There is a saying that the longest rope has an end. In Guyana old people say “Moon does run till day ketch am” and so it was with Rondell Rawlins, the country’s most wanted man for almost a decade.
There is also a saying that he who liveth by the sword shall die by the sword.
Rawlins came to notice in the wake of the infamous prison break of Mash Day 2002 when five men escaped by killing one prison officer and leaving another to be a vegetable.
With these men on the loose they added a new dimension to crime. Instead of handguns, assault rifles came into use—deadly use. The assault rifle of choice was the deadly AK-47.
The so-called Phantom Squad also came into being and bodies dropped like flies, only to be picked up in some unlikely places—the back of the Botanical Gardens, on stretches of roadway close to the University of Guyana, and close to the home of the United States Ambassador and on the seawalls.
By August 2002 one of the escapes, Andrew Douglas, had died and his body was found in a car on the East Bank Demerara Public Road.
Rawlins was not too famous then. Others, Shawn Gittens, Shawn Brown, Romel Reman, Mark Fraser, Mark Phillips (Big Batty), Dale Moore, Troy Dick, and others surfaced. These all died violently, particularly after they had kidnapped a city businessman who managed to escape.
However, this is about Rawlins, a very good-looking young man who it is said became a criminal when the police killed one of his friends who had been suspected of committing a murder, in his bed in Agricola.
I met Rawlins in 2005 on the Railway Embankment in Buxton after he had angrily stated that Kaieteur News was reporting that he had done a lot of things when he had done nothing of the sort.
I still hear the words, “Is a long time I ain’t do nutten.” I somehow managed to convince him that there was no need for him to lash out.
He fell from my radar for a long time but there were reports that he was responsible for some brutal killings. He was fingered in the beheading of an Agricola resident named David Barrow called ‘Gurple’ and the killing of a young woman, Shamika Boyce, and a deportee.
Then he was fingered in the Agricola slaughter in which some guards attached to the Mazda Mining Company perished as well as two old folks and some others in Agricola. One of the victims of that slaughter was found by a fence across the road.
I remember being at work and getting a call that ‘Fine Man’ had just shot up the police headquarters one night in January.
I wanted to know how people identified him and to this day I still can’t but hours later there was the slaughter at Lusignan, East Coast Demerara. Eleven men, women and children died on January 26, 2008.
In the days after that incident a man purporting to be Rawlins called Kaieteur News. I asked him about the Lusignan slaughter and he admitted to committing that act, as he said, in retaliation for his missing woman, Teneisha Morgan. He said that he wanted people to know what it felt like to lose a child and Teneisha Morgan was carrying his child.
One day he called me to tell me that his girl was walking along some river. I called the police and to their credit they put up an aircraft but came up blank.
He maintained telephone contact with me explaining that he had tracked his woman to Nickerie, that she had called him to inform him that he had a daughter named Jada.
During one of the telephone conversations he told me that he had just called on the police to inform him of the whereabouts of his woman and the policeman who answered the phone told him to F*** off”. He was livid.
The Bartica massacre followed not long after but by then Rawlins had stopped calling me. I knew that his days were fast drawing to a close when the police raided his camp at Christmas Falls after they had flushed him out of Buxton; then they raided his camp at the back of Beterverwagting and chased him from a location along the trail leading to Kwakwani when they killed Cecil Simeon Ramcharran (Uncle Willie) and a teenaged killer named Robin Chung aka Chung Boy.
Just a few days ago I told one of my colleagues that the police would get him before the end of the year. His hideouts were being raided in quick succession and many people were not keen to harbour him.
I came to that conclusion when I learnt that people were reporting on every sighting and that the police were responding.
Police Commissioner Henry Greene further reinforced my view when he said that ‘Fine Man’ and his gang run at the first sight of the police, that they do not stand and fight. This bit of news certainly emboldened the police.
This time around I heard that he was protected by Sean Grant, whom he killed a few scant hours before he met his comeuppance. He believed that Grant was the last person to ‘rat’ on him. He was known to deal violently with people who betrayed him.
But there is another side to all this. The gunmen were superstitious. They went to Suriname and got what they called ‘booy’ that protected them from bullets.
There was one man in 2003 who really thought that he had protection and actually tried to spring as a prisoner from the Magistrates’ Court in Charlotte Street. A policeman dropped him easily.
At one stage, there were ranks who actually believed that ‘Fine Man’ had magical protection because they said that they shot at Rawlins repeatedly and missed while they killed others. The charm certainly did not work on Thursday.
And to crown it all, Rawlins had malaria at the time he died. Without treatment he would have died anyway.
For now, though, the nation must be breathing a long sigh of relief because the man whom they feared the most is now dead. And full credit must go to the police who quietly went about their business. They too must be happy.
‘Fine Man’s’ eight years on the run has ended and to the best of my knowledge, I can think of no other gunman who managed to survive for so long while going about his business of dealing death.