Police pave way for Argentine expert to access pathologist, autopsy reports

Dr Luis Fondebrider
Dr Luis Fondebrider

President of the Argentine Team of Forensic Anthropology (Equipo Argentino de Antropologia Forensica-EAAF), Dr Luis Fondebrider recently visited Guyana and met with Home Affairs Minister Robeson Benn along with senior investigators of the Guyana Police Force where he sought access to a series of documents to determine whether his Team would be in a position to offer assistance in the investigation of the murders of the West Coast Berbice (WCB) teens.

On Monday, Benn told reporters that Police are diligently working on the case and when the time is “appropriate and opportune, action would be taken.”

He added that no consideration was given to send the documents to Dr Fondebrider since they would have indicated the level of information sharing at the previous interaction.

“There was a discussion where he was advised that he can see the autopsy which was indeed attended by Mr Nigel Hughes and he can have an opportunity either virtually or face to face with the government forensic pathologist,” Minister Benn informed.

On September 6, 2020, the badly mutilated bodies of cousins Isaiah and Joel Henry were found in the backlands at West Coast Berbice after they had left their Number Three Village home to pick coconuts but did not return home. And then, on September 9, 2020, 17-year-old Haresh Singh was found murdered at the Number Three Village backlands in what was dubbed as a retaliatory killing.

Dr Fondebrider arrived in Guyana on December 12 and met with the Singh and Henry families where he explained the scope of his Organisation and how they may or may not be able to assist. He also visited the crime scenes where he gathered preliminary information.

On December 15, the forensic expert held a discussion at the Cathedral of Immaculate Conception on Brickdam in Georgetown where he appraised persons of the work of the EAAF and the role they play as one of the foremost forensic teams in the world.

Following his presentation, during an interaction with the local media, related that during his meeting with Minister Benn and the Police he would have requested in excess of 20 pieces of documentation which would form the basis of his report. He noted that if provided with the documents, he would be in a position to indicate whether it is viable for his Team to come to Guyana and provide additional assistance to the Guyanese authorities.

EAAF, since its foundation in 1984, has worked in 55 countries. It is involved with the case regarding the disappearance of 43 students in Mexico, currently attracting much international attention.

EAAF is made up of 70 members with qualifications in different scientific fields, such as anthropology, archaeology, medicine, criminalistics, information technology, biology, and genetics. They work at the different offices that the institution has in Argentina (Buenos Aires, Córdoba, Tucumán) as well as in New York, Mexico, and South Africa.

The Caricom Regional Security Service (RSS) team already visited Guyana to assist the Police with the investigation. The team made recommendations for more investigation but overall expressed their confidence in the ability of the Guyana Police Force to solve the case.

The five-member team was led by an Assistant Commissioner of Police and comprised officials from countries within the Regional Investigative Management Systems (RIMS) was in Guyana for one week and departed on October 06. The team have since completed its report and handed it over to the Guyana Police Force (GPF).

The butchered bodies of the Henry teens were found in clumps of bushes and partially covered in mud after relatives went in search of them on September 6.

Post-mortem examinations conducted revealed that the teenagers died from haemorrhage and shock. In the case of 16-year-old Isaiah, he sustained a severed spine between the second and third vertebrae and a number of chop wounds to his head.

The body of 19-year-old Joel had a total of 18 wounds. He, too, suffered a severed spine between the first and second vertebrae. It is believed that after sustaining wounds to the head, he fell to the ground and then got the wound that severed his spine.

The murders sparked widespread protest action, particularly along the West Coast Berbice corridor, with persons blocked the roads and burned debris while calling for justice.

The situation escalated as protesters blocked traffic along the WCB roadway while robbing, beating and extorting innocent commuters. Millions of dollars were also lost as vehicles went up in flames.

As the unrest continued, 17-year-old Haresh Singh of Number Three Village, West Coast Berbice (WCB), was found dead hours after he had left home on his motorcycle to attend his family’s farm in the backdam.

It was reported that the sound of Haresh’s motorcycle stopped along the dam and shortly after, his family members saw a fire blazing on the dam. Suspicious that it was the motorcycle, relatives went to investigate and discovered the motionless body of the teenager and the torched motorbike.

The teen was bleeding through his nose and had wounds to his head, ears, neck and hands. According to the family, there was also an “X” on his neck. They then rushed the 17-year-old to the New Amsterdam Hospital, but he succumbed on the way.

Initially, it was suspected that Singh’s murder was in retaliation for the deaths of Isaiah and Joel since one of his close relatives was among those arrested after the cousins’ murder.

Meanwhile, Police had established that 16-year-old Isaiah and 19-year-old Joel Henry were murdered in one location and then their bodies transported to the coconut estate on which they were discovered.