Death row inmate Mark Royden Williams, aka ‘Smallie’, has been found not guilty by a jury of the December 16, 2007 murders of 35-year-old Rajesh Singh and 25-year-old Fazil Hakim.
The 12-member mixed jury delivered its unanimous verdict today at the High Court in Demerara.
Williams was on trial for the murders before Justice Sandil Kissoon. He was represented by Attorneys-at-law Nigel Hughes and Ronald Daniels, while State Counsel Lisa Cave appeared for the prosecution.
The police, in a statement on the killings, had said that Hakim, Singh, and another man were consuming alcohol at Narendra Mukhram’s shop at Agriculture Road, Triumph, East Coast Demerara when gunmen in camouflage attire turned up.
As Mukhram went to close the shop, he was confronted by three armed men. The men were armed with a rifle, a shotgun, and a handgun. One of the gunmen held Mukhram at gunpoint and took him to his home next door. The other two gunmen entered the shop, and one of them ordered the three patrons to lie on the ground.
When the patrons hesitated, the gunmen opened fire, killing Singh and Hakim. Over at Mukhram’s house, the armed men held Mukhram’s wife and children at gunpoint and demanded jewellery and cash. Based on reports, the Mukhrams handed over $500,000 in jewellery and $300,000 to the gunmen.
At the time of his demise, Hakim, called “Boyee”, resided at Mon Repos, East Coast Demerara, while Singh, called “Rabbit”, lived at Martyrs Ville on the East Coast of Demerara. Their cause of death was given as shock and haemorrhage due to multiple gunshot wounds.
During the trial, Williams was called on to lead a defence.
Williams, in unsworn testimony, said, “I am innocent of this charge. I know nothing about this charge. On June 15, 2008, I was arrested by the Police and taken to the Criminal Investigations Department Headquarters, where I was placed on the prisoner’s bench with handcuffs and shackles.”
He said that one of the Police officers told him that for them to stop beating him, he has to sign a paper. Williams told the court that he signed the statement only “because I could not take it anymore.”
Also testifying was Police Inspector Suraj Singh, the detective in charge of crime at the Turkeyen Police Station. He told the court that, during 2008, he held the rank of Corporal and was stationed at the Criminal Investigations Department (CID) Headquarters and attached to the Homicide Squad.
Inspector Singh told the court that, sometime in June 2008, Williams was arrested and questioned in relation to the murders, during which he opted to give a caution statement. The Police witness testified that Williams, who was 20 years old at the time, requested of him to write the statement.
According to Inspector Singh, Williams told him, “…that work at Agriculture Road, ah uncle plan that work. Me, Uncle, Capone (Michael Caesar), and Mud Up, went to that place to rob them boys. I had a cutlass; I was the lookout man. We tek the cane field… Then we went back to Buxton and hide. Me been there, but me nah had gun. Me nah know who kill them man. Me nah know how much money them get… Me nah get none.”
Under cross-examination by Williams’ counsel, Inspector Singh acknowledged that there were no eyewitnesses to the killings. Hughes put to the Police witness that he and other investigating ranks had beaten and tortured his client to give the caution statement. Inspector Singh denied this.
Caesar was called as a defence witness. In 2020, Caesar, also known as Capone, 37, who is currently serving various sentences for his role in the Bartica and Lusignan Massacres, was sentenced to 13 years’ in prison after pleading guilty to the lesser count of manslaughter over the deaths of Singh and Hakim.
Sitting side by side with Williams at the Mazaruni Prison, Caesar had told the court that Williams was not involved in the killing of the men. He said he met Williams while being incarcerated. Caesar admitted that he was among the men who had stormed the rum shop.
He said it was “Uncle Willie” and “Chung Boy” who shot Singh and Hakim to their heads. The convicted killer further said he was arrested for the murders in 2009 while hiding out in neighbouring Suriname.
In 2017, Mark Royden Williams and Dennis “Anaconda” Williams were sentenced to death by hanging for their involvement in the 2008 Bartica massacre which left 12 persons, including three Policemen dead. Following a trial, they were found guilty of the killings by a jury.
On February 17, 2008, gunmen carried out a brazen attack, while members of the community were watching a game of 20/20 cricket on television. On that fateful night, Police Lance Corporal Zaheer Zakir and Constables Shane Fredericks and Ron Osborne were fatally shot.
Edwin Gilkes, Dexter Adrian, Irving Ferreira, Deonarine Singh, Ronald Gomes, Ashraf Khan, Abdool Yasseen, Errol Thomas, and Baldeo Singh were the civilians killed. The two Williams have since filed an appeal against their conviction and sentence. That case is yet to be called at the Guyana Court of Appeal.
The two convicted killers remain on death row until their right to appeals has been exhausted. A moratorium on the death penalty is in place and the last death row inmate was executed in 1997.
In May 2018, the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) restored the acquittals of Mark Royden Williams and James Hyles, called “Sally” for the slaying of 11 persons, including children in the January 2008 Lusignan massacre. Following a trial at the High Court, a jury had found them not guilty.
The State however appealed the acquittals.
Following full arguments, the Court of Appeal in March 2016 allowed the appeal, overturning the not guilty verdicts, and remitted the matter to the High Court for a new trial. The Appeal Court held that several material irregularities in the trial resulted in unsafe verdicts.
Williams and Hyles then appealed the Court of Appeal’s ruling to the CCJ which ruled in their favour.
In the wee morning hours of January 26, 2008, gunmen invaded the village and went from house to house on a shooting rampage. In the end, 11 persons were killed as they slept peacefully in their homes.
Those killed were: 48-year-old Clarence Thomas, his 12-year-old daughter Vanessa Thomas and his son Ron Thomas; 22-year-old Shazam Mohamed; 55-year-old Shaleem Baksh; Seecharran Rooplall, 56, his wife Dhanrajie Ramsingh, 52, and their 11-year-old daughter Raywattie Ramsingh and 32-year-old Mohandai Gourdat and her two sons, four-year-old Seegobind Harrilall and 10-year-old Seegopaul Harrilall.
Moreover, in February 2019, Mark Williams and Sherwin Nero, called, ‘Catty’ or ‘Pussy’ were both found not guilty of the murder of businessman, Kumar Singh which occurred on August 30, 2007. Reports indicate that 51-year-old Singh, also known as “Mango Man”, of Lot 51 Craig Milne, Cove and John, East Coast Demerara was shot and killed by bandits.
According to reports, the gunmen stormed Singh’s home and began terrorizing his family. Singh and his family members were shot at during the 15-minute ordeal. Singh who received several gunshot wounds died at the Georgetown Public Hospital Corporation.
In 2017, Mark Royden Williams was among the high-profile prisoners who escaped after a fire gutted the Camp Street Prison in Georgetown. He was however apprehended weeks later by Police ranks while he was on board a public minibus in Berbice.