KILLERS FOR HIRE
By JULIEN NEAVES AND SASHA HARRINANAN Monday, September 16 2013
THE HEAD of a private security company has claimed that local crime bosses are hiring contract killers from countries in the region to commit gruesome murders such as beheadings aimed at sending a specific message to the bosses’ enemies/competitors
“Trinis don’t have the belly to carry out such gruesome crimes as beheadings,” said Dwight Williams, chief executive officer of Heller Security Services. On September 9, the severed head of Michael Piper was found on the pavement off Nelson Street and his body, with its hands and feet tied, found in a nearby open lot of land.
On February 21, 33-year-old Lester Ceballo’s severed head was left on a bar table in La Romaine. His body was found hours later in an abandoned canefield off Dumfries Road, La Romaine. When discovered, police said the bloodied corpse was wrapped in a blue and white bed sheet and wrapped again in transparent plastic — the hands and feet were tied.
On April 3, Oyin “Angel” Assing, 20, went missing. The following day, her body was found floating in the Gulf of Paria. Persons who pulled the young woman’s body out of the water reported she had been “gutted like a fish” as a long incision was made along almost the entire length of her lower abdomen.
An autopsy revealed that Assing died as a result of acute haemorrhagic shock (shock from massive blood loss) as a result of her stomach being slit open.
Williams cited recent cases of gruesome murders as strong indicators that killers from other countries had been flown in to Trinidad to commit specific gory murders.
“I understand that some of the major players in the local crime syndicate now prefer to recruit men from other countries mostly from Jamaica, Guyana, St Vincent, Colombia and Venezuela to carry out their dirty work.
“A man might fly in on a Friday, do what he’s been hired to do on Saturday or Sunday and by Sunday evening, he’s back home while police are none-the-wiser about who committed the crime. Everything from assassinations over drug turf to sending an intimidatory message to a rival...these men are hired to do,” he said.
Williams made his claims during a post-budget panel discussion hosted by the San Juan Business Association (SJBA) last week at Maritime Plaza, Barataria.
In a response yesterday, Acting Commissioner of Police Stephen Williams told Newsday he had no evidence of foreign contract killers operating in this country.
“We have no evidence of contract killers being hired from other regional locations to commit murders in Trinidad and Tobago. It is clear from what we have gathered that the murders are being committed by persons within Trinidad and Tobago,” Commissioner Williams said.
However, National Security Minister Gary Griffith told Newsday while he was not aware of Williams’ (Heller Security CEO) statements, he (Griffith) would not underestimate local criminals and the lengths they would go to.
“Pertaining to the nature of criminals in this country, I have no intention of underestimating any criminal in what they intend to do. At times criminals will go to any lengths to try to protect themselves and their turf,” Griffith said.
“I have no intention of trying to ascertain where they’re coming from. I think the priority is just to put an end to it.” Griffith said that Dwight Williams may or may not be right but he (Griffith) does not make statements on any national security matter unless it is based on intelligence gathering and facts.
Questioned whether he had received any information about this issue from the police Griffith said he could not make any statements. “Regardless of where the individuals come from we need to put a stop to it and we need to pinpoint individuals and get the proper evidence to be able to put them behind bars once and for all,” he said.
Questioned if the statement were true and this country would need to tighten up on immigration, Griffith noted this country does not have an “open door policy” and every person is properly scrutinised. He said there are loopholes where people try to enter illegally and even through the “front door” but moves are being made to lockdown this country’s borders.
Questioned about the source of his information on the trend of hiring contract killers, Dwight Williams told Newsday, “in my line of work, you occasionally interact with criminal elements and what they have been saying seems to be backed up by the types of gruesome crimes that have taken place over the last couple of years.”
He said while he had not previously spoken publicly on the matter, he chose the SJBA event to do so because, “two senior Government ministers were present and I trust they will convey my message and (budget) recommendations to the National Security Minister and all other relevant persons.”
At the event, Williams asked Finance Minister Larry Howai and Trade Minister Vasant Bharath, to pass on his recommendations for tackling crime to their Cabinet colleague Griffith.
Williams had stressed that if this country had better intelligence-gathering capabilities some of the trends like the foreign contract killers, which he has been told has been going for the past two and a half years, would have been picked up.
He suggested that half or at least a significant portion of the National Security budget allocation of $6.5 billion should be invested in intelligence-gathering by the police and army. The security expert, who served in the Jamaica Defence Force (JDF) for six years, also urged Government to seek crime-fighting advice from countries with a similar experience, such as his native Jamaica, and from those persons responsible for transforming New York City, “from a crime-ridden city full of graffiti into the relatively safe city it is today.”
“Don’t waste time bringing down experts who have no experience dealing with the types of crime and socio-economic situations we are dealing with. Look to our Caribbean neighbours, look at what Jamaica has done to reduce its murder rate,” Williams said.
Speaking with Newsday, Williams expanded on this point, saying the disbandment of the Special Anti-Crime Unit (SAUTT) has left police “guessing” about the perpetrators of certain crimes.
“SAUTT served a key purpose. The kind of intelligence-gathering they provided was actually helping to reduce the murder rate. Since they did away with SAUTT, the detection rate has dropped. We can’t afford to have reactionary crime plans. The police must have information about crime at all levels, if they are to develop a successful plan to tackle crime from the top down,” Williams said.
Responding to this, Griffith yesterday noted that when SAUTT was at its prime, there was over 500 murders per annum. “Prior to SAUTT being in existence the murder rate was down. As soon as SAUTT came into existence it went up. When SAUTT was disbanded, it (murders) went down. So I would love to see what sort of empirical evidence or data (Williams) has to verify that SAUTT was a major asset towards the detection rate,” Griffith said.
“SAUTT was weighed, measured and found wanting. And that was a fact,” Griffith added.
He said he would be introducing policies so people can feel safer to report crimes including gang related activity, white-collar crime and murders. With six murders over this weekend Commissioner of Police Williams said not only the police service needed to be concerned but the entire nation as well.
Commissioner Williams yesterday chided the media for what he said was the sensationalising of murder and violent crimes, adding this did not help the country and its image. “I’m saying the media in Trinidad and Tobago is maybe not conscious of the harm it is doing to Trinidad and Tobago’s image,” Williams said.