Miners killed because they were assumed to be GDF informants
By Devina Samaroo
The Lindo Creek miners were killed either in the execution of a robbery or because they were assumed to be informants to the Guyana Defence Force (GDF), according to the findings of an investigation by the GDF into allegations that its ranks were responsible for the 2008 murder.
The Lindo Creek Commission of Inquiry (COI) Public Hearings continued on Monday with testimonies from three GDF officers who were somehow involved in the mysterious incident.
First to take the stand was Major Andy Pompey who was at the time attached to the Military Police Department, which is responsible for conducting internal investigations.
He said an investigation into allegations that GDF ranks were responsible for the murder concluded that the claims were unsubstantiated.
According to Major Pompey, the allegations only surfaced because the owner of the mining camp, Leonard Arokium claimed that someone told him that persons in camouflage attire were in the area.
Major Pompey further revealed that the motives for the murder of the miners were either a robbery or because they were suspected to be informants of the GDF.
Pompey explained that he questioned the two teams that were deployed to the area after the confrontation between ranks of the Police Force and the Fineman Gang at Christmas Falls.
He said the men claimed that they never visited Lindo Creek during that period; however, he did not make attempts to ascertain whether this is true.
Major Pompey also did not question anyone else and this raised some concerns for the COI Commissioner, Donald Trotman.
Justice Trotman found it odd that no civilians were questioned, not even the man who made the allegations against the Joint Services ranks.
Major Pompey responded to say “it was a tense time and we were instructed to conduct interviews and do an investigation with persons of the teams.”
Nonetheless, Major Pompey said the report he compiled recommended that the allegations could have been avoided if the Joint Services ranks had ordered that all civilians evacuate the area.
He said the allegations surfaced after the owner of the mining camp, Leonard Arokium claimed a woman living nearby saw men in camouflage clothing in the vicinity.
Also, at the scene of the crime were spent shells similar to weapons in the GDF’s arsenal.
However, Lieutenant Colonel Omar Khan, who was second in command of the Joint Services operations, told the COI that intelligence gathered showed that members of the Fineman Gang had military tactics, they were clad in camouflage uniforms and were in possession of guns which went missing from the GDF sometime in 2006.
Colonel Khan provided the COI with visual representation of the trail in the area in question, including the distances between key locations such as Lindo Creek, Christmas Falls, Ituni and Kwakwani.
The eight miners were killed and their bodies burnt sometime in June 2008. The incident occurred at a time when Joint Services ranks were in high pursuit of the notorious Fineman Gang.
The police have since blamed the gang members for the crime but family members have alleged that it was the Joint Services that may have mistaken the miners for the criminals and killed them.
The Office of Professional Responsibility of the Guyana Police Force has since found that it could neither confirm nor deny whether its ranks were at Lindo Creek during the period.
However, around June 6, 2008, a team led by the then Crime Chief SeelallPersaud visited Christmas Falls where they had a confrontation with the Fineman Gang.
After the shootout, that team treated and the Joint Services members were subsequently deployed.
On June 21, 2008, the burnt remains of the miners were discovered.