Bartica, Lusignan massacres convict among 5 prisoners on the run
Security officials have confirmed that five prisoners are on the run following the fiery Camp Street Prison break that occurred on Sunday around 16:45 hrs. Among the five inmates on the run is death-row prisoner convicted for the gruesome Bartica and Lusignan massacres, Mark Royden Williams, called ‘Smallie’.
During a press briefing on Sunday evening, Director of Prisons, Gladwin Samuels revealed that Williams and the other escaped inmates reportedly used the other prisoners at Camp Street to start several fires in the penitentiary, which was used as a distraction to assist with the prison break.
Based on preliminary reports, Williams held a prison officer hostage and gunshots were heard at the prison. Samuels said based on that report, he ordered the officers to follow the Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) and to commence evacuating the prisoners to a safe location. There were 1018 prisoners at the prisons during the time of the incident.
According to Samuels, during that process, some six officers were injured. One officer identified as Odinga Wickham, succumbed to his injuries while receiving treatment at the Georgetown Public Hospital. Two other officers are said to be critical, while the three others were stable up to press time.
Based on the magnitude of this major security issue, the Security Council was activated where members of the joint services met with Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces, President David Granger and Public Security Minister, Khemraj Ramjattan to decide on how to respond to the dilemma.
Commissioner of Police, Seelall Persaud, informed the media that based on previous attempts made by some of the prisoners to escape to neighbouring Suriname; the Guyana Police Force has since issued a wanted bulletin for the men and has alerted the Suriname and other foreign authorities of the situation.
While it is still not clear what was the motive behind the fire and prison escape, Samuels said that he was informed that Royden Williams wanted his freedom and used the opportunity to escape.
When questioned as to why there was a second prison riot at Camp Street in less than one year, Samuels deflected from answering the question and went on to state that some of recommendations from the Commission of Inquiry which were initiated after the first prison riot, have been implemented.
However, he admitted that there was slow progress in getting the capital the projects completed. This may have served as one of the loopholes that led to the prison break and fire.
Samuels said the prisoners were taken to Lusignan and Mazaruni Prisons. While the security officials have admitted that the capacity is limited at these prisons, they said that the temporary relocation will suffice at least for the next 24 to 72 hours. At present, the prisoners are currently at Lusignan in an empty compound. However, they were provided with water and given mobile toilet facilities.
Prisoners relocated to Lusignan, other jails countrywide
Meanwhile, President David Granger has assured the nation that, within 12 hours, the authorities would be able to successfully place all the Camp Street prisoners in secure locations at Lusignan, East Coast Demerara; Timehri, East Bank Demerara; and Mazaruni, Region 7.
“I expect that within a short period of time, within 12 hours, all the prisoners would be back in secure locations,” the President told his Press Officer in an interview late Sunday night.
President Granger made the address following an emergency National Security Meeting at State House. The President sought to assure the citizenry that the administration is working assiduously to address security concerns and re-capture the escaped inmates.
“The Government is acting very quickly to ensure that the prisoners are caught; and more importantly, those prisoners who were previously accommodated at the Georgetown Prison are kept in a secure place. This is our task on Sunday night, and I am very confident that by Monday morning the prisoners will be in secure accommodation,” he assured.
He added that there will be no prisoners roaming the city or the countryside, and urged persons not to panic. The President said he was informed that many of the inmates were assisting efforts to save the buildings and documents.
Granger told his Press Officer that overcrowding at the Georgetown Prison is a problem that has been existing for a number of years. He noted the sloth in regard to trials, and the large number of persons on remand. He promised action is being taken to ensure that the number of persons on remand are given speedy trials to ease the overcrowding.
“Prisoners should not be remanded for petty offences like stealing cellphones, dealing with a few joints of ganja, or something like that. There are far too many people on remand, and the Magistracy must act more quickly to ensure the persons who are charged with offences are punished and taken out of the prison system,” the President highlighted.
President Granger also expressed condolences to the family of Prison Officer Odinga Wickham, who was killed in the incident. Wickham received a gunshot wounds and several chops wounds, and died while receiving treatment at the Georgetown Public Hospital.