Minister ‘glad’ prisoner was shot
PORT OF SPAIN –– “I am glad they got him.”
This was the response of Minister of National Security Carl Alfonso yesterday to the murder of prison escapee Hassan Atwell, 41, at the hands of warring gangsters.
Alfonso made the statements while speaking to members of the media following the Trinidad and Tobago Regiment’s 53rd anniversary celebrations at the Holy Trinity Cathedral yesterday.
On Friday, prisoners Atwell, 41, Christopher “Monster” Selby, 30, and Allan “Scanny” Martin, 42, broke out of jail.
Police Constable Sherman Maynard, 27, was shot during the jailbreak and died while undergoing emergency surgery.
Martin was shot dead by police on Friday, while Atwell was murdered yesterday morning.
Selby gave up himself to Belmont police yesterday after this interview.
Alfonso said somebody must be held culpable for the trio’s escape.
He said the police investigations into the jailbreak were ongoing.
“Well, the investigations are continuing and that is under the Deputy Commissioner of Police [Glenn] Hackett, and I would not want to comment on how things are going because the investigations are not yet completed,” Alfonso said.
Alfonso, however, expressed pleasure that Atwell had been shot dead.
“I am glad they got him,” Alfonso said.
Alfonso said if Atwell had not been killed by gangsters, law enforcement officials would have got him.
“The law enforcement agencies would have found him anyway at some stage.
“It just happened that he happened to be probably in the wrong place at the wrong time and he was killed.”
Alfonso slammed those who supported the jailbreak.
“There are still some people who support bad things and there are some people who would love to see prisoners escape, but law enforcement people are not there to allow people to continue to do wrong, and if any wrong is being done then we must be on top of the situation,” Alfonso said.
Alfonso said those responsible for aiding the escape of the trio will be dealt with.
“There was a breakdown in security; that is clear. There was a breakdown and, as I said, investigations are continuing.
“Somebody must be held culpable and somebody will be dealt with,” Alfonso said.
Speaking to reporters yesterday following the death of Atwell, Hassan Atwell said: “My father is no monster.”
Atwell said the public was only seeing one aspect of his dad. He appealed for all photos of his father being circulated on social media to be removed.
Atwell was at his home at Priam Street, Diamond Village, San Fernando, where his father lived before being incarcerated six years ago at the Port of Spain prison in Frederick Street.
Atwell, 23, is the eldest of his father’s five children. He said he was first aware of the elder Atwell’s death via social media.
On Friday, Atwell’s father, along with 42-year-old Allan “Scanny” Martin, one of the men on trial for the kidnap and murder of Xtra Foods CEO Vindra Naipaul-Coolman, and Christopher “Monster” Selby, 30, escaped from the Port of Spain prison.
Martin was killed in a shoot-out with police.
The senior Atwell had a string of charges against him, including kidnapping, possession of a firearm, robbery and sexual assault.
Atwell said: “It has been distressing on the family, especially going up on Facebook, on social media and seeing a family member dead and persons sharing it all over, especially with my eight-year-old brother who is on Facebook and seeing these things. So it obviously is messing with him.”
He said: “I guess a lot of people don’t know my father. We always see these situations where persons always make comments and then somebody from the family would come up and say ‘nice boy’ and this that and the other. There is always another side to people that I guess the media would not carry, that I guess people on the outside who don’t have a personal relationship wouldn’t see.”
Atwell said: “He [his father] was there for six years without having his case started and that would have been frustrating. He was the kind of person he wouldn’t have wanted to bring distress to our family in any way whatsoever and I guess he wanted his freedom. I am not saying it was the right thing that he did; we are not saying that whatsoever; but people just have to understand that there is more in the mortar than the pestle.”
Atwell called for an improvement in the justice system.
He said: “Coming out of all of these, we really need to see the justice system in Trinidad and Tobago improve because we have a lot of similar cases with persons not guilty, they are innocent until guilty, who are behind bars and are waiting for their court dates. I think it is time that our leaders step up to the plate and deal with the issues
that are affecting the citizens of Trinidad and Tobago.”
Atwell described his father as a very religious person and “the glue of the family”.
Before his arrest, the elder Atwell owned a religious store on Coffee Street, San Fernando.
The last time Atwell spoke to his father was maybe a week ago and his father encouraged him to keep praying and to have faith in God. He said he had no clue of his father’s intention to break out of prison.
Atwell said: “He never used Islam or the fact that he was a Muslim to advance any kind of terrorism. He is not a monster or this person who was just out to harm people. He really tried. He looked for a job, he opened a store, he did so many things during the course of his life to try and make a better life for himself and for our family, and I guess it is just one thing that led to another, and this end up being his fate. “
Atwell said: “He made everyone happy to be around him, he made everyone smile. I know this sounds so cliché because you would hear all these things in the media any time something like this happens.”
And he said: “The pictures on Facebook, we are asking people to take them down. What is it really doing for people? You are seeing someone dead and you are seeing that people have no respect for the dead whatsoever despite the circumstances. It is somebody’s family, somebody’s father, somebody’ s son, and I don’t think people really understand that.”
The funeral is expected to take place on Tuesday in Gasparillo, where most of Atwell’s family members reside.