Trotman denies request for GDF to interview Lindo Creek witness

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By Devina Samaroo

The public hearings of the Commission of Inquiry (COI) into the 2008 Lindo Creek Massacre concluded Tuesday with a decision by Commissioner Donald Trotman to deny an application for the alleged star witness to the murders be interviewed by the Counsel representing the Guyana Defence Force (GDF).

Justice Trotman ruled that it would be “unnecessary” and “inadvisable” to summon Dwayne Williams to be interviewed by the GDF lawyers.

Williams, who was just a teenager at the time he was arrested on June 16, 2008, is an alleged member of the notorious Rondell ‘Fineman’ Rawlins Gang and he allegedly witnessed the gruesome murders of those in Bartica, Lusignan and Lindo Creek. He had reportedly told the police that it was the Fineman Gang, who executed the massacre at Lindo Creek.

As such, Williams is currently in protective custody pending indictable proceedings in the court. However, the Commission had privately interviewed Williams but this information was never made known to the public or the GDF lawyers until today, during the conclusion of all public hearings.

Commissioner of the COI, Justice Donald Trotman [News Room photo]
The revelation clearly annoyed GDF Counsel Roysdale Forde who said that the COI Counsel, Patrice Henry has been uncooperative.

Forde explained that it was “unfair” and “insulting” since the GDF Counsel asked several times for Williams to give a public testimony but the Commission did not find it necessary to reveal that they had already interviewed the witness.

Notwithstanding this development and understanding the need for the witness’ whereabouts to be protected, Counsel Leslie Sobers, who is also representing the GDF, requested the consideration of an in-camera interview via electronic means but this too was denied by Justice Trotman.

Justice Trotman said the witness expressed no desire to offer any more information than what he has already provided in the statement to the COI.

The statement the Commission took from Williams during the private interview was subsequently handed over to the GDF lawyers.

Though the contents of the statement were not disclosed to the public, Justice Trotman assured that Williams’ revelations to the Commission did not incriminate members of the GDF.

In fact, he said, the statement is more favourable to the Force than it is adverse.  Williams was arrested on the Ituni trail on June 16, 2008.

NO STATEMENT FOUND

Based on a testimony by Retired Colonel Fitzroy Ward on Monday, Williams reportedly claimed on the day of his arrest while at the Ituni Police Station in the presence of police officers, that the Fineman Gang had just killed and burnt the bodies of miners at Lindo Creek.

However, Detective Superintendent, Gary McAllister, told the COI today that recent checks at the Ituni Police Station found no trace of such a statement.

Detective Superintendent, Gary McAllister [News Room photo]
McAllister was tasked by the Commissioner of Police to inspect Diaries and Occurrences Books from police stations located at Linden, Kwakwani and Ituni for any entries in relation to the Lindo Creek incident.

He said the only books that included information were from the Kwakwani and Ituni Station.

Reading out from the Ituni Station Diary, McAllister said there was an entry of the arrest of Williams on June 16, 2008, however, there was no record of a statement from Williams.

When asked by the COI Counsel Patrice Henry, McAllister – who has more than two decades of experience in the field – said it is common practice to record such statements in the Station Diary.

Interestingly, Superintendent Trevor Reid had last week testified that when Williams was interviewed at the Criminal Investigations Department later on the day of his arrest, he made no mention of the Lindo Creek incident.

Reid said it was only on July 4, 2008 – after the bodies of the miners were discovered by the owner of the camp Leonard Arokium, that Williams submitted a caution statement detailing that it was the Fineman Gang that killed the miners.

Ward, according to reports, explained that he along with other Guyana Defence Force (GDF) officers subsequently visited a mining camp at Lindo Creek after the alleged gang member allegedly told them of the Lindo Creek incident.

Ward was part of the Joint Services team that was deployed to the Kwakwani/Christmas Falls/Lindo Creek/Ituni area following the June 6, 2008 confrontation between the police and members of the criminal gang at Christmas Falls.

After he received the information, the GDF rank said he and a team made an attempt to locate the crime scene but found no evidence that the murders took place. He could not recall when he visited the area. In hindsight, Ward said the location he visited might have been an old mining camp.

Despite having receipt of this information, Ward said it was never passed on to the police. Ward said he returned to Headquarters in Georgetown on June 21, 2008 – the same day owner of the mining camp, Leonard Arokium discovered the charred remains of the miners.

Ward said he was not aware of the discovery of the bodies until the following day when a team travelled to the camp. Ward said he did not go to the location, instead, he delegated ranks to report to the crime scene.

Meanwhile, though the public hearings have concluded, Justice Trotman said the Commission will still continue its work until it’s time to submit its report June month-end.

Commission Counsel Patrice Henry said they plan on interviewing former Prime Minister Samuel Hinds and former Chief-of-Staff of the Guyana Defence Force (GDF) Mark Phillips.

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