By JULIEN NEAVES and Richardson Dhalai Saturday, December 14 2013
Cold-blooded killings are now 380 surpassing last year’s figure of 379, following five murders in 48 hours with more than two weeks left before the end of 2013.
There were two double murders, and an abduction that ended in death.
The victims are David Phelps, 47, and Rawle Cassie, 43, shot dead in a bar in Maraval on Thursday night; Clifford George, 40, and Salisha Langtoo, 23, killed in a brutal attack at the Chaguanas Public Cemetery on Wednesday; and the shooting death of Kendel Thomas, who was dragged at gunpoint from a maxi-taxi on Wednesday and his body found in the river off the Beetham Gardens the next day.
Housing Minister Dr Roodal Moonilal yesterday admitted Government was not happy with the murders.
“This Government is not pleased and not happy that we have not seen a corresponding decrease in homicides as we have in serious crime,” he told the House of Representatives yesterday. “There is much more to be done.”
The brutality of the killings continues to horrify the nation.
In the case of 24-year-old Kendel Thomas, an autopsy yesterday found that he was shot in the right arm twice while fleeing assailants, then shot in the centre of his head and rendered unconscious. His legs were then tied with a heavy duty electric cable and attached to a concrete block. He was then dumped in a river off Beetham Gardens, near the highway, where he fought for breath before succumbing to his head injury.
“A typical execution,” forensic pathologist Dr Valerie Alexandrov described it.
He told Newsday Thomas may have survived for several minutes when he was thrown into the river as muddy water was found in his sinuses. He explained Thomas did not die immediately from the shot to his head as the bullet had broken into fragments. Alexandrov was, however, able to find an intact bullet in his arm for identification.
Thomas’ body was found a day after he was abducted from a maxi-taxi which had stopped at the side of the Priority Bus Route (PBR) to let off a passenger.
Police reported that at about 1.30 pm on Wednesday, a maxi-taxi with eight passengers was proceeding west along the PBR towards City Gate in Port-of-Spain from Arima, when one of the passengers pressed the bell for the vehicle to stop so he could get off near 19th Street in Beetham Gardens.
As the maxi-taxi came to a stop, three gunmen entered the maxi-taxi and announced a hold-up. The gunmen then proceeded to rob the passengers and driver.
It is believed Thomas resisted and as a result was dragged out of the vehicle. As the gunmen forced Thomas to walk with them into Beetham Gardens, the driver quickly drove off with passengers still inside his maxi-taxi.
Thomas’ father, Timothy Thomas, and mother, Sheila Charles, were at the Forensic Science Centre, St James yesterday, where Timothy said the death of his son, who worked with him in masonry, was very difficult.
“I can’t cope. I can’t handle that up to now. I don’t know if I could drive when I leave when they bring his body,” he said. He noted the gunmen also attempted to abduct Thomas’ sister, Shena Charles.
“He push her back in the maxi and tell the maxi man to drive. While the maxi man gone his way well they take him and do whatsoever they please,” he said.
Sheila noted her daughter was scared for her life and planned to move from her home and eventually out of the country. She was scheduled to visit the Criminal Investigation Department for an identification parade and also the Homicide Division.
“She don’t want to come here to identify his body. She don’t want to see him,” she said.
Also present at the Forensic Science Centre yesterday were the relatives of cousins Phelps, of Agra Street, St James, and Cassie of Boissiere Village, Maraval, who were shot and killed at Pillai’s Bar, Valot Street, Boissiere.
On Thursday night the two men were liming at the bar when two men walked in and shot them dead.
Alexandrov said the autopsy found that Cassie received multiple gunshot wounds, at least eight. Phelps was hit with a heavy object which knocked him down and fractured his skull. While laying face down he was shot to the back of his neck, the bullet traveling from the back of his neck, perforating four vertebrae and then into his left lung.
The bullets recovered from Cassie were regular handgun bullets but the bullet found in Phelps was a military-type ammunition, called .17 HM2. The tiny bullet, about 5 mm long, belongs to a class of assault riffle and machine gun ammunition.
The victims’ cousin Gary Jagdeo told the media Phelps, who worked security with Harts mas band, had four children and “loved his belly”. He noted the night he was killed, Phelps spent $3,000 at Pillai’s bar and “sponsored everybody”. Jagedo recalled that three weeks ago Phelps hugged him and said he has to live long enough to bury him.
Jagdeo noted Cassie, aka Fatboy, had three children. He had spent 18 years in the US and returned just a year ago.
He said Cassie had been making peace with everyone he had wronged and has no idea who would want him dead.
Investigations also continued yesterday into the murders of George, an electrician and PH driver, and Langtoo, a security guard, as well as the shooting of Kwesi Brooks, 31, and a woman identified as Carlene at the Chaguanas Public Cemetery in Petersfield.
It is believed they were attacked by persons acting for someone who owed Brooks money.
A relative of Brooks, who requested anonymity, yesterday said Brooks recently sold his car, a Blue Mazda Protégée which he brought across from Tobago and intended to paint and upgrade its features but decided instead to sell the vehicle and purchase another one.
The relative said Brooks, who was recently hired by a security company, received a cheque for the car which “bounced” indicating the buyer had insufficient funds.
Brooks reportedly confronted the buyer about the cheque and was given $10,000 in cash promising the balance would be paid at a later date.
It is believed Brooks was on his way to collect what he was owed when gunmen attacked on Wednesday. Brooks was a passenger in George’s Nissan Almera car, along with Langtoo and Carlene. Gunmen opened fire and George crashed into a drain at the cemetery’s entrance. He was found shot dead in the car, while Langtoo, was found on the road bludgeoned to death, police believe with a carjack.
Brooks was found bleeding from gunshot wounds in the drain while Carlene was in the backseat also with gunshot wounds. Carlene remained warded at Port-of-Spain General Hospital yesterday, while Brooks was hospitalised at Eric Williams Medical Sciences Complex, Mt Hope.
“It’s real ridiculous that he got killed for something like that,” Brooks’ relative said.
Langtoo’s relatives yesterday described her as a “loving and caring” young person whose willingness to assist her relatives, friends and neighbours earned her the nickname “Mama”.
When Newsday visited Langtoo’s Jane Street, Lisas Gardens, Couva home yesterday, mother, Farisha Mohammed, 49, said she was a “good child” who was looking after her.
“Everybody does say their child is a good child but my ‘mama’ was really a good child,” Mohammed said, even as she held her daughter’s identification card in her hands. Langtoo was the fifth of seven children and recently joined EPL Security Services.
Langtoo’s funeral is expected to take place at her Lisas Gardens home today at 3 pm.
The 380 murder toll represents a steady increase in murders since 2011, which had 352 murders, and 2012 which had 379.
Acting Commissioner of Police Stephen Williams at a recent Women’s Institute of Alternative Development (WINAD) forum had projected 399 murders for the year.
Speaking with Newsday yesterday, Williams stressed he was making a projection and not a “prediction” as had been reported in the media.