THE CRIMINALS ARE SENDING A STRONG MESSAGE

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What has our beloved country come to? Can you believe that killers have become so brazen that they don’t think twice about shooting a doubles vendor dead in full view of the public? Well, believe it. It has happened. And to make matters worse the gruesome murder took place at the very busy Curepe Junction last Saturday night. Shazard Mannick was serving doubles at the famous Sauce Doubles Stand when gunmen walked up to him, shot him dead in front of all of his customers and then ran off. Mannick reportedly witnessed a murder some time before and had expressed fears to relatives that he would be targeted next. In fact, he had reported to police that he was being threatened by killers at the very place his life was taken away.

Shazard Mannick is not the first state witness to be killed in recent times. Fearless killers seem to be thriving off of the less risky task of snuffing out defenceless state witnesses as opposed to robbing businesses. On a number of occasions recently we were sickened by the news of individuals, who were later identified as state witnesses in various crimes, being gunned in broad daylight, in full view of the public. Candy Ann McIntyre was shot dead in Santa Cruz in early June with her young son at her side. A month earlier, Veronica Franco, who was a witness in a double murder, was shot dead while attending a birthday party in Barataria. And the list goes on and on. Dozens of individuals have met the same fate in the last few years but no one has seen it fit to take drastic steps to protect them.

It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that these killers are murdering state witnesses for all to see for a simple reason. To send a strong message. That is, if you see something and you talk, you will die! It’s intimidation in the highest order. And with the breakdown of law and order, it has become easier to have people killed like flies without consequence. Murderers for hire are confident of getting away with their crimes although they are committed in public. They know the weaknesses of law enforcement and the strengths of their connections to ensure they are protected. The criminals it seems, remain one step ahead of the law every time.

One may ask why aren’t the defendants in particular cases where state witnesses are killed, held responsible. They are the ones likely to benefit from the demise of a witness against them. While that may be so, a good lawyer can argue that it is purely circumstantial.

We are also concerned with the numerous cases in which witnesses are being directly threatened into silence. They are intimidated into silence, for fear that they or their families could become the country’s latest murder. Sadly, we have no laws in place to deal with witness tampering. Police Commissioner Griffith and his team have been clamouring for the public to come forward with information to help break the back of criminality. See something, say something is the slogan being pedalled. But at what expense? The criminals also have their slogan written on a bullet – See Something, Say Something, Die like a Dog. This is where Trinidad and Tobago has reached.