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—-Paul Slowe underscores need for thorough investigation into Brickdam fire
Retired Assistant Commissioner of Police, Paul Slowe said notwithstanding an alleged confession by the suspected arsonist, there needs to be a thorough investigation into the fire that destroyed the Brickdam Police Station last Saturday.
Slowe’s statement comes even as some citizens continue to bore holes into the alleged confession given to police investigators on Sunday. Clarence Greene – a 29-year-old Princess Street man, who is a suspect in an armed robbery case, is alleged to have started the fire while being detained the Brickdam Police Station. In his alleged confession, Greene told investigators that he tore off a piece of sponge from a mattress in the cell that he was in, hooked it on a piece of wire, and lit same with a cigarette lighter and pushed it through a ventilation hole in the cell at Brickdam.
In a social media post on Monday, Slowe said there seems to be a belief that because the police have secured a confession there in no need for any further investigation.
“Let me say without fear of contradiction that a ‘confession’ does not obviate the need for a proper investigation: As a matter of fact, given what is stated in the release about the manner in which the fire was started, a proper investigation is needed to gather evidence (physical and scientific) to either corroborate or dispel the story as told by the confessioner,” Slowe reasoned.
He submitted that the ‘confession’ may not stand legal scrutiny, as have happened on numerous occasions. “There goes the case If happens,” he posited.
In the initial statement issued by the police, two prisoners, who were placed in the same cell as Greene when they were transferred to the Sparendaam Police Station, alleged that Greene confided in them what he had done.
But Slowe said the duo at anytime can change their statements.
“Even the statements, which are said to have been provided by the two other persons who were in the lockup will be seriously challenged. They may even retract their statements,” he posited.
The retired Assistant Commissioner of Police said he knows of a case in which the High Court threw out all of the confession statements taken by the police.
“I am aware of a felony murder which took place on the East Coast of Demerara sometime in the 70’s. Confession statements were obtained from all the suspects. At the trial in the High Court all the confession statements were thrown out as it was held that the Judges’ Rules were not followed in the taking of the statements. Despite that, all the accused persons were convicted and sentenced to death. They subsequently faced the hangman. I mentioned that to say that investigations should not depend solely on confessions,” Slowe recalled.
Prior to the confession allegedly given by Greene, President Irfaan Ali had vowed to seek international assistance to aid the investigation as he drew a link between statements made in the US and the fire.
“The investigation for this fire is still ongoing but I am concerned, and I think out of concern, out
of an abundance of caution at this very early stage, we will no spare no effort in reaching out for international support,” the President had assured the nation.
But while Slowe applauded the announcement made by President Ali, he expressed concerns that the police were destroying evidence in their quest to clear the Brickdam Police Station’s compound of debris.
“Shortly after [the president’s statement], I saw a video of heavy duty machines in the Brickdam compound clearing the fire debris. I was alarmed. How can you be removing the debris from the fire scene before the investigation? Should the scene not be treated as a crime scene until the investigators determine otherwise?” Slowe, the former chairman of the Police Service Commission said.
He added: “My training and experience tell me that the area should be secured to ensure that the scene is not tampered with. That is the only way a proper investigation can be conducted.”