Bartica Massacre trial
… identified number 3 accused in ID parade
At Thursday’s hearing into the ongoing Bartica massacre trial at the High Court, Police Constable Chester Benjamin took the stand and testified to being shot five times about the body, as he was found by a gunman moments before the bandits retreated.
During the February 17, 2008 attack, the Policeman was taking his dinner in station quarters upstairs when he heard a loud explosion and discovered that he was shot in the right arm shortly after.
Constable Benjamin recalled that he then ran over to the kitchen window where he peeped and saw a “Rastaman” with long beard, long dread locks and camouflage clothing standing over the road by a shop – armed with a rifle. Benjamin told the court that after he moved from the window, he and a few other Constables went into a cupboard. A man then came into the kitchen and started firing, shouting “I gan kill yall ‘S’!”
The 12-member jury heard that after the gunfire stopped, one of the bandits removed him from the cupboard and placed his foot on his stomach. In a turn of events, however, Benjamin noted that a voice downstairs shouted “Rehab!” After this, the men left the room and the Constable later told Inspector Sutton that he was shot more times. In the following moments, Benjamin claimed he had heard a vehicle drive away from the scene and shots were fired; while he, Sutton and several other ranks hid under Sutton’s bed. Thereafter, Benjamin said that he heard five or six gunshots in the direction of the Bartica Stelling.
After the coast was clear, the men went downstairs and the Police rank testified to witnessing the injured and motionless bodies of several ranks, including Constable Osborne, who appeared to be dead. Sometime after, Benjamin left Bartica for the Georgetown Public Hospital, where he was admitted and treated for his injuries.
Roger Simon identified
Led by State Prosecutor Diana Kaulesar, Constable Benjamin testified further that while being stationed at Mackenzie, Linden in April 2008, he saw a “Rasta man” in the Police Station lockups. The Police witness recalled that this was the same man which he had seen on the night of the ghastly Bartica incident.
Sometime afterwards, Benjamin noted that he was called to an identification parade (ID) at the Criminal Investigations Department (CID) where he pointed out that the number seven person in the line-up was a “rasta man”. At Thursday’s court session, this individual was pointed out as Roger Simon, a co-accused in the 2008 massacre. Chester’s testimony contradicts that of other witnesses, who testified that Simon was never there. This had been the account of both Clebert Reece, who in November last year plead guilty to manslaughter for the Bartica attack and Dwane Williams, a gang member who was 15 years old at the time.
Under cross-examination by Roger Simon’s Attorney, Peter Hugh, the Police Constable noted that he gave two statements to Police, but that in the original statement dated February 18, 2008, Simon was not implicated in the attack. Additionally, Benjamin admitted that he could not recall what Simon was wearing on the day that he (Simon) was at the Mackenzie Police Station.
Boat worker’s diversion saves his life
At the morning session of the trial, Chester brothers, Ishmael and Wilbert, who were boat workers attached to the Boodhoo General Store at Bartica, also testified. Wilbert testified that after leaving the boat, he met up with a friend and purchased two beverages at a “Chiney” shop. Moments later, he heard gunfire and darted into the business, after which two men locked the door and he hid on the ground.
After the ordeal ended, the man returned to the stelling, but became alarmed when he could not locate his brother on the boat. Recalling these events, Chester almost broke down in tears on the witness stand, but the court heard that he had later learnt that his brother was safe.
However, other crew members on the boat encountered a different fate. Wilbert Chester recounted that the first two persons he checked had no pulse, but noted that Errol Thomas had a pulse. He took Thomas to the First Avenue monument, near the Police Station, but the man later died.
Meanwhile, Chester told the court of witnessing the motionless bodies of two other persons. Other witness testified to five men being shot at the Stelling by “Fineman”, while it was also revealed that one man was allowed to go free.
All three attorneys declined cross-examination of Wilbert Chester. The trial continues before Justice Roxanne George, SC this morning.
In addition to Errol Thomas, 11 other persons were slaughtered during the Bartica attack. These included Police Lance Corporal ZaheerZakir, Constables Shane Fredericks and Ron Osborne; and civilians Edwin Gilkes, Dexter Adrian, Irving Ferreira, Deonarine Singh, Ronald Gomes, Ashraf Khan, Abdool Yasseen, and Baldeo Singh. Mark Williams, Dennis Williams, and Roger Simon are the three standing accused for the Bartica massacre.