“Trinidad and Tobago,” I patiently repeated for the second time.
“What?” She frustratingly retorted.
An unprecedented $3.5 million reward for information on the assassination of prominent state prosecutor Dana Seetahal has failed to rouse any informants. In the week since that gruesome shooting death, the Ministry of National Security offered $2.5 million for any information, topping the initial $1 million offered by Crime Stoppers. The big payout though, according to senior police officials, has yet to produce fruit.
National Security Minister Gary Griffith, in a telephone interview Friday, would not confirm if any eyewitnesses came forward as he said any confirmation from him could put other lives at risk. “If there were any eyewitnesses, I would not say anything because that could affect the individual,” Griffith said. He said, however, police investigators were currently pursuing three aspects of the incident—the closed circuit television (CCTV) footage, information from the Crime Scene Investigators (CSI), and investigations into possible motives.
“If the motive was based on her career or if it was not, we need to bring those responsible to justice for using these acts of violence,” he said. Days after the murder, acting Commissioner of Police Stephen Williams, in his only media briefing so far, made a call for citizens who may have witnessed the incident or who may have information which could assist the police to step forward. But, the Sunday Guardian learned, there has been no response to date.
Co-ordinated cowards are responsible—Griffith
“There is no evidence that this was the work of highly trained individuals; they alighted a vehicle and used a small handgun at close range,” Griffith said. Griffith said media reports into the May 4 killing were dangerous, sensational and seemed to be based on hearsay. “I read one where the police were working on three theories, that is incorrect. Others seem to be giving their own view, that too was incorrect.” He said the incorrect information was creating more fear in the public than necessary.
“It is being made to sound like some sniper waited out on a roof for Dana to pass or it was linked to some Latin American gang killer, that is not the case. This was no hired assassin. “These individuals were cowards and opportunistic, but dangerous. They waited until she was in a dark area and she was a soft target. They may be cowards but they were co-ordinated.” He said the killers would have easily been youths hired by someone to kill Seetahal.
He said the police were intensifying the investigation and providing him with regular updates. Griffith said he already made contact with international allies and was promised assistance if necessary. “It may be that we will not need any foreign assistance, but international bodies have been contacted and are ready.”
Another $1m unclaimed
This is not the first time Crime Stoppers has come forward with a million-dollar reward for information. At the start of the year, the crime-fighting organisation offered a $1 million reward for any information on the November highway heist that claimed the life of Sentinel Security superintendent Bert Clarke. According to published reports, around 4.30 am Clarke and another Sentinel employee were in a marked panel van headed east along the Churchill-Roosevelt Highway en-route from Port-of-Spain to Piarco International Airport.
The security van was reportedly struck from behind by a black Ford Ranger and when the driver stopped, the occupants of the Ranger approached the guards and opened fire. Clarke, who was in the passenger seat, died at the scene while the driver reportedly escaped and ran into nearby bushes. The van was raided and six bags of cash was stolen. The pickup which was used by the gunmen was abandoned. Police found several bags of cement in the tray and it was later identified as a stolen vehicle.
By January, with the crime still unsolved, Crime Stoppers came forward with the reward, but to date, there has been no arrests in that killing.