Body of piracy victim found

The bullet-riddled body of 40-year-old Deonarine Prahalad who was kidnapped by armed pirates on Wednesday at Parika was yesterday dug up by relatives from a shallow grave on the Essequibo Coast.

The body which had begun to decompose bore several gunshot wounds including one which passed through the man's stomach, a relative told this newspaper. Prahalad, Charoma Harka and a Venezuelan known as 'Green-eye' were on Wednesday hijacked by gunmen who seized their passenger boat at the Two Brothers Wharf at Parika. The men had just purchased gas and were about to leave the service station when the bandits brandishing high-powered rifles pulled up in a small fishing boat. They discharged several round indiscriminately and even pointed their weapons in the faces of fishermen at the wharf. They then seized the men's boat and sailed off to Leguan where they dumped Harka and the Venezuelan but sailed away with Prahalad, later killing him.

Speaking to Stabroek News yesterday, one of Prahalad's brothers said that from all indications he was killed the very day he was held by the five men. Prahalad had received a single gunshot at Parika, while Harka, who was the captain of the vessel, sustained two and the Venezuelan, a graze on his shoulder. Following a search on Thursday during which time the hijacked boat along with its two engines were recovered, relatives of the dead man returned to the area yesterday morning. Prahalad's brother told this newspaper that they thoroughly scoured the area where the boat was found, tramping through thick bushes. He said around 12:30 pm they went around the other side of Hamburg Island and observed a part of the beach which appeared to have been recently disturbed. Members of the search party began digging until they found a blue tarpaulin which shrouded the man's partly decomposed body. Police at the Suddie Police Station were informed about the discovery and later visited the scene. The body was then transported to Parika before being escorted to Lyken Funeral Parlour where it is awaiting a post-mortem examination.

Asked about the bandits, the dead man's brother said an eyewitness reportedly identified one of them as being a resident of Essequibo who was involved in a bank robbery there several years ago. The suspect's house is located near where the boat was found. According to the brother the suspect was seen at the Parika stelling about two hours before the attack. Stabroek News was told that prior to the raid on the boat at Parika, which occurred around 11:30 am, the bandits were seen in their boat at the stelling covered with tarpaulins. According to the brother, the eyewitness said he was prepared to pass on the information to the police.

Three men hijacked the boat at Parika and two others joined them when it reached Leguan. The hijackers wore hooked cloaks with handkerchiefs tied across their faces. Stabroek News was told that when the boat got to Leguan the bandits disembarked their vessel took off its engine and escaped with the men's boat. Prahalad's brother said they had seen the bandits' boat during their search on Wednesday drifting along the river. In addition, the brother disclosed that a fisherman reported that he heard more gunshots as the boat sailed past Wakenaam Island and he believes that it was during this that Prahalad was killed.

He felt that his brother was killed because he would have known one of the suspects, the said one the eyewitness identified. According to the brother, the Venezuelan had a quantity of US currency on the vessel and this he believes was the main target for the bandits. Stabroek News was told that the Venezuelan had hired the boat to take him to Port Kaituma in the North West District. The brother said it was clear that the bandits' motive

was to steal the money the Venezuelan had but they needed to kill Prahalad because he knew them.

"Why they carried him away and shoot him, they coulda kill the Venezuelan or the captain, but they know he (Prahalad) know them," the brother declared.

A number of items were found at the beach where the boat was abandoned. Members of the search party observed that the place was deserted and from all appearances only the bandits would have been going there. Equipment for binoculars, four drums, two buckets, one pair of boots and a hand bag along with drink bottles were found on the beach. Reports are that the hijackers are known pirates who are also involved in fuel and drug smuggling at the Parika Port. They are said to be operating near the Venezuela border and might have had good knowledge of their victims.