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…Seven months after Henry boys families still searching for answers in their quest for justice
By Svetlana Marshall
Who was the mastermind behind the brutal killing of the Henry cousins? That is the single most important question the relatives and friends of the late Isaiah and Joel Henry want the Guyana Police Force to answer.
The question lingers despite the fact that three suspects have been charged and placed before the courts for the grisly murders that rocked the nation last September and gave rise to fiery protest actions along the East Coast of Demerara and the West Coast of Berbice as citizens demanded justice.
“Who were they working for? Who was the mastermind behind it? I would like to know. I would like to know,” Patricia Henry, the mother of Isaiah Henry, said as she sat down for an interview with Village Voice News.
Heartbroken by her son’s tragic end, the grieving mother said while she is not ruling out that the three suspects – 20-year-old Akash ‘Monkey’ Singh; 34-year-old Anil ‘Rasta’ Sancharra; and 30-year-old Vinod ‘Magga’ Gopaul – had a part to play in the heinous crimes, she will not rest until the mastermind is brought to justice.
Singh, Sancharra and Gopaul were charged for the murders of the No. 3 Village teens – Isaiah and Joel Henry – in January, 2021, approximately four months after their mutilated bodies were discovered at the Cotton Tree Backdam, West Coast Berbice (WCB).
The autopsies revealed that Joel, who was 18-years-old at the time, had received 18 wounds across his body, seven to eight chops to the head, and defensive wounds in both palms from a sharp object. It was concluded from those injuries, he fell to the ground, and then received a chop to his back that severed his spine. That chop was 14 inches x 3 and 6 inches deep. There was also evidence that he bit his tongue, and his throat was slit.
His 16-year-old cousin, Isaiah, was also tortured. The teen’s spine was also severed and his wound was 14 inches long, 4 inches wide and 6 inches deep. Isaiah received several chops to his head, and his throat too was slit, almost to sever his head from his neck.
Singh had confessed to the gruesome murders, and in doing so, incriminated Sancharra and Gopaul, both of whom have said they are being wrongfully accused. Singh, in a recorded confession, told the police that the teens were hacked to death for allegedly poisoning a marijuana farm which the trio had planted in Berbice Backlands in August, 2020. According to Singh, the scene of the murder was burnt but not before the bodies were dumped in another location. It is alleged that the accused transported the remains of the murdered teens on a horse to Cotton Tree Backdam, where they were found.
The Preliminary Inquiry (PI) into the case is set to commence on May 3, 2021 at the Blairmont Magistrate’s Court, and the police have signaled their intention to call a total of 27- witnesses to prove that there is sufficient evidence to allow for the three accused to stand trial in the High Court for the capital offence.
For Patricia Henry, the story told by Singh is riddled with loopholes, and the Guyana Police Force, in keeping with a promise made by President Irfaan Ali to leave no stone unturned, must explore all leads.
The grieving mother said weeks ahead of the arrest of Singh and the other two accused, a source close to the investigation had informed the family that the police had garnered tangible evidence and were closing in on the prime suspect – a well-known farmer, who owns a coconut estate on along the West Coast Berbice (ECB) corridor.
Patricia Henry said much to her surprise and disappointment, the police hauled before the Court three “junkies” who are strangers to Cotton Tree and its neighbouring villages. “Even to the DNA, it ain’t match no suspect, but it matched someone [else] but why the police are not telling us who the DNA match, we are the parents, we would like to know all of these things,” she added.
Joel Henry’s mother, Gail Johnson, had told Village Voice News that while she was willing to accept that Singh may have had a hand in the murder, she was not convinced that the other two suspects did.
“The two from Black Bush we are not going to accept because we know is who. We need the righted killer. We need it!” Johnson had said. According to Johnson, not only did Singh confessed, but he once turned up at their residence in West Coast Berbice “to speak out” but he turned back.
WHERE IS THE EVIDENCE?
Gladstone Henry – the father of Isaiah Henry – told Village Voice News that the confessions must be corroborated with evidence.
A mere confession is simply not enough, Gladstone Henry said as he made a case for the police investigators to dig deeper.
“We are asking for a thorough investigation, we are looking for more than just confessions; we are looking for evidence, and we know these boys alone couldn’t do it; there is a mastermind,” he said.
Gladstone Henry said there should be no further delay in the pursuit of other angles of the case. “If they really need to catch these people, they got to do what they are supposed to do right now, they cannot wait, people say beat the iron while it is hot because delay is dangerous,” he posited.
Both Gladstone Henry and his wife, Patricia, expressed disappointment that despite a number of protest actions in front of the Office of the President and the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) earlier this year, the President nor the Police came out to hear their concerns.
“No one had the manners or the audacity to come out and tell us anything, they just ignored us,” Patricia Henry said as she again registered her disappointment in the President, who had assured the family, shortly after the discovery was made, that a thorough investigation would be done.
During the initial stages of the investigation, the Guyana Police Force had received “technical assistance” from the US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), in addition to support from the Caribbean Community’s Implementation Agency for Crime and Security (CARICOM IMPACS) and the Regional Security System (RSS). However, Isaiah’s father believes that had the police capitalized on the assistance the Argentine Team of Forensic Anthropology (EAAF) was prepared to offer, the police would have been able to garner tangible evidence to bring the “mastermind” of the murders to justice.
On that note, the grieving family also expressed disappointment that the Speaker of the National Assembly, Manzoor Nadir, in January, 2021, disallowed a motion intended to have Assembly condemn the WCB murders, and order international investigation.
A Partnership for National Unity + Alliance For Change (APNU+AFC) Member of Parliament, Geeta Chandan-Edmond had tabled the motion with eight whereas clauses seeking to garner support for enhanced investigations into the murders of the cousins and their friend Haresh Singh, however, the Speaker in disallowing the motion, said the matter was engaging the attention of the Court, and is therefore considered sub judice.
Further, as the PI into the charges brought against the three identified suspects, the family is worried that the case is likely to experience a number of challenges due to the lack of technological equipment at the Blairmont Magistrate’s Court to facilitate remote trials.
Due to measures implemented as a result of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the Courts have largely resorted to remote hearing in Guyana, however, the Blairmont Magistrate’s Court, where the Henry Boys Case is being heard, does not have the equipment to facilitate a Skype or Zoom type trial. Village Voice News understands that the Court has resorted to the use of a cellphone to facilitate the hearing of the case.
Already, the Counsel for the Defence, Dexter Todd, has indicated that the defence will not participate in that PI unless the accused persons have unhindered access to the remote system; can understand what is happening and can speak to their lawyers confidentially and give them instructions as the PI progresses. Todd has said that the defendants have a right to a “fair trial.”
WHO FEELS IT KNOWS IT
Meanwhile, as the Henry family continues to search for answers in their quest for justice, the reality of their loved ones being brutally murdered is now taking its toll.
“It is getting more serious now; it is affecting us now, it is soaking in right now, and it is worse than before. Every time you get a flash back of what happened on that day, the way how these two innocent boys died, such a horrible way, it hurts,” the grieving father said.
His wife remains fearful that if the “real perpetrator” or the “mastermind” of the crime is not caught, her other children, grandchildren and or other relatives could be the next target.
“I am very fearful. My son cannot go to school because he is afraid because…you don’t know who they will attack next,” the grieving mother said while questioning why she should live in environment where she is made to constantly look over her shoulders. Patricia and her husband have vowed never to rest until their son and cousin receive justice.