Isaiah Henry’s murder: Magistrate discharges case against murder accused Vinod Gopaul, Anil Sancharia
…DPP requests documents to ascertain why charges were discharged
Magistrate Peter Hugh on Tuesday discharged the case against Vinod Gopaul and Anil Sancharia, who are accused of murdering cousins Isaiah and Joel Henry between September 5 and 6, 2020, at Cotton Tree, West Coast Berbice (WCB).
The mutilated bodies of 16-year-old Isaiah and 19-year-old Joel were discovered in the backlands of Cotton Tree after they went missing following a trip to the backdam to pick coconuts.
Three men have since been charged with their murders. They are Akash Singh, 19, called “Monkey,” of Zeelugt, East Bank Essequibo (EBE); his stepbrother, 33-year-old Anil Sancharia, called “Dan pole” and “Rasta,” of D’Edward, WCB; and 34-year-old Vinod Gopaul called “Magga,” of Yakusari, Black Bush Polder, Corentyne, Berbice.
Sancharia and Gopaul continuously maintained their innocence of the crime and were charged separately from Singh.
The court commenced the Preliminary Inquiry (PI) of Isaiah first and Joel’s will begin on August 10.
Attorney-at-Law Dexter Todd is representing Sancharia and Gopaul pro bono.
On Tuesday, Magistrate Hugh found that the prosecution did not present sufficient evidence to link the duo to the murder of Isiah. That resulted in him discharging the case.
However, both Sancharia and Gopaul are still on remand pending the commencement of Joel Henry’s PI.
Speaking with Guyana Times following the ruling, Attorney Todd said that ever since he received the statements from the prosecution, he maintained that there is no evidence to link his clients to the crime.
“I represented to the court – that is the Magistrate and prosecution – that really and truly I did not see evidence on the statements which would go against the two named accused. However, because it is procedural, we had to conduct a preliminary inquiry. The State called about 19 witnesses,” he said.
The prosecution closed its case on June 29 and according to Todd, he had no need to make a no case submission since the lack of evidence was glaring.
“So, the Magistrate said on the 29 (of June) after the prosecution closed the case, he is going to look at the sufficiency of the evidence and so he had adjourned the matter for today’s (Tuesday) date. Having looked at the deposition again, the Magistrate formed the same opinion that I formed that there was no evidence against them,” the lawyer said.
Todd said that by discharging the case against his clients, the Magistrate reinforced his contention that the prosecution has no evidence against the men. He added that the prosecution is also relying on the same evidence when the PI into the murder of Joel Henry commences next month.
DPP requests documents
In a brief statement following the Magistrate’s decision, the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) Shalimar Ali-Hack said that pursuant to Section 72 (1) of the Criminal Law Procedure Act Chapter 10:01, she has written to Magistrate Hugh requesting the documents taken at the PI.
She noted that there was sufficient evidence against the two men at the time the charge was instituted and she would now have to ascertain why they were discharged and take “appropriate action”.
Following months of investigation, the Guyana Police Force was able to crack the case with the arrest of the three men. Having obtained confessions, Police sent a file to the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), which advised that the men be charged for murdering 16-year-old Isaiah and 19-year-old Joel. They were charged in January of 2021.
It was Sancharia’s stepbrother, Singh, who allegedly confessed to the crime and implicated the two men. Singh told the Police that he had accompanied Gopaul and Sancharia to the West Coast Berbice backlands sometime in August 2020 to cultivate cannabis. They then left the area and returned in September, but when they arrived at the farm, it was destroyed – everything was sprayed with gramoxone – a chemical herbicide.
According to Singh, Gopaul and Sancharia declared that they would chop up whoever destroyed their ganja farm. They then went to the individual who gave them the ganja plants, but on their way, they met the man’s worker who said their ganja was also destroyed and weed stolen, and started to assault them.
The three murder accused related that their farm was also destroyed. At that point, Singh said, the man told them that two “wicked…boys” does go in the backdam and destroy their “things”, and eat out their foods. Singh said that he heard Sancharia and Gopaul plotting about what they would do to whoever destroyed their farm.
Singh told investigators that he saw Gopaul and Sancharia with two boys, and gave descriptions matching the Henry cousins. Singh said at that point the “tall one” get up and Gopaul dealt him a chop to the neck with a cutlass and he started to bleed.
He recounted that Sancharia then dealt the other cousin a chop to his neck also. He related that the two men kept firing chops about the bodies of the two young boys. Singh related that after his accomplice threatened to kill him, he also took a cutlass and started chopping at the two teens, and he marked an “X” on the forehead of one of the boys while Sancharia did the same to the other boy.
He then told the Police that Sancharia and Gopaul left the camp with the bodies on a horseback, while he stayed at the camp. This is consistent with initial Police findings that the area where the bodies of the teenagers were found was not the prime crime scene, but they were merely dumped there.
After his confession, Singh took investigators to the camp, and he pointed out where the murders took place. The case was handled by ranks of the Police Force’s Major Crimes Unit. During the investigation, Police had arrested and questioned over a dozen persons.
A post-mortem report revealed that the cousins died as a result of haemorrhage and shock due to multiple incise injuries; their spines were also severed. Following the killings, massive protests erupted across the country, especially in West Coast Berbice where the two young men resided.