WATCHMAN LEFT FOR DEAD
By ALEXANDER BRUZUAL Monday, August 26 2013
A 76-year-old watchman was tied up and left for dead yesterday morning during a robbery at a business place in Tunapuna, in which the assailants attempted to burn down the compound.
Police reported that at about 3.45 am, they received a report of a fire at Gopaul and Company Limited (Trucking Division ), located at the corner of Deenah Street and Churchill Roosevelt Highway.
A party of officers from the Tunapuna Police Station, including Sgt Singh and PC Beharry made their way to the location and saw a burning building on the eastern side of the compound.
However, fire-fighters from Tunapuna Fire Station, under the guidance of Acting FSO Williams, were already on the scene and had rescued elderly watchman, Otto Walcott, from the blaze.
Walcott told police officers he began his duties at about midnight, and was at the office of the building. He said at about 2 am, he left the office and was walking to the guard booth when he was ambushed by three men, and one of them had a firearm. The watchman was forced back into the office, and was bound with a rope and placed on the ground. Two of the men ransacked the room then moved to other rooms in the building. The third assailant stood guard over the watchman.
Walcott told police he repeatedly begged his captor not to hurt him and to let him go.
The watchman told investigators he was forced to lie on the ground, and feared what his attackers would do to him. He said he heard loud, banging noises. Walcott said after about 90 minutes, his captor told him not to move and left the room. The watchman said he heard the noises of the men walking about, followed by silence. He said he let some time pass before calling out for help, but there was no response. Walcott told police he had all but given up when “out of no where” he heard the shouts of men who were asking “if anyone was there”. He said he was relieved when he saw a team of fire officers enter the room.
The fire officers untied the elderly man, and took him outside, where Walcott realised for the first time that the building was on fire.
“He tell us like they left him for dead. Imagine that. They tie up an old man, and then left him in a building they set on fire. These criminals heartless,” said a police source.
The areas damaged by the fire included a main office and a storeroom. Investigators contacted director of Gopaul and Company Limited, 36-year-old Ryan Gopaul, of Maraj Street, Tunapuna. Gopaul told the police the office contained several valuable documents, and a large quantity of cash, but could not give the full value. He also disclosed a Glock Pistol with 15 rounds of 9 mm ammunition, and a firearm user’s licence was in a safe which was found open.
However, investigators would neither confirm nor deny if the contents were stolen or destroyed in the fire, as fire officials advised it was possible the heat from the blaze could have incinerated the materials inside the safe. Senior Superintendent David Abraham, of the Northern Division, praised the fire and police officers who responded to the report.
“The swift actions of the fire officers and the police were able to save the life of this elderly man, and for that they must be commended and saluted. We are not going to leave any stone unturned in solving this crime, because these men left one of our senior citizens for death, as they left him tied up in a burning building,” he said.
“We have placed additional investigators on this case, with the aim of having it resolved quickly. I have been informed that the compound in which the incident took place was heavily networked with camera systems, and therefore our next move will be to look at recordings which the company may have. Some of the equipment was scorched in the fire but, a lot of it also survived untouched, so we are very hopeful that we will be able to recover footage which would spring board us into a positive outcome,” Abraham said.
Gopaul and Company shot into the limelight after it emerged that Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar was a house guest of company owners Maureen and Ralph Gopaul in the lead-up to and after the May 2010 general election. Shortly after Gopaul and Company Ltd became the preferred bidder for a $40 million contract at State-owned National Petroleum Marketing Company Ltd (NP). While the Opposition raised loud disapproval and referred the matter to the Integrity Commission, the Commission in July 2011 cleared Persad-Bissessar of any wrongdoing. The contract was never awarded.