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Human rights  EXECUTED: Ramesh Radcliffe  Letter writers Golo found dead

 

Enterprise taxi driver murder
'Jungle Commando' freed at PI, rearrested

Shawn Richardson

Magistrate Brassington Reynolds on Thursday freed Shawn Richardson called 'Jungle Commando' following the Preliminary Inquiry (PI) into the 2003 murder of Enterprise taxi driver, Vivekanand Nandalall.

However, police rearrested the Bachelor's Adventure resident minutes after the decision was handed down, in a move which the man's lawyer describes as improper.

Up to yesterday afternoon, Richardson was being held at the Vigilance Police Station lockups. His lawyer George Jackman said that until the Director of Public Prosecu-tions (DPP) orders the magistrate to continue the PI the police's continued detention of his client could be deemed illegal.

Stabroek News could not ascertain from the police whether this was done, although one senior officer hinted that such a move was being considered. Jackman said yesterday he made attempts to find out whether the DPP had so instructed the police but was unsuccessful. He said should the DPP give such instructions the police would have to charge Richardson afresh with the crime.

Jackman, a former DPP, said that at the end of a PI if the magistrate discharges the case the DPP has the power to write to the magistrate requesting the records of the hearings and the statements. He said if after going through the records the DPP is of the opinion that a prima facie case was made out, the DPP could write to the magistrate requesting that he reopen the case and continue the PI.

Vivekanand Nandalall

Reynolds, Jackman said, discharged the matter at the end of the prosecution's submissions. He said he had not yet made any no-case submission.

In November 2004, Richardson, who was picked up during a police raid in Buxton, appeared at the Vigilance Magistrate's Court charged with the murder of Nandalall. The taxi driver had been killed sometime between October 2003 and March 2004.

Richardson, who is 26 years old, resides in Bachelor's Adventure, East Coast Demerara.

Nandalall was kidnapped in October 2003 and his uncle paid a sum of money as ransom but the taxi driver was not released. His kidnappers later murdered him and his skeletal remains were found in the cane field behind Bare Root, ECD.

In early July 2004, DNA tests conducted in Canada confirmed that the skeletal remains, which had been found in Bare Root were those of the taxi driver.

Jackman said yesterday that the police had gotten a confession statement from Richardson, which did not connect him to the man's murder. The attorney said that during the PI the police led evidence, with their main weapon being the confession statement.

Jackman said relatives of the deceased as well as two policemen testified. He argued that during cross-examination neither the police nor Nandalall's relatives could say for certain that Richardson was the one who killed the taxi driver. The lawyer said that one of the policemen even admitted that it was possible that Nandalall could be elsewhere while it was being reported that he was killed.

"No one knows whether any DNA test was done because no DNA evidence was presented to the court," Jackman said. He said even if a DNA test was done, he would not have agreed for it to be admitted as evidence in court because it could not be proven whether it was authentic. Jackman said the police said the DNA testing was done in Canada and they were trying to get an official from Toronto to come here and testify but this never happened.

"We waited for several months and no one showed up and so I argued that it was not fair for my client to be incarcerated for years without any proper trial."

Jackman said there were several adjournments because of the absence of the Cana-dian official and so on Thurs-day Magistrate Reynolds discharged the case as a result of a lack of evidence.

However, the attorney said, as soon as Richardson exited the courtroom he was rearrested handcuffed and dumped in the lockups at Vigilance. His re-arrest caused a mini protest in front of the police station with scores of Buxtonians standing outside calling for his release.

Nandalall, who was 20-years-old at the time, was kidnapped while making a pick-up in Bachelor's Adventure. His car was found abandoned on the Annandale Railway Embankment Road and his family was contacted by the kidnappers who demanded ransom of $1 million. His family paid the ransom but he was never freed despite continuous pleas.

On March 12, 2004, a Guysuco field supervisor found the skeleton, with one bullet hole to the skull, about a mile and a half south of the Bachelor's Adventure Squatting Area. There was no other evidence than that of a lock of hair on the skull, which indicated that the deceased was of Indian descent. Relatives had confirmed to this newspaper that they had received the results of the DNA test, which was done in Canada via Multi-Tech Laboratory in Guyana. The results showed there was a 99.94% probability that the skeleton was that of Nandalall.

An autopsy on the skeleton revealed that Nandalall died as a result of gunshot wounds to the head. A .38 warhead was found in the skull, one of the man's relatives reported at the time.

Jackman said during the PI the police had taken a firearms expert to court, who testified that Nandalall was shot with a .32 revolver. He said this contradicted earlier statements, which suggested that his killer used a .38 revolver.

The attorney argued that the police had no circumstantial evidence to prove that Nandalall was killed by Richardson, adding that they were wholly basing their case on the confession statement. The lawyer said his client was made to sign a statement, which he could not read and it did not prove whether the taxi driver was dead.