The Judge had initially sentenced Caesar to 36 years’ imprisonment, but reduced that by 12 years for his early guilty plea and another 11 years for the time he spent in prison.
Caesar will serve a 13-year jail term for both the manslaughter and armed robbery charges.
Finally, the Judge ordered that the prison sentence of 13 years run concurrently with the 60-year prison term Caesar is currently serving for the Bartica and Lusignan Massacres.
The convict becomes eligible for parole after serving 40 years. The indictment against “Capone” was presented by State Prosecutors Tuanna Hardy and Tyra Bakker.
The prosecution’s case contended that at the time “Capone” told Police that he was the ‘lookout man’ of the group of men who invaded a liquor bar at Lot 82 Agriculture Road, Mon Repos, and carried out the killings and robberies. Following the massacre, Caesar fled to neighbouring Suriname, but was apprehended two years later by Police.
The prosecution also contended that the killings and robberies were deliberate and Caesar’s sentencing should reflect the precise nature of the offences.
Caesar was represented by Attorney-at-Law Maxwell McKay, who asked the court to show some mercy given the fact that his client confessed to the role he played in the crime.
In December 2016, acting Chief Justice Roxane George sentenced Caesar to 60 and 45 years in prison respectively for unlawfully killing 20 persons during the Lusignan and Bartica Massacres.
In these two cases, Caesar was indicted for murder, but opted to plead guilty to the lesser offence of manslaughter.
He was sentenced to 45 years for each of the eight counts of manslaughter for the Lusignan Massacre – a total of 360 years. But more was to come. He was further jailed for 60 years for each of 12 counts of manslaughter for the Bartica Massacre – a total of 720 years.
This brought his total sentence to 1080 years; however, Justice George ordered that the 60-year and 45-year sentences be served concurrently.
Another man, Clebert Reece, called “Chi”, has also pleaded guilty to manslaughter charges following the killing of 12 persons at Bartica on February 17, 2008. Reece, however, was jailed for 35 years for each of the 12 counts; the sentences are to run concurrently.
On Sunday, February 17, 2008, several gunmen attacked the mining community of Bartica, Essequibo, killing 12 residents and injuring several others. The group of about 20 armed gunmen arrived at Bartica by speedboat. They landed at the Transport and Harbours wharf around 22:00h (10pm).
Upon arrival, they attacked the Bartica Police Station, where they killed Lance Corporal Zaheer Zakir, Constable Shane Fredericks, and Constable Ron Osbornes. After murdering the three Police Officers, the gang stole cash, arms, ammunition, and a vehicle from the Police Station. Using the stolen Police vehicle, they drove through the streets of Bartica shooting at civilians, fatally wounding Irwin Gilkes.
They then proceeded to CBR Mining, where they killed Irving Ferreira; stole arms and ammunition, and removed two safes containing cash and gold. Next, they shot and killed Dexter Adrian before returning to the wharf. At the wharf, they executed Abdool Yassin Jr, Deonarine Singh, Errol Thomas, Ronald Gomes, Baldeo Singh, and Ashraf Khan. After their one-hour rampage, the gunmen departed Bartica by boat.
Caesar has also accepted that on January 26, 2008, at Lusignan, East Coast Demerara, he unlawfully killed eight of the 11 victims of the Lusignan Massacre.
He said he was responsible for killing Clarence Thomas; his 12-year-old daughter Vanessa and his 11-year-old son, Ron; 32-year-old Mohandai Gourdat and her two sons, four-year-old Seegobind Harrilall and 10-year-old Seegopaul Harrilall; 22-year-old Shazam Mohamed; and 55-year-old Shaleem Baksh.
On the morning of Saturday, January 26, 2008, gunmen stormed into the small village of Lusignan and murdered 11 people – five children and six adults. Five families were affected by the massacre. The gunmen, armed with shotguns and AK-47s, entered Lusignan around 02:00h and invaded the homes of the families. Within 20 minutes, 11 people were murdered.
Mark “Smallie” Williams and Dennis “Anaconda” Williams have both been sentenced to death by hanging for eight and seven counts of murder respectively, concerning the Bartica Massacre. They were each sentenced to life imprisonment for four and five counts of manslaughter respectively, with regard to the said massacre.
Mark Williams and James Hyles were also charged in relation to the killings at Lusignan. Following a trial by a jury before a judge, both of them were found not guilty. The Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) appealed their acquittals at the Court of Appeal on the basis that there were material irregularities during the trial.
The Court of Appeal agreed, allowed the appeal, overturned the men’s not-guilty verdicts, and remitted the case to the High Court for retrial. The men appealed the Court of Appeal’s decision to the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ), which allowed their appeal, set aside the conclusion of the Court of Appeal, and restored the jury’s not-guilty verdicts. (Shemar Alleyne)