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Monday 19 November 2018
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DEADLY JAILBREAK IN PoS

A daring and violent jailbreak in Port-of-Spain yesterday resulted in the death of a young police officer and one of three prisoners who shot their way out of the prison compounds on upper Frederick Street.

Constable Sherman Maynard, 27, was shot by the escapees while on duty outside of the prison. He died of gunshot wounds to his leg and lower abdomen during emergency surgery at the Port-of-Spain General Hospital.

Escapee, Allan ‘Scanny’ Martin, 42, one of a gang of men in the high profile trial for the murder of businesswoman Vindra Naipaul Coolman, was shot to death during a gun battle with the police on the compounds of the Port-of-Spain General Hospital. Two other prisoners who sought to escape through the hospital were able to elude police and remained at large up to press time. They are Christopher “Monster” Selby, 30, and Hassan Atwell, 41, a member of the Carapo branch of the Jamaat-al-Muslimeen and brother of Rajaee Ali, a Portof- Spain prison detainee on gang charges, who has been questioned over the murder of Senior Counsel Dana Seetahal. They remained at large up to press time last night.

Reports are that at 12.30 pm yesterday, the trio used two handguns to fire shots inside the jail demanding to be let out, and upon their escape threw a hand-grenade that failed to explode. They jumped into a waiting car in which they tried to escape further, but crashed at the corner of Gordon and Charlotte Streets virtually opposite the hospital when intercepted by police officers.

The police shot dead Martin in a hospital security booth, while his two accomplices Selby and Atwell made good their escape. Police videofootage of the escape was likely caught on CCTV cameras monitoring the jail. The police immediately launched a massive manhunt for the men, and instituted a lockdown of the area near the jail and the hospital. A helicopter circled constantly overhead, and heavily armed police heightened their presence at the city’s police stations and main points such as the intersection of Frederick and Duke Streets. Sniffer dogs were deployed outside the jail. As news about the incident spread, business places in downtown Port-of-Spain and other parts of the city closed early and sent frightened employees home.

Deputy Police Commissioner Glen Hackett, Minister of National Security Carl Alfonso and Justice Minister Prakash Ramadhar spoke to reporters on Pembroke Street outside the jail, at about 2 pm.

Hackett said investigations are underway and he couldn’t comment on claims weapons were smuggled in to the escapees, or that police stations elsewhere were shot at.

Hackett confirmed Martin’s death.

He said, “Alan Martin, also called “Scanny”, an accused in the Vindra Naipaul-Coolman matter, was one of the escapees. On his bid to escape he fired on the police officers who were on duty around the prison. They returned fire and Martin received injury which he succumbed to at the Port-of-Spain General Hospital.

“However the other two prisoners - Hassan Atwell and Christopher Selby - they are on the loose,” Hackett added, “And we have police officers in a cordon around Port-of-Spain and its environs looking to recapture those two prisoners. We have detailed a team of investigators to look at the escape and to look at the shooting of the police officers, with respect to bringing those persons to justice. The police officer, Constable Maynard, is undergoing surgery right now (about 2 pm), at the Port-of-Spain General Hospital. I cannot at this time tell you whether the injuries are critical or otherwise but it is my understanding that the prison officer sustained slight injuries in the escape of those prisoners.” Asked to comment on how the prisoners were able to escape, Hackett said: “I cannot at this point in time.

An investigation will have to reveal that. We are making inquiries to ascertain how they escaped.” Hackett continued, “It is my understanding that this whole incident started around 12.30 pm today. Now with respect to firearms and ammunition being brought into the prison, as I said, we have commenced an investigation and I would not want to preempt that.” Asked if two guns and a grenade were smuggled into the prison, Hackett said, “It is not my information that that happened but that is not to say that it did not happen, but I cannot confirm or disconfirm that at this time. The investigation will confirm or disconfirm that. The investigators are on their way. The CSI is conducting investigations to retrieve trace evidence and so on. I have sent for the Cyber Crime Unit to take possession of the CCTV footage and so on, and then we have the investigators who will interview persons who will assist them with respect to their understanding of the totality of the circumstances of the escape.” Hackett said, “I had no information that these men were planning an escape, but I had unconfirmed information somewhere in one of the prisons that there may be some escape plan. Six weeks ago I placed at each prison - the Port-of-Spain Prison, the Maximum (Security) Prison and Golden Grove Prison - police officers stationary 24 hours each day, 24/7. It is because of this that we were able to partly stymie the escape-bid, resulting in the fatal injuries to Allan “Scanny” Martin.” Asked whether procedures for visitors at the prisons would be reviewed, Hackett said: “All these matters, given the prevailing circumstances, will have to be revisited, and of necessity we will come up with standard operating procedures, which would redound to the safety of the prison officers, the inmates and those persons who traverse the streets in Port-of-Spain and other places.” He said the manhunt for the escapees was far and wide, looking at all the ports to stultify any attempt to escape the country. Hackett also said that police were mounting road blocks all over Trinidad and Tobago and were also using air support.

Hackett could not say if police stations at Fyzabad and Chaguanas had been shot at.

“I have just heard that by the way but it has not been confirmed.” Hackett said. “If that was so, I think I would have been in a position to confirm or disconfirm.” Inspector Roger Alexander, on TV6 last night, denied shootings at Chaguanas and Fyzabad. Hackett said the alert-level is very high with regard to recapturing the escapees.

“It will be that way until they are recaptured and we bring some sense of normalcy to life in Trinidad and Tobago and ensure that persons are safe and secure in their environment,” Hackett said.

Hackett said it is premature to make any link between the breakout and recent arrests. “It is something that could be explored.” National Security Minister, Alfonso, said, “The police are doing their job.

The law enforcement fraternity will get together and will take control of this country again.” Alfonso appealed to citizens not to panic.

Justice Minister Prakash Ramadhar expressed deep regrets over PC Maynard’s death describing it as “chilling”. He said a heavy police presence outside every jail had mitigated the effects of yesterday’s escape.

He said the day’s events were ironic given an earlier meeting he had with Housing Minister Dr Roodal Moonilal, Prison Officers Association president Ceron Richards and Prisons Commissioner Sterling Stewart to help prison officers access safe housing. He said hand-held scanners are on the port awaiting clearance, and he also advocated the installation of cell-phone jammers in jails.

Ramadhar expected the Naipaul- Coolman trial which has been underway at the High Court for several months would continue, although obviously without Martin.

A statement from the Police Service last night sought the cooperation of the public in their efforts to capture the two prisoners. “Members of the public are being asked to be on the lookout for the men who are deemed to be armed and dangerous, and should contact the police with information at 999 or 555 or at any police station.” The statement also gave some details about the discovery of a hand grenade as an item that was used during the escape. It said that bomb and explosive technicians had to isolate and secure the hand grenade that was found outside the Port-of- Spain Prison following the escape of the three prisoners.

Referring to the three escapees the statement said Martin was a co-accused in the 2006 murder of Naipaul-Coolman whose body was never found.

The police statement said, “Selby faces two counts of murder unrelated to the Vndra Naipaul-Coolman case, while Atwell has a string of outstanding offences against him involving kidnapping, possession of firearm, robbery and sexual assault.

Atwell was in custody pending extradition charges to the United States to face charges of conspiracy to engage in hostage-taking and aiding and abetting the taking of a hostage.” The statement said: “Both Selby and Atwell remain at large. However a 43-year-old man of Princes Town has been held in connection with the escape and is currently assisting the police with their investigation.” Acting Commissioner of Police Stephen Williams, in the statement, expressed sadness over the murder of PC Maynard who would have marked two years of service on August 29.

During the 24 hours before the jailbreak Atwell had made several posts of bravado on social media, such as “If you want to make a mujahid laugh, threaten him with death” and “A true believer would accept death any day over oppression.”

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