Miner charged with 12 murders
By Sara Bharrat
Almost eight weeks after the gruesome slaying of 12 persons at Bartica, a 44-year-old resident of the community appeared at the Georgetown Magistrate’s Court yesterday, charged with the murders.
Roger Simon of 25 Fifth Avenue Bartica, a miner and father of nine, was not required to plead to the 12 indictable counts of murder.
After reading the charge to him, Principal Magistrate Melissa Robertson-Ogle carefully explained to Simon that a preliminary inquiry would be conducted to determine whether there was sufficient evidence to commit him to stand trial in the High Court.
Simon stood in court with his head lowered and his eyes red, struggling to control his emotions. He wore a Bob Marley t-shirt with the quote: “Just can’t live that negative way…Make way for the positive way” and many in the courtroom were heard whispering, “Which way did he take?”
After the charge was read, the magistrate asked Simon if he wished to say anything. He declined to make a statement to the court.
It is alleged that on the night of February 17 at Bartica, Simon murdered nine civilians: Edwin Gilkes, Irving Ferreira, Ronald Gomes, Baldeo Singh, Dexter Adrian, Deonarine Singh, Abdool Yassin, Ashraf Khan, Errol Thomas and three police officers; Ron Osborne, Zaheer Zakir and Shane Fredericks.
Simon was remanded to prison and the matter was transferred to the Bartica Magistrate’s Court for May 14.
On the night of February 17 at approximately 9.40 pm, some 20 gunmen attacked Bartica slaughtering one dozen people including three policemen during an hour-long strafing.
It was reported that the gunmen attacked the police station first, killing three policemen and freeing prisoners. They then took the vehicle assigned to the police station on a rampage, terrorising the community and murdering an additional nine persons.
According to previous reports, the gunmen arrived in the area by boats and departed in similar fashion taking with them firearms they had grabbed from the police station and from a mining company.
The attack on the Bartica community came amidst supposedly heightened security across the country following the slaughter of 11 people at Lusignan, East Coast Demerara three weeks earlier.
Police have blamed wanted man Rondell ‘Fineman’ Rawlins and his followers for the attacks.
James Anthony Hyles, 19, called ‘Sally’, of 70 Friendship, East Coast Demerara has been charged with the Lusignan murders. He allegedly killed Clarence Thomas, Vanessa Thomas, Ron Thomas, Mohandai Gourdat, Seegobind Harrilall, Seegopaul Harrilall, Shazam Mohamed, Shalem Baksh, Seecharran Rooplall, Dhanrajie Ramsingh and Raywattie Ramsingh.
In comparison to Hyles’s court appearance, Simon’s was calm and quick. Hyles was taken to court and charged on February 21 and chaos visited the Georgetown Magistrate’s Court on that day.
Before Hyles arrived at court, his relatives and friends were already outside the court compound loudly voicing what they described as “an injustice”. His relatives created a noisy chaotic scene in the courtroom that day and Magistrate Robertson-Ogle was forced to withdraw from the bench for a period of time during which security was enhanced.