News that the Guyana Police Force is reopening one of the most talked about crimes has received only positive responses from members of the public. Today, Kaieteur News carries extensive coverage on the unsolved murder, from the perspective of relatives, and from some of the senior ranks who tried to catch her killer.
The witness that vanished
– Former Crime Chief Winston Felix blames media
The Monica Reece case first fell into the hands of Crime Chief Winston Felix, who retired as Commissioner of Police.
He’s glad that the case has been re-opened.
“I am extremely happy that some thought has been given to re-opening the case and I wish them (the team) well.
“We have never said that it couldn’t be solved. The case is always open for review.”
But that brings up the million-dollar question: Why wasn’t the Monica Reece case solved back then?
“We went as far as we could,” Mr. Felix said. “But because of certain interventions, the person who could have helped us just vanished. We had an experience and we knew how it ended.”
“We had a certain witness that we wanted to interview …the person who could have helped us. But certain media houses staked out the (eyewitness’) house, and the person disappeared. We could not put our hands on the eyewitness from then to now.
“We had a certain idea (about the killer’s identity), but we had to have evidence to link (the suspect).
But Felix said that he has no knowledge of any individuals who had deliberately hampered the investigation.
Other investigators, though, feel otherwise
“WE WERE OBSTRUCTED”
One senior investigator said that a number of obstacles were put in the way to make it difficult for the perpetrator to be caught.
“A number of things obstructed us. It was never intended for it to be a straight-forward investigation. Where the obstruction came from, I don’t know, but there are some who knew where the obstruction came from.”
“I believe that this case will be solved”
- Former Crime Chief Alvin Smith still haunted over unsolved murder
It’s been 23 long years, but that’s still not enough time for retired Crime Chief Alvin Smith to stop thinking about the killer that eluded him over two decades ago.
It was a crime that rocked the nation…the still unsolved murder of 19-year-old Loss Prevention Security Guard Monica Reece, known as ‘Nikki.’
But Alvin Smith, who took over the reins of Crime Chief from Winston Felix, believes that that unknown, shadowy figure, is still out there, and he’s hoping that, this time around, the proverbial long arm of the law catches up him…or, perhaps, her.
He’s pleased that the Guyana Police Force, under Crime Chief Wendell Blanhum, has re-opened investigations into what was then deemed as a ‘high-society killing.’
“I happy and wishing that they can pick up something that they can work on. I am praying that someone out there knows what happened,” Smith, who retired as a Deputy Police Commissioner, known back then as “Mr. Clean,” told Kaieteur News.
“I honestly believe that something will break. Somehow I believe that it will happen. My grounded belief is that the evidence is there. The evidence is alive.”
“It comes to my mind often, after all these years. I think that the person (killer) is alive and that the evidence is there.
They have not asked, but I am willing to help them.”
“I hope that they can catch my daughter’s killers”
– Monica Reece’s mother, Shirley Reece
Although she now lives overseas, Shirley Reece has been keenly following the news back in Guyana.
One of the stories that she followed last week was news that the Guyana Police Force was once again looking into her daughter’s murder.
An elated Ms. Reece hopes that she will finally get to look into the face of the individual (s) who callously dumped her daughter from a vehicle after killing her.
“I feel good if they get the killers,” Ms. Reece said during a brief telephone interview last Saturday, hours after Crime Chief Wendell Blanhum announced that he was reviewing the case.
“It is always at the back of my mind. I am seeing a lot of murders that happened a long time ago are being solved, and it gives me some hope that justice will prevail,”
In April, 1993, on Good Friday, the body of Monica Reece, a 19-year-old female security guard, was found lying on Main Street. Eyewitnesses would later tell investigators that Reece was dumped from a pickup.
Ace driver, Ray Rahaman, who was in the area at the time, said that he tried to pursue the driver, who was heading north down the western carriageway of Main Street, but the driver managed to escape.
A 22-year-old Tiger Bay resident claimed to have seen when the killer dumped Reece’s body from his vehicle.
The woman claimed that at around 22:05 hrs on Good Friday, April 9, 1993, she was walking along the Avenue of the Republic when she saw a dark-coloured 4×4 vehicle going north along Main Street.
One of the right doors was ajar and the foot of a passenger was protruding from the vehicle.
When the pickup reached the area near Geddes Grant Limited, Holland saw someone fall out of the vehicle.
Before the vehicle disappeared further up Main Street, she managed to observe these digits: 9 32.
She failed to discern one of the digits on the pickup licence plate. The woman then went to the scene where the passenger had ‘fallen’ and saw Reece’s body.
On April 13, 1993, four days after Reece’s murder, detectives, acting on the woman’s information, detained a 27-year-old man from a prominent family.
They also impounded a grey Toyota 4×4 pickup that was owned by the suspect’s father.
Investigators observed that the vehicle was a right-hand driven pickup. Reece had been dumped from a similar type of vehicle.
They also observed that the vehicle licence number was 9132. This was close to the partial number that Holland had observed.
The young man was taken to CID Headquarters, Eve Leary for questioning.
Denying knowledge of the crime, the youth told detectives that he had used his vehicle on Good Friday night and returned home at around 19:30 hrs, accompanied by his girlfriend.
According to the suspect, he did not leave home again that night until shortly after 22:00 hrs, when some friends of his went to his home and said that a woman was thrown from a vehicle and someone said that the vehicle registration was similar to his.
Accompanied by his friend, the young man stated that he then rode his motorcycle to the scene of the crime before again returning home. And he also denied ever knowing Monica Reece.
Investigators questioned several neighbours and security guards in the area where the young man lived, and they supported his alibi for Good Friday night.
Nevertheless, detectives examined the suspect’s vehicle and removed several strands of human hair that they found inside. These were handed over to Government Pathologist and forensic expert Dr. Leslie Mootoo.
Around the same time, detectives detained the 27-year-old son of a prominent Government official at Eve Leary while impounding his blue 4×4 pickup.
He denied using the vehicle on Good Friday, since, according to him, it had no gas. Using a friend’s motorcycle, the youth said that on that night, he visited an Attorney who was his friend. He left at around 22:45 hrs and was riding around town before going home when he saw a crowd near Main Street.
He said he was told that a girl had died after being thrown from a pickup, while denying ever knowing Monica Reece.
On April 15, 1993, the son of a prominent businessman was detained and a pickup owned by the family impounded.
His alibi was that he was at the Georgetown home of an Attorney between 19:00 hrs and 22:00 hrs on the Good Friday night of Reece’s murder.
According to him, he visited his girlfriend in Kitty at around 22:30 hrs and returned home at around 23:30 hrs.
Detectives showed him a photograph of Monica Reece. He, too, said that he did not know her and had only learnt of her demise after reading the newspapers.
Detectives retrieved a hairbrush from the suspect’s pickup. The businessman’s son claimed that it belonged to his mother. She denied that the hairbrush was hers and it was examined for forensic evidence.
But the suspect’s girlfriend and the Attorney who he had allegedly visited supported his alibi. He too, was released.
Detectives also questioned a man who drove a pickup for a prominent city store owner. The driver admitted to knowing Reece from her childhood in Linden. In fact, he said she had visited him at a Church Street disco on Good Friday night between 19:30 hrs and 20:30 hrs. She then accompanied him and another man to Bourda Market in his boss’ pickup.
They then returned to the Church Street disco and Reece then left heading west along Church Street.
Police also impounded a number of other pickups and also questioned several individuals. Most of the young men who were questioned were from wealthy families.
At least 27 pick-ups were impounded by police and 200 persons were questioned.
But all this brought the cops no closer to solving the case.
Police also announced a $100,000 reward for information on Reece’s killer.
There were no takers.
At one point, Reece’s body was exhumed for DNA evidence. The samples were sent overseas, but the results were said to be inconclusive.
Timeline of an unsolved murder
13:00 hrs on Good Friday: David McKenzie, Operations Manager of the Loss Prevention Guard Service, visits Reece at the Ministry of Health in Brickdam, where she is detailed to work.
According to McKenzie, Reece says that if a man called ‘Mark’ called for her at the office, he must tell ‘Mark’ to take lunch to her worksite.
Reece also tells McKenzie about her relationship with a man who drives a 4×4 pickup, whom she claims is in love with her.
Reece also hands McKenzie a piece of paper with several names and a telephone number. The security official remembers the name ‘Mark’ on the paper, but he cannot recall the telephone number or what he had done with the paper Reece had given him.
McKenzie later drops Reece on his bicycle to a phone booth at Regent and Hinck Streets. That is the last time he sees her alive.
Between 16:40 hrs and 17:00 hrs: Reece informs Mark Torrington, a security guard, that she has a date with a Chinese man from Mc Doom. She tells him not to be surprised if he heard she was dead.
At 18:30 hrs she leaves Kalian Yard at Lot 240 Camp Street. She has changed out of her security uniform and is wearing a white T-shirt and black tights.
At 19:15 hrs she is seen by Special Constable Linden Samuels entering the Brickdam Police Station compound. She is allegedly crying and about five minutes later she is seen entering a black Pathfinder parked near the station.
At around 20:30 hrs she visits Charles Mc Allister, a driver, at a Church Street disco. She reportedly leaves, returns, and then walks west along Church Street.
At about 22:05 hrs, a woman from Tiger Bay sees Reece’s body falling out of a pickup in Main Street.