Guyana Officials Say They’ve Got Everything Under Control Following Fiery Riot

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GEORGETOWN, Guyana, Tuesday July 11, 2017 – Guyana’s Minister of Public Security, Khemraj Ramjattan, says authorities have the situation regarding prisoners under control, following Sunday evening’s fiery riot that resulted in the country’s main jail being almost completely destroyed, a prison officer dead and inmates on the run.

The number of confirmed escapees has risen to five, authorities now say.

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 the 2014 murder of a security guard; Stafrei Hopkinson Alexander, charged with the 2015 murder of a businesswoman; and Sherwin Nero, alias Sherwin Moses, all made good their escape from the Camp Street prison in Georgetown during the melee on Sunday.

The latest prisoners to be added to the escapee list: Stafrei Hopkinson Alexander (left) and Sherwin Nero (right).

Death row inmate Mark Royden Durant, also known as Royden Williams (left) and murder accused Uree Varswyck, alias Malcolm Gordon Williams are also on the run.

 

Police Commissioner Seelall Persaud said the identity of the fifth escapee has not yet been confirmed.

Another murder accused, 20-year old Shawn Collins, who had escaped while being transported with other prisoners on Sunday night, was recaptured in the vicinity of the prison in the early hours of yesterday morning.

Minister of Public Security Khemraj Ramjattan

Following a national security meeting yesterday, Ramjattan sought to assure Guyanese that “we have gotten things under control”.

“We want to ensure that everyone out there is safe and that is our primary concern. We also want to ensure that prisoners are safe because they have their rights too, notwithstanding they’re prisoners, notwithstanding the bad behaviour of some of them. We are getting a number of them working along with us,” he said.

The more than 1,000 prisoners at the 133-year-old jail had to be evacuated as a result of the fire, and were transported to the prison in Lusignan. However, officials had indicated that they would have to be spread out to other jails. Yesterday, the Public Security Minister said decisions have been made about who will go to facilities in Mazaruni and how many would go to prisons in New Amsterdam and Timehri.

“We are also in the process of getting Magistrates to be at Lusignan for the purposes of ensuring that those minor offences, those who were on bail but couldn’t afford it, make the arrangements for the granting of bail on their own recognizance so that we can shift some of them back to their homes,” he added.

“We think that by another 72 hours, we should reduce the numbers from about 1,000 there to about 450 by virtue of what we are doing administratively and by transfers.”

Ramjattan said “a very complex set of arrangements” have been put in place to ensure the comfort of all the prisoners and the capture of those who escaped.

According to Kaieteur News, surveillance cameras at the Camp Street prison picked up six prisoners exiting the facility just before 5 p.m., while opening fire on Tactical Service Unit ranks guarding the compound.

The CCTV cameras picked up Durant and Varswyck with cutlasses in their hands while Alexander was one of the escapees who had guns.

Another inmate, Dennis Williams, was among the prisoners who left the jail but he returned to the penitentiary shortly after.

During Sunday’s riot, prison officer Odinga Wayne Wickham was fatally shot in the chest.

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