ST GEORGE’S, Grenada, Wednesday May 30, 2012 – The location of the mortal remains of slain Grenada Prime Minister Maurice Bishop seems destined to remain a mystery following exhumations by forensic experts in an area of a public cemetery pinpointed as the most likely last resting place of Bishop and seven of his colleagues.
Bones unearthed at the site were not the remains of those killed in the 1983 coup, according to the Grenadian ecumenical organisation leading the search.
“The group found remains, they found bones, but they were easily identified as not belonging to those who were shot on the fort that day,” said Father Seon Doggett, spokesman for the Grenada Conference of Churches (GCC) which is leading the project to determine what happened to the bodies of Bishop and an unknown number of civilians who were executed at the army’s headquarters Fort Rupert, subsequently renamed Fort George.
Over a two-week period that ended last week, a team of forensic anthropologists exhumed remains from a part of the St George’s Cemetery that was identified by witness testimony as the probable location of the bodies.
“It is possible that they might be just outside of that location that was searched. A future search may yield more positive results, but would involve resources well beyond the scope of the Conference,” Father Doggett stated.
He went on to say that the experts are certain the remains are not those of Bishop and the slain seven but took the bones for further testing.
The ecumenical group has been trying to bring closure to the events of October 19, 1983 when Prime Minister Bishop and senior members of his People’s Revolutionary Government were executed at the fort after being deposed in a power struggle.
The GCC, the umbrella organisation for Grenada’s religious community, in collaboration with the Grenada government and St. George’s University, enlisted the services of a nine-member team of forensic anthropologists to conduct a search for the remains of the murdered men and women.
Father Doggett said experts with extensive experience in anthropological research and international crime scene investigations conducted a search on the edge of St George’s Cemetery closest to the National Stadium. The area had been pinpointed by the country’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission and from other testimony as the most likely location of the remains.
“These testimonies include persons who worked with the undertaker at the time of the tragic events,” Doggett said.
Dr Marcella Sorg, leader of the team that conducted the search, will prepare a comprehensive report which will be a permanent record of the history of Grenada, according to Doggett.
The GCC spokesman added that that the GCC is currently in discussions with the victims’ relatives to ascertain their interest in exploring “other possibilities”.
“These possibilities might include some form of memorial, a national event, and/or a monument of some kind that will help to bring closure to this painful period of Grenada’s history,” he said.
The People’s Revolutionary Government, which had deposed Prime Minister Sir Eric Gairy in March 1979, had become divided by late 1982.
As factions loyal to Bishop struggled with those of his deputy Bernard Coard, Bishop was placed under house arrest on October 13, 1983. On October 19, a large crowd released him and marched to the army compound at Fort Rupert.
Troops under the command of General Hudson Austin shot an unknown number of protesters then captured and executed Bishop and seven loyalists, including his education minister Jacqueline Creft, foreign minister Unison Whiteman and housing minister Norris Bain.
Six days later, on the request of Barbados and neighbouring Eastern Caribbean leaders, the United States invaded Grenada and together with regional police and troops restored the country to civilian rule.
Coard, Austin and other civil, political and military figures, who were among 17 people convicted for the killings, were released in 2010 after their death sentences had been commuted to life imprisonment.
The “Grenada 17” claimed they gave no orders for the executions and could not be held responsible for the deaths. They also denied knowledge of where the bodies of Bishop and his ministers and several others were located, suggesting they were buried by invading American troops.
Only Austin has remained silent about his role in the slaughter.