Fiery Riot at Guyana Jail Leaves Prison Officer Dead and Inmates on the Run

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GEORGETOWN, Guyana, Monday July 10, 2017 – A prison officer is dead and three prisoners are on the run after a fiery uprising at Guyana’s main jail yesterday evening.

The 133-year-old Camp Street prison in the country’s capital was practically destroyed after inmates set fires to several buildings at the prison after 4 p.m., similar to what occurred at the prison in March last year when  17 inmates died.

As the fires spread, the more than 1,000 prisoners in the facility built for 600 were evacuated and held outside the building under heavy guard while arrangements were made to transport them to other facilities.

During the riot, in which a prison officer was reportedly held hostage, five prisoners escaped. While two of the escapees were subsequently shot and captured, Mark Royden Durant, also known as Royden Williams – who is on death row for the Bartica and Lusignan massacres; Uree Varswyck, whose alias is Malcolm Gordon Williams, and was committed to stand trial for murder; and another man who has not been identified, are still on the run.

Roadblocks have been set up as police and joint services launch a manhunt for the escapees who are believed to be armed.

ON THE RUN: Death row inmate Mark Royden Durant, also known as Royden Williams (left) and murder accused Uree Varswyck, alias Malcolm Gordon Williams.

 

Director or Prisons Gladwyn Samuels told reporters last night the fires were set as a distraction while the prison break took place.

Prison officer Odinga Wayne Wickham, who was shot in the chest during the riot, succumbed to his injury at the Georgetown Public Hospital. Several other wardens and two inmates are also being treated at the hospital for gunshot and chop wounds.

The remaining prisoners have been transferred to the Lusignan Prison on East Coast Demerara.

“From reports on the ground the situation is stable,” Samuels said last night.

Some of the prisoners being transported from the burning prison.

 

Public Security Minister Khemraj Ramjattan said about 300 of the inmates would be moved to other prisons today, but there was need to figure out proper accommodation for the remaining 700, as he warned that authorities “have a big crisis on our hands”.

President David Granger added that the government was “acting quickly to ensure that the prisoners are caught, but more [importantly], that those prisoners who were previously accommodated at the Georgetown prison are kept in a secure place”.

“I’m very confident that by Monday morning the prisoners will be in secure accommodation, so Guyanese will be assured that there are not going to be prisoners roaming all about the city or the countryside,” he added.

Granger said authorities were also concerned about the safety of the inmates, and indicated that authorities were trying to confirm whether there were any others dead or injured at the prison.

“From a human point of view, we are anxious that the prisoners, even though some of them might have be responsible for the breakout, are safe from injury and they are kept in a situation overnight at which they can be no menace to society,” the President said.

He also extended his sympathy to the family of the prison officer who was killed.

The Camp Street prison has been the scene of several incidents of unrest in the past few years, many of them including fires being set.

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