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From Akiel to Shannon: Why T&T doesn’t catch murderous predators

From the buggery murder of Akiel Chambers, aged 11, last seen at a children’s party in an upscale house in Maraval, to the smothering of Shannon Banfield, aged 20, last believed to be in a store in Charlotte Street, there are continuous lines of slackness and callous indifference.

Both Akiel and Shannon were innocent victims of a society whose leadership has no interest in participating in anything beyond maintaining a status quo that produces power, wealth and perceived status for certain of its compliant members.

Photo: Murder victim, Shannon Banfield. (Courtesy Loop TT)
Photo: Murder victim, Shannon Banfield.
(Courtesy Loop TT)

It is laughable that the domes and chambers of commerce should be currently issuing pompous statements loaded with emotive adjectives calling on the Government to deal decisively with violent crime when—for more than a decade—they have never rocked the golden political boats carrying lucrative cargoes for them, including juicy State contracts. They have never said a word about the devils in disguise moving freely in the best circles.

Akiel was killed in 1998. The frustration and fear then, and even before, was of the same character as it is now. The additions to it are that greater numbers are affected and many more citizens now know that changing Governments by an electoral process available at five yearly intervals will not result in anything changing for the better.

The question is no longer: “Who we go put?”  It is: “What we go put?”

It is for the citizens to determine and lobby for different governance arrangements, namely structural adjustments as discussed in this column last week, in order to seek different results.

Reference to my collection of these columns, The Daly Commentaries, and the footnotes of historical record compiled by my able editor, Judy Raymond, will remind readers for how long our stagnant and unadjusted political and institutional systems have inevitably produced nasty results.

Such reference will also reveal for how long the elites have been complicit or remained silent—satisfied with the copious pieces of silver and many favours they could collect from those dysfunctional systems.

Photo: Acting Commissioner of Police Stephen Williams. (Copyright Trinidad Guardian)
Photo: Acting Commissioner of Police Stephen Williams.
(Copyright Trinidad Guardian)

One of the many inadequacies that was tolerated—apart from occasional ritual statements like the ones issued this past week—was ineffective policing, including a Forensic Centre that has always been so poorly equipped that it can rarely assist in the detection and prosecution of crime.

As readers know, DNA analysis is a process that evaluates genetic material that can be used to identify persons for courthouse purposes. A towel used to smother a victim will be full of clues.

Sadly, in 2004, I described DNA in Trinidad and Tobago as meaning Definitely Not Available because of the lamentable state of the Forensic Centre in Federation Park. Now the dead bodies and body parts are reportedly so piled up in the Forensic Centre that it is difficult to find a body when required.

From the time of the Akiel shame to the current Shannon outrage, the same dysfunctional conditions have existed. The inevitable decline and descent in chaos is now manifest, but all the warning signs were there and many warning events were taking place.

The few of us who pointed them out were scorned by some of the persons crying loudest now, together with some new limelight hustlers.

Photo: A Trinidad Guardian headline on murdered child, Akeil Chambers. (Copyright Trinidad Guardian)
Photo: A Trinidad Guardian headline on murdered child, Akiel Chambers.
(Copyright Trinidad Guardian)

No one from among persons with clout supported campaigns to have the Akiel Chambers killers brought to justice. The failure to use DNA analysis in that case vividly epitomised the Definitely Not Available label and highlighted the incompetent handling of evidence at the Forensic Centre, an incompetence also revealed in correspondence I pursued with the then Minister of National Security.

There were no protests when two high ranking police officers, both of whom were subsequently promoted, attended a drinks party around the swimming pool into which Akiel was thrown—a scenario I described at the time as Drowning in Slackness.

Whatever process is eventually put in place for the appointment of a Police Commissioner will merely be a victory of form over substance if the ethos of the Police Service and the culture of the country supports or is indifferent to that kind of slackness.

It is necessary to repeat the historical perspective in order to emphasise that we remain governed by the same stultifying electoral process and grossly deficient mechanisms. The resulting decline has been continuous and has accelerated. Nothing new has been attempted to stay the decline, let alone reverse it.

How do we expect to catch the killers of Shannon or anyone else when the disorganisation and slackness of Akiel’s time has been blithely carried forward into Shannon’s time?

Photo: The four-year-old Jenice Figaro was beaten to death in late 2016. (Copyright Trinidad Guardian)
Photo: The four-year-old Jenice Figaro was beaten to death in late 2016.
(Copyright Trinidad Guardian)

That is why Jenice Figaro was so vulnerable and why they cannot or do not want to arrest her killer.

Yes, Pastor Dottin, Shannon’s killing does symbolise all that is wrong with our country. But so did the killing of Akiel and we did not do one thing about it then.

What are the chances now?

About Martin Daly

Martin Daly
Martin G Daly SC is a prominent attorney-at-law. He is a former Independent Senator and past president of the Law Association of Trinidad and Tobago. He is chairman of the Pat Bishop Foundation, a board member of The Little Carib Theatre and Folkhouse and a steelpan music enthusiast.

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76 comments

  1. West iz damn correct de pow pow iz ah big part of the problem!!!Just take ah read of the Scott drug Report!!

  2. The reason why T&T doesn’t catch murderers is the same reason why nothing is improved in Trinidad ….. consequences.
    No one in law enforcement faces any consequences for failure to catch murderers, the murder rate has been steadily increasing and the TTPS murder detection rate has been steadily decreasing during CoP Williams tenure as Police Commissioner, yet he was,recently given yet another extension.

  3. I wonder what rank those two police officers now hold in the TTPS ?

  4. Talk an plenty talk an no action

  5. I thought I heard someone say they caught Akiel’s murderer. Or they know who it is and her died already.

  6. We don’t need explanations, we need swift and decisive action. This place is looking like a secret society that protects predators.

  7. Uh see this article I giving this my ten fingers up… nothing can beat this “raw, hard, cold factual article… the big SAWATEES in high place only care about themselves… from the gruesome death of akiel chambers to ALL the killings over the yrs they show no form of contribution to getting these issues solved… all they does study is rum and roti and wine and dine, and who better at dipping in the cookie jar… smh damn shame

  8. All Trinidadians do is talk, if a rally/riot is held tomorrow and into Carnival to disrupt the country for the justice we deserve VERY FEW will turn up.
    If we want to reclaim our streets to be a safe place sacrifices have to be made.
    Trinidadians are complacent, childish and immature therefore sacrifice is a word that is foreign to this nation.

  9. There are way too many unsolved crimes in our small island. My sister was murdered 10 yrs ago. November 8th 2006. The police knows who did it. But made many excuses for why he was never caught. To this present day, my family are still waiting for justice. I know there are many more like us still waiting. The police are too lackadaisical about their job, this is why crime has become so rampant. The criminals know nothing is being done more than talk ..

    • Funny but my story is the same & the young man is around but ppl won’t sell out each other once they are friends,my husband was killed going into his vehicle, Nov 1st 2009, stray bullet passing through the back of his head,imagine!!!!!on the beach, but police wants the head of West when he called police gang members but none got the real message it’s because gang members do not sell out each other, when police are being investigated West and they hit brick wall, police, they won’t turn in each other, that’s what I got in his message,so they want him go, ppl rather shoot the messenger.

  10. How long does it take for a suspect be traced ? Do we have a DNA lab in Trinidad and Tobago? Are there any trained lab specialist? There are many more questions im sure that can be added pertaining to that. .

  11. Protection coming from high places supported by police incompetence, deliberate or otherwise.

    These two cases have striking similarities from where I sit.

  12. ..Failed parties. Failed State. And worse to come

  13. Time to gripe about the attitudes of the general public, including you and me. Criminals are just members of the general public who have not learned how to co-operate and function in society. Blame the parents, teachers, educational system and society at large. You don’t like the government or the opposition — time to start getting political and fight for what you think is right, found a new party or join an existing one and put it on the right track.

  14. A pretty pointless rant.
    Crime essentially results from the perpetrators’ own lack of respect for human life or property. That is something one learns in the family and in society around one. Policing and punishment cannot prevent people not learning to respect life or property.
    If the people of the island bring up so many badly-brought-up humans, then there is something seriously wrong with society, not with the government! For one, less religion and more ethics teaching at schools would help. Teachers and parents cannot expect children to respect them if they do not respect their cheildren and pupils. Parents who are not polite cannot expect their children to be polite. Spend less time praying and more time talking to your family and neighbours. Help those who are less fortunate than yourselves. It is up to everyone in a country to make things work, not just up the “government” or the “authorities” or whatever.

  15. I’ve never read anything from Kevin Baldeosingh that is asinine or thoughtless so maybe I missed this one. Kevin is thought provoking but he causes us to face the truth as a nation.

  16. forgive me eh, i have to post a comment written to me on this subject of crime and danger in trinidad. cause the irony to day alone is extreme= given the flurry of articles in a few days.

    the writer himself did “how to stop murders” . “the danger of protecting man and child” , then there is “immersed in an orgy of violence” , shannon banfield, dana seetahal, and vehicular homicides, but still…. >>

    [Kevin Baldeosingh: ” Care to identify what places and its people are violent and brutal and dangerous Maven Huggins? Or would that leads to unwelcome pondering?”]

  17. Where’s the report on Faris’ children and the legality of them holding assault rifles? Didn’t’ the TTDF say that it was only going to take a week to compile?

    Guilty or not, the perception of privilege and immunity based on wealth or social standing is what is contributing to lawlessness in this society; the application of the law to some and not all.

  18. “…political boats carrying lucrative cargoes for them, including juicy State contracts.” That quoted line says it all, any one care for some Trinidad Orange Juice?

    With reference to the general discussion on crime, what do you expect from policy makers who are bereft of ideas? Ministers of National Security from the TTDF have been dismal failures, yet they keep getting picked to ‘captain the side’. Major-Gen Dillon for example, has not brought one piece of legislation to Parliament to treat with the many issues facing National Security. So many laws require amendments, so many new laws needed, the DNA bank needs to be developed, merging the Licensing Office database with the Police’s etc. There’s so much to be done, and yet all he can speak about is more joint army and police patrols; this tells me that this man is totally out of his depth.

    Not the current Min of Nat Sec alone, but past Ministers as well, and that is why we are battling with issues that should have been treated with decades ago. UNC/PP/PNM/COP have all failed miserably.

    Perhaps it is in the best interest of some for the institutions to fail; not just the Police, but BIR, Customs, Port security, the Coast Guard, and Immigration (did someone say Chinese?). What about Town and Country and building inspectors?

    What about $330 million for 50 ambulances for 5 years? And they say we doh have money?! One ambulance will cost us just over 6 million dollars for one year, is anyone kicking up a fuss?

    The problem worsens when political tribalism gets involved, for then, it doesn’t take money to purchase favour but a red or yellow jersey. “It is not bad when we own do it…” How many investigations have been buried under 6 feet of time by the CoP’s office and the DPP?

    The billions gained from contracts, rents and contrabands can go a long way in purchasing favour, especially when police and politicians go cheap these days.

  19. Earl Best

    I think this piece speaks a lot of truth but I hate the way it ends. Can it be that we are playing right into the hands of those against whom we rail when we accept – if only by implication – that we rail in vain?

    For those genuinely concerned with improving our lot – and I have no doubt, Martin, that you are among them, public resignation is NOT an option. Andthe fact that you are still discussing Akiel’s murder a decade later tells me that you will NOT resign even if you may appear temporarily to do so.

  20. In Trinidad and Tobago the rich, influential and wealthy are not investigated with the same ferocity as the ordinary. The systems are also in a mess therefore expect no justice.

    • the reality is we gripe about all the wrongs but do nothing, we are simply pockets of persons or disparate groups who gripe about issues for a day or two , and it dies. we do not hold those in high offices accountable for all their wrong doings, whether it be politicians, businessmen , contractors etc the list in too long. when will we as a people stand for something?

  21. They need to look at the big boys with money to cover their crimes.

  22. Criminal minds continue to be spawned on an increasingly automated conveyor-belt of dysfunctional homes governed by absentia or clueless or could-care-less parenting, yet, the weight of responsibility falls to the national intitutions without an equally consistent intervention to stem the flow of criminal minds that continue to be spawned on an increasingly automated conveyor-belt of dysfunctional homes governed by absentia or clueless or could-care-less parenting.

    • What the government can do to help rebuild family and community life is definitely a conversation worth having. Of course all the responsibility here won’t be the government’s alone.
      In my opinion, society must operate with a carrot and stick approach. And we have neither carrot nor stick.
      Too little opportunities for people who want to make something of themselves and just as little chance of being caught if they decide to be menaces to society.

    • Lasana, I agree! And I. The meantime we solve crime and stop making it a political and class issue. Find Mr Big, prosecute he and his friends and cut off the pipeline of drugs, Money laundering, illegal guns, tax evasion, rape, murders, etc

    • White colllar crime has been pervasive in this country for decades…governments have come and gone….
      The police, the courts, customs, the integrity commission and other law enforcement agencies remain sterile in retrieving millions of stolen tax payers $$$$$…

    • Brian The skill and resources are there I’m sure… G.A.T.E. funded higher ed and partnerships with Scotland Yard & other fancy outfits as well as billions allocated annually in fiscal disbursements to NatSec. the will… the nuts… the testicular fortitude… well, that’s quite another story. #WhosGonnaSkinTheSerpent

  23. I still ache over Sean Luke…RIP…

  24. Because somebody getting paid off

  25. excellent article, on point in every way,but who has the testicular fortitude to stand up and say enough is enough. What is the TTPS doing.?Report to us . Update us as to where the hundreds of unsolved cases are at. The DPP cannot do anything unless the Police do their jobs. The acting commissioner is a dead horse and apparently has no leadership acumen to lead his men. That is what Seales and his Association should be doing, leading by example, not demanding payments, for what job. You all have solved less than 0.01 % of cases. Suddenly everyone in the TTPS wants to be a lawyer, so where are the detectives, forensic, ballistics personnel?Invest in training some of them. We have been doing the same things over and over and getting no results. Pressure the Opposition to halt comedy hour and get on board with the government for an holistic approach to the runaway crime in this country. The criminals are laughing at us while the country and citizens are under siege and living in fear. For too long Chambers of commerce, businesses, NGOs and other organizations and have sat quietly looking on or

  26. The sex rings and trafficking rings clearly implicate some powerful people, so of course nothing will ever be done. No “kingpins” go to jail in T&T.

  27. All true and you better pray for someone with the balls to do something about it as soon as tomorrow or there will come a point of no return, if it has not been reached already, and Trinidad and Tobago will become another Haiti, with lots of very poor people, very rich people, little or no middle class and so much corruption and crime no one is safe. The thing that has been saving this nation has been oil and that’s not bringing home the bacon any more.

  28. Crime solving rate is part poor policing and part citizens not giving information.

    Problem with certain cases is corruption and tampering with evidence or dragging investigations inevitably.

    But corruption is the main issue.

  29. Well said. There is a collective guilt of indifference on the part of the citizenry of our twin island state.

  30. I say it over. And over we have a set of qualified lettered leaders whose main attribute is to turn up at the right time for the PR . They repeat the same words with nothing behind it ,eunuchs .
    Look you will see them for Christmas using those who are poor and in need , taking out pictures, giving them plastic Chinese toys ,apples and sweets . Politicians and businessmen ,the former most likely never put out a cent but make supporters put out .
    They never think about the nepotism ,wastage,corruption,mismanagement tat affects us every day
    The party,my partners and my profit are it .

  31. Ironically…both incidents were in the property of two different businessmen !

  32. The death penalty is still on our books. I’m not seeing the connection between that and the big drug lords, containers of money and drugs, drugs down Monas, corrupt politicians and public servants….

  33. Failing state…
    Protective services
    Justice system
    Education system
    Family..
    Values..
    Not in any particular order..

  34. There will be no change, none, nada, naught, zero, zilch until the citizens of TT decide that they will be objective in their assessment of stewardship and speak up outside of political drivel. Martin Daly is spot on again .

  35. Since the time of the scott report on the police service and crime, prof deosaran report on police service reform and papers by the Canadian former deputy cop jack ewatski sucessive govt have done very little to address the inconsistencies and inefficiencies of the service by treating the issue with the same solution which produced no tangible results. What we are witnessing is a total collapse of law enforcement since the incompetence and ineptitude is most glaring by the failure to seriously address the spiraling crime problem . The real question is why has the government past and present continue to ignore the recommendations made to improve the police service after much deliberation and tax dollars were spent to conduct all these case studies on reform? Comedian george carlin said it best that politicians never say things they always indicate an intention to do something to the extent nothing gets done . So perhaps by this indication one can infer that the indication of the govt to tackle crime will just amount to nothing…..

  36. Renee, it is absolutely mind boggling.

    There’s shit out there that our vulnerable women need to know!!!

    I could share shit here that will make women cringe!!!
    No one cares till it reaches home 🙁
    Why, why , why is there a total lack of action??
    Hopeless is a pretty shitty feeling!

  37. TnT police service does only give themselves praise for small crime bust like seatbelts, brakes lights, breathalizer, petty theft like them KFC bandits allyuh see hw fast they caught them fellas huh great job officers lol, but yuh see rape, murder, big drug trafficking, money laundring, kidnapping, missing persons etc nothing in the news about arrests for these crimes. Come on we need to start bk that death penality n modify some of our laws to match the rising crime rates before it gets out of hand.

  38. Probably the people who are doing the investigation s are the ones who are supposed to be investigated. They just charged a retired cop with sexually assaulting a 5 year old

  39. Considering that crimes are committed openly with no consequences (even in the presence of the police) it is a bit of an over reach to expect the more hidden crimes to be solved.

  40. This article hit the spot for me… it reflects what many have articulated. The question, now, is what actions and solutions and enforcement etc are we prepared to take to resolve this grossly disappointing problem of poor crime detection/resolution rate?

  41. Becuz most of their livelihoods are in jeopardy now..its hitting not just rhe small man, but them as well