Wednesday, January 22, 2020

T&T: Bandits wear police uniform, hijab in brazen acts

Trinidad Guardian:–  Southern police are now investigating two separate attacks by bandits who “dressed up” to commit their brazen acts in broad daylight within a three-hour span in the division on Monday.

In the first incident, Rio Claro police now have a 24-year-old Gasparillo man who was accused of impersonating a police officer while robbing a feed depot.

Police said around 9.30 am, three men dressed in clothing resembling police uniforms arrived in a black Hyundai Tucson SUV at the depot along San Pedro Road, Rio Claro. They called the owner, Pooran Ramoutar, to the gate and him if they could access his CCTV footage for use in a stolen vehicle matter they were investigating.

Ramoutar, 43, said believing the men to be police he invited them inside. But once inside, Ramoutar was accosted by the bandits who soon tied him up and began ransacking the place for cash and valuables as they also waited on his brother Indar to arrive. When Indar arrived he too was accosted, beaten and tied up. The bandits waved guns in the men faces during the incident, threatening to shoot them as they asked for cash.

Pooran was robbed of $1,900 and a cell phone and his brother of $900. The suspects then disconnected the CCTV system before escaping in the SUV.

Rio Claro CID responded and one of the suspects was held in the Rio Claro district. He remained in custody up to yesterday and is assisting with an investigation. The SUV was later found abandoned.

PC Rakesh Abraham is continuing inquiries as police search for the other suspects.

The brothers told CNC3 this was the seventh time they had been robbed. Following the previous six incidents, they admitted they had barricaded themselves in their business by constructing a 25-foot wall with two levels of barbed wire on top. They also invested heavily in CCTV equipment and said they believe they had exhausted all the options to protect themselves and their business.

Pooran said the spate of robberies were traumatic but he is willing to continue his business. He called on the Police Commissioner to speed up the access to firearm licenses for business owners.

Meanwhile, Tabaquite MP Dr Surujrattan Rambachan says he was disturbed to learn that Gasparillo police did not have any vehicles to respond swiftly to Monday’s jewel store robbery at the Gasparillo Mall by suspects wearing Muslim garb and a coverall.

In a media release yesterday, Rambachan said acting Commissioner of Police Stephen Williams was unsuited for the job, as he does not appear to have an operational style to deal with the current upsurge in crime. He also said Minister of National Security Edmund Dillon appeared to be disinterested and continues spouting “theoretical nonsense in the face of the criminal assault”.

However, Snr Supt of the Southern Division, Zamsheed Mohammed, said Gasparillo police got their first report of the robbery by telephone at 11.58 am. Immediately, he said Sgt Maharaj and a team of officers responded and were supported by San Fernando CID and Marabella police.

A report stated that around 11.45 pm Monday, sales clerk Cheryl Lookoor, 29, was on duty at Precious Gold Designs when two men entered. One wore a black abaya and multi-coloured hijab while the other wore a green coverall with a Trinweld logo, a cap, shades and Jansport knapsack. The suspect in the Muslim garb pulled out a gun from under his hijab, pointed it at Lookoor and told her, “Hear what going on, just throw them thing in this bag real fast.”

Afraid for her life, Lookoor began to fill the bag. Customers and other store employees were unaware of what was going on until the suspect in the coverall pulled out a wrench and began to smash the showcases and loot the jewellery trays. It was at that time that everyone else was made aware of the robbery and fled for their safety. As the suspects left, they fired a few shots at the showcases. By the time police arrived the suspects were already gone.

Investigators said they are working with credible information that may lead to the arrests of the two suspects. The store remained closed yesterday.

Rambachan yesterday also called for more police foot patrols in the business district of Gasparillo. Describing the robbery as a “brazen attack”, he said it was similar to the robbery at RT Jewellers in San Fernando on March 13, in which bandits also brazenly walked into the business, smashed showcases and grabbed everything they could take. While he was thankful no one was injured, Rambachan said the assault by fearless criminals on the hard working business community was too much to stomach.

“The time for excuses is finished. Citizens are fed up and frustrated. Lives continue to be in danger and the authorities and Government are mere spectators to the plight of the citizenry,” Rambachan said.



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