Five inmates who were housed at the Camp Street Prison have escaped and efforts are underway to ensure they are recaptured, Police Commissioner Seelall Persaud has confirmed.
During a late-night press conference with Heads of the security forces, Persaud said that among the five escapees is Royden Williams who was recently sentenced to death for the Bartica Massacre. The other escapee who has so far been identified is Uree Varswyke.
The prison authorities are still trying to ascertain the identities of the other escaped inmates. Once all checks are made of those transferred to other facilities, then the identity of missing prisoners would be revealed.
The inmates used improvised weapons to hold prison officers hostage before seizing their weapons and setting the building alight.
Prison Officer Odinga Wain Wickham, who was shot to his chest died while receiving treatment at the Georgetown Public Hospital.
Director of Prisons, Gladwin Samuels in providing a timeline to how the events unfolded on Sunday said he was first notified of the situation just after 16:30 hours.
Samuels said prisoners set fire initially to two wooden buildings, which quickly spread to others buildings and led to the immediate evacuation of the 1018 prisoners who were held at the facility.
Two prisoners who tried to escape during this process were shot and are being treated at the Georgetown Hospital along with six other prison officers.
The Director said the motive for the fire is suspected to be linked to prisoner Royden Williams’ bid to secure his freedom and he was aided by other inmates in the process.
Samuels said prior to Sunday afternoon’s fire, there was no sign of unrest within the facility.
The Director of Prisons did not escape questions on the 2016 unrest and fire that left several prisoners dead.
Asked about implementation of recommendations from the prison commission of inquiry, Samuels said several of the recommendations had been implemented but some major recommendations were awaiting capital investment.
Meanwhile, President David Granger has appealed for a speedy return to normalcy.
In a televised statement, the President said the priority of the government and security forces are to ensure that displaced prisoners are returned to secure facilities.
As such he commended efforts of the joint services to have those prisoners transported to other holding facilities across the country.
Mr Granger said he expects that within the next 12 hours, the prisoners who can no longer be held at the completely destroyed Camp Street facility will be placed at the Lusignan, Timerhi and Mazaruni prisons.
The President recalled the 2016 jailhouse fire which left several inmates dead and said that measures had been taken since that incident to enhance and strengthen prison infrastructure and reduce the prison population.
He said it was his view that persons should not be remanded for petty offences, while also expressing regret that one prison officer who was shot during the escape bid by the prisoners, has died.
While firefighters were still battling the blaze at Camp Street, the President convened a meeting of the National Security Committee following which an immediate joint service operation was launched with the setting up of several road blocks across the country.
The President urged that no effort be spared to ensure that those escapees be recaptured.
Security Minister Khemraj Ramjattan backed up the President call for the prisoners to be securely relocated.
Ramjattan dubbed the situation a “crisis” and said while prisoners are currently being held in the open at Lusiganan efforts are being made to ensure they are comfortable.