Trinidad jailbreak; policeman and prisoner killed
PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad – Just days away from the 25th anniversary of the July 27, 1990, attempted coup, the capital city was thrown into panic and fear yesterday following a jailbreak and the deaths of a policeman and a prisoner.
A prison officer was also injured in the melee that followed the breakout from the Frederick Street prison and two armed and dangerous prisoners are on the loose.
The police presence in Port of Spain and environs was also ramped up considerably as a result, as officers conducted stop-and-search exercises all afternoon in an attempt to locate the escaped men.
According to police reports, around 12.30 p.m. a small group of men entered the Port of Spain prison along Frederick Street to visit a group of prisoners—among them, 42-year-old Allan “Scanny” Martin, one of the men on trial for the kidnap and murder of Xtra Foods CEO Vindra Naipaul-Coolman; Christopher “Monster” Selby, 30; and Hassan Atwell, 41.
A news release from the Police Service last night indicated Selby is facing two charges of murder unrelated to the murder of Naipaul-Coolman.
Sources told Express while in the visiting room, the three named prisoners managed to get their hands on two 9mm firearms and a hand grenade. The men, who were now armed, then pointed their weapons at a group of prison officers and ordered a gate attendant at the jail to open the doors.
With their weapons fully visible, they then ran to a dark blue four-wheel-drive Nissan Navara, which was parked on the roadway outside the prison, in an attempt to flee the scene.
One of the men threw the grenade onto the roadway and it landed in the drain in front of the prison. It did not go off.
The men’s plan, however, hit a snag.
Since Sunday’s attack on at the Port of Spain jail, in which prison officer Otis Johnson was shot and injured, a team of police officers have been stationed outside the jail on a 24-7 basis.
During yesterday’s shift, this team of officers included 27-year-old PC Sherman Maynard.
On observing the commotion, the officers chased the men and there was an exchange of gunfire. There was a short, high-speed chase, and the vehicle the prisoners were in eventually crashed in front of the Port of Spain General Hospital.
The group of men then fled the vehicle and ran into the Port of Spain General Hospital compound in an attempt to evade the police. The officers, however, pursued the group.
There was an exchange of gunfire once again, with the men allegedly grabbing people in the hospital, attempting to hold them as hostages.
However, when the dust settled, Allan “Scanny” Martin was found dead on the ground in front of the security booth. A firearm and a cellphone were found next to his body.
PC Maynard was shot in the stomach during this exchange and he had to be rushed for treatment. He died around 2p.m. on the operating table.
At least two people, including a 43-year-old Princes Town man, have been detained in connection with the escape and are currently assisting the police with their investigation. The 43-year-old was held on the third floor of the hospital.
Police cordoned off the immediate vicinity of the hospital as they continued their search for the escapees.
One female police officer sought comfort on the arms of her colleague, while another police officer reacted harshly.
Outside the Port of Spain prison yesterday, DCP for Crime and Operations Glenn Hackett said: “We have detailed a team of investigators to look at the escape and to look at the shootings of the police officers with respect to bringing those persons to justice.”
The DCP told the media they would be poring over the information they have at hand to examine exactly how the prisoners obtained the firearms, but he could not say with certainty if the police had known about this jail break in advance.
“I had no information that these men were planning an escape, but I had unconfirmed information that somewhere in one of the prisons that there was maybe some escape plan about six weeks ago. (As a result) I placed more police at Maximum Security Prison and the Port of Spain prisons, given that information,” Hackett said.
Justice Minister Prakash Ramadhar and National Security Minister retired Brig Carl Alfonso were also on the scene. Ramadhar indicated it was important to secure the nation’s jails.
Police sniffer dogs were later brought in to check for any further explosive devices apart from the grenade, and crime scene officers also gathered spent shells.
Up to last night, Christopher “Monster” Selby and Hassan Atwell remained at large.
The public is 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, 555 or any police station. (Trinidad Express)