In Dostoevsky’s masterpiece, “Crime and Punishment”, the young ex-student Rashkolnikov kills an unscrupulous pawnbroker for his money. He had ambitious plans to use the money to perform great things in the world, but he soon disintegrates under the guilt of his terrible deed.
At this time, we do not know what caused 19-year-old Akash Singh to tell others about his involvement in the murder of the cousins Isaiah and Joel Henry in West Berbice, but it appears that it was his “loose lips” that led to his apprehension and questioning by the Police. If it was guilt, it would hint at a possible shred of humanity left in him after the brutal chopping and disfiguring of the two young men – his contemporaries. He admitted that it was he who had inflicted the “Xs” on the heads of the boys.
We are told, however, about the motive for the murders. Akash identified two other individuals, his half-brother Vinod Gopaul (34) and Anil Sanicharra (33), who, along with him, were involved with planting marijuana in the backlands of West Berbice. Sanicharra hails from D’ Edward Village, which adjoins Cotton Tree Village, behind which the bodies were found and the marijuana was being cultivated. Akash’s story is that they were told that the Henry cousins – who, even according to their parents had frequented the backlands – had destroyed their plants. Encountering them in the backlands on that fateful Saturday, he recounted that they smoked “weed” together, but after they laughed upon being informed about the razing of the plants, an infuriated Vinod and Anil started chopping them with cutlasses about their bodies. He claimed the two older men threatened his with death unless he also participated in the gruesome murder. He complied.
We, therefore, through the confession of Akash, have been provided with a plausible account of the three basic elements of the crime: the means (cutlasses), motive (anger at destroyed marijuana plants) and opportunity (meeting and consorting in the backlands of West Berbice). This does not explain the viciousness of the killing, which shocked the conscience of the nation. But the fact that it was claimed that they were all consuming drugs at the time of their berserk action lends credence to the claims, since we have all become aware of similar actions by other drug users, even against their own family members. There have been several reports that in Zeelugt, the village from which Akash hails, there is widespread drug usage by youths. Another corroborating fact to the story is that Akash was able to lead the Police to the original scene of the crime, which all investigators agreed was not where the bodies were found. The bodies were moved on horseback, according to Akash.
At their arraignment in a Georgetown Magistrate’s Court, Vinod and Anil vehemently insisted on their innocence, and while this is not probative, it certainly must be taken seriously. That Vinod was a hardened criminal since the age of 14, when he shot his father to death and was involved in several prison escapes and a series of crimes in the Corentyne, also only shows that he had a predisposition to violence, but it is not conclusive evidence of his guilt. The Police will have to provide hard evidence to convict the accused.
For instance, while Sanicharra was a local, the presence of Vinod and Anil in the community would have elicited interest in the close-knit communities, and witnesses must be brought forward to identify them. The horse that was used to transport the bodies should also be identified, as well as the individuals who also claimed that their marijuana farm was destroyed, and who fingered the Henry cousins.
Since they moved the bodies, can forensic DNA tests identify any of the three?
Anil’s relatives who were told by him about the murders must also be brought forward.
The point that this newspaper wishes to reiterate is that, while the confession is backed up by much circumstantial evidence, the Police must dig further. Too much is at stake for our national wellbeing for them to do less.