Businesswoman, family hid as gunmen stormed premises

Bartica Massacre trial

As the Bartica massacre trial continues, the first witness testified before the 12-member jury in the case being heard before Justice Roxanne George at the High Court. First to take the stand at Thursday’s afternoon session was businesswoman Jaywattie Singh, who recounted the horror she and her family faced on February 17, 2008, when they hid in two separate rooms after gunmen stormed their First Avenue, Bartica home – first pilfering through the bottom flat which mainly operated a grocery, parlour and gold trading business.

Roger Simon
Roger Simon

Singh related that she is still tramuatised by the events; even after eight years, recalling that on the night in question, one of her son’s was downstairs while she, her husband, another son and daughter were all together watching 20/20 cricket when at 21:15h, she heard gunshots. The witness stated that her 20-year-old son peered through the window to the northern side of her bedroom.
After sometime had passed, the witness remarked that she heard a “knocking on the gate” and later, “a banging on the grill downstairs.” The bandits broke off the wooden doors to her home and fired several rounds as they entered the premises.
“They were pounding on the wall, then they were breaking the inside door to go upstairs, so at that time, we all went into hiding,” the woman recalled.
The jury heard the witness’ recollection of hearing “several voices” as the bandits entered her home, while cursing and shooting. She and her daughter hid in one locked room while the father and one son hid somewhere else in the home.
Singh added that she then heard what sounded like drawers being pulled out in a room where gold was kept in a haversack. She said that one bandit shouted “Pass de light” as they started to break down the door to the room in which she and her daughter hid but in a turn of events, another voice suddenly blurted out: “Don’t bother with de light, we find de thing!” – explaining that the bandits made off with the bag full of gold and other valuables.
The businesswoman said that she remained secluded for 45 minutes before going downstairs where she witnessed a hole in the wall to the southern side of her house which she estimated as two feet by one-and-a-half feet.
Roger Simon’s Attorney, Peter Hugh, grilled the witness for several minutes where she revealed that at the time of the armed robbery, she did not have security guards or surveillance cameras despite trading gold. She also admitted that she wasn’t aware if “a guy” who had dusted for finger prints was a Police rank, further stating that she never entered such statements as evidence since she was never asked. However, she noted that two ranks had taken statements from her on the night in question but she could not recall if the same ranks who took the said statements had visited the night of the attack. Additionally, she disclosed that she could not remember if Police took photos of her home.
“I was really traumatised, I can’t remember,” she stressed.
Earlier, Dennis “Anaconda” Williams’ Attorney Saphier Hussain quickly rested his cross-examination after Singh admitted that she never saw any of the bandits.
Defence Counsel Roger Yearwood who represents the number one accused, Mark Williams, also crossed examined the witness. The businesswoman was excused and other witnesses testified in Voir Dire (trial within a trial). At the morning session, other witnesses also gave testimonies in Voir Dire.
The State of Guyana is contending that Mark Williams, Dennis Williams, and Roger Simon stuck terror which led to the deaths of 12 persons; eight civilians and three Police ranks. Two other men who were charged for the Bartica attacks – Michael Caesar and Celbert Reece – pled guilty to 12 counts of manslaughter earlier this week.
Reece in his account of events had noted that he was the driver of the boat which fetched the henchmen believed to be part of the Rondell “Fineman” Rawlins gang.
On Tuesday, the court heard that after Reece had set the boat adrift at a camp, two safes were opened in which gold and jewelry were found. The defendant added that all the men who were part of the gang were paid six ounces of gold each.
He further related that he later escaped from “Fineman” and his henchmen some three months later after which he was captured by Police on May 27, 2008.
On the fateful night, 12 persons, namely Police Lance Corporal Zaheer Zakir and Constables Shane Fredericks and Ron Osborne and civilians Edwin Gilkes, Dexter Adrian, Irving Ferreira, Deonarine Singh, Ronald Gomes, Ashraf Khan, AbdoolYasseen, Errol Thomas, and Baldeo Singh were all killed.
Other witnesses will take the stand today.