Murder of Berbice boys: Forensic Expert awaits police documents before forming opinion, offering advice
By Kurt Campbell
While declaring that he is about science and not about politics, Director of the Argentine Team of Forensic Anthropology (EAAF) Dr Luis Fondebrider Tuesday evening assured that he has the expertise and experience to help local investigators solve the murders of Berbice teen boys Joel Henry, Isaiah Henry and Haresh Singh.
Dr Fondebrider, who met with Minister of Home Affairs, Robeson Benn, and a team from the Guyana Police Force Tuesday morning, said he made requests for several documents and he now awaits those before forming an opinion or offer advice on the brutal murders that sparked widespread protest action along the West Coast of Berbice.
“I need documents. I need reports from the crime scene, the autopsy, the complementary analysis and I don’t have it,” he told reporters at the Brickdam Cathedral moments after a public presentation on the work of the EAAF titled: “Contribution of truth to justice.”
Dr Fondebrider, who departs Guyana on Wednesday, visited at the invitation of the Guyana Human Rights Association (GHRA) and spent his time meeting with the families, visiting the crime scene and engaging local authorities who have worked on the case.
He said he stands ready to offer his assistance in reviewing the case with the Guyanese authorities but noted that with the request for information already put forward, “now the ball is in the field of the State.”
Asked about what assurance he received from the police or the government on providing the information requested, Dr Fondebrider said while he received some positive feedback, there has been no commitment on a timeline or protocol for handing over the information.
“I told them very clearly what I need…I need documents from the work at the crime scene. I need pictures, maps, descriptions…to which lab were the samples sent that were taken from bodies and scene… the autopsy, who took it, the condition of the mortuary,” he added.
The Argentine Forensic Expert said he made the request directly to the chief of police and chief of investigations. Dr Fondebrider said once he receives the documents before his departure on Wednesday, he can prepare his report within three weeks. But even if the information is not forthcoming, he will still go ahead with preparing a short report for the GHRA which brought him here.
Present at Tuesday evening’s activity was Minister of Governance and Parliamentary Affairs, Gail Teixeira; she told the News Room that she attended the event at the invitation of the Argentine Ambassador in Guyana and was representing the government.
Teixeira said the government fully supports the work of the Argentine team and has no objections.
Meanwhile, co-president of the GHRA, Mike McCormack, said that he was not pleased with the response and support Dr. Fondebrider received on a trip that was geared towards merely assessing whether his institution can offer support.
He lamented the failure of the police to specify how or the extent of information that they intend to hand over.
“It was initially disappointing,” a still hopeful McCormack related.
He said too that already the GHRA has received pledges of US$14,000 to help fund the Argentine Team in the absence of funding from the State.
The team is asking for $4 million in professional fees, with the exception of travel, food, and accommodation. They have also asked for an additional US$1,000 to expedite the shipping of equipment they would need.
Family members of the teen boys had approached the government to assist in bringing the team here, but the government said it favours its United States, United Kingdom and Canadian counterparts in assisting with further investigation.
As a matter of fact, members of the Regional Investigative Management Systems (RIMS), arrived in Guyana on September 28 and spent a week assisting local detectives in the case.
The team concluded that they were satisfied with the work of the police but recommended more investigations be conducted.
The RSS team visited Guyana following a Memorandum of Understanding between the Government and the CARICOM Implementation Agency for Crime and Security (CARICOM IMPACS). President Irfaan Ali made a request for regional assistance into the murder investigations.
Meanwhile, the Argentine team was first recommended by attorney, Nigel Hughes, who is representing the interest of the families. Hughes was present at Tuesday’s presentation, along with his wife and opposition parliamentarian, Cathy Hughes.
The mutilated bodies of Isaiah, 16, and Joel, 18, were found in the Cotton Tree backlands, West Coast Berbice on September 6. The killers carved out a huge ‘X’ on Isaiah’s head while they cut open Joel’s chest.
The cousins had left their Number 3 Village, West Coast Berbice home to go into the backdam to pick coconuts the day before their bodies were found.
On September 14, the police determined that the boys were murdered somewhere else and then dumped in the backlands of Cotton Tree. Wide-spread, violent protests ensued for almost a week and it was during those protests that 17-year-old Haresh Singh was killed.
Singh of Number 3 Village, West Coast Berbice, was found in a bloodied state on September 9 in the backdam hours after he left home on his motorcycle to transport water for his relatives who were working on their farm.
A post mortem examination found that he died from brain haemorrhage and blunt trauma to the head, compounded by compression injuries to the neck.
No one was charged for any of the gruesome murders. The Guyana Police Force has since offered an award of $3 million for information that could solve the murders.