JENSEN LA VENDE and YVONNE WEBB
TWO hours after the mother and girlfriend of prison escapees Michael Findley and Olatungi Denbow called for their surrender, police caught them in a house at South Oropouche.
Both Denbow and Findley were held around 6 pm in a house at Ralph Narine Trace, South Oropouche, by officers of the Special Operations Response Team (SORT) and the Defence Force. The arrest of the men went off without incident, police said, and came two days after a man was arrested and released in connection with the escaped men. The man was held at One Woodbrook Place on Thursday, questioned and released. Denbow and Findley are charged along with three other men, for the double murder of construction workers Andre La Touche and Abiola Noel on February 22, 2016 at Eastern Quarry, Laventille.
On May 15, eight prisoners took advantage of the poorly lit cells and perimeter to escape from the upper south wing of the Remand Yard prison facility at Golden Grove, Arouca. All eight are practising Muslims and during Ramadan, special provisions are made for Muslim inmates. One of the special arrangements is to group them together so when they are awakened around 5 am to prepare for prayers they will not disturb other inmates.
Five were recaptured the day they escaped while the sixth was held the following day. Those accused of escaping are: Stefon Austin of Erin; Joshua Janet of Brasso Seco, Paria; Mikhale Mohammed of Wallerfield, Arima; Brent Johnson of Five Rivers, Arouca; Atiba Sealy of Five Rivers, Arouca and Kerry Valentino of Quash Trace, Sangre Grande. All six appeared in court earlier this week and pleaded not guilty.
In their bid to capture the escapees police searched several homes including relatives of the missing men. Several homes were searched in Laventille as recent as Friday. On Thursday morning, the same day police arrested, questioned and released the man who was staying at One Woodbrook Place, a Laventille woman said they tore down her front gate searching for the men. Nicole Corbin said she was at home around 3 am when police came and unhinged her front gate to gain entry to her home. She reported the matter to the Police Complaints Authority and Police Commissioner Gary Griffith, who she said the officers claimed gave the order to search her home.
Prior to their capture Findley’s mother Monica Horne and Denbow’s child’s mother Whitney Goodluck both called on the men to surrender. The two spoke with Sunday Newsday around 4 pm at the Prizgar Lands, Laventille, apartment of Nicole Corbin. Horne said she last spoke to her son the Friday before the May 15 jailbreak and he acted “normal” asking about his siblings and other relatives, not mentioning his frustration with the snail’s pace of the judicial system as he was accustomed to doing.
“As a mother I will feel better to hear he alive than dead. The way the police approach, I don’t know what they want me to do. They came by my house twice looking for him. The best thing is for him to give up himself,” she said then.
Contacted after her son was held, Horne said she was relieved and worried. She was relieved because Findley was no longer on the run and, as a result, he was no longer likely to be killed at the hands of police. Her worry now is that her son will be beaten as a punishment for daring to escape prison.
Also contacted yesterday after the men’s capture, Goodluck said: “No one wants to hear them. It looking like they want to kill them and that is it as if they is not human. I don’t sleep comfortably, so I rather they give up themselves than get killed, but they need justice. If they say they get a court date in the morning then those fellas will surrender one time.”
Denbow’s mother Vilma Denbow, in a telephone interview after his arrest, said she was happy her son had been captured and was no longer a fugitive. She said: “I didn’t want anything to happen to him, I am a bit relieved. I am hopeful he will get justice because it is long overdue.
“I just hope they don’t beat him because he already so frail.”
Speaking with TV6 last night, Griffith commended the “hard work and dedication by the TTPS” who were led by ACP Jayson Forde who he gave special congratulations to, along with various arms of the National Security Ministry. In a media release following the capture, National Security Minister Stuart Young also commended the police, prisons and Defence Force. He stated that the intelligence services were committed to recapturing the men. Prisons Commissioner Gerard Wilson told Sunday Newsday that he was happy the men were recaptured and back in custody. Denbow, prison sources told Sunday Newsday, requested the day before the escape to be placed in the cell with the other escapee. Using a hacksaw blade the men cut through steel and slithered their way to freedom. Taking advantage of the poor lighting both inside the cells and the surrounding area to escape and were only noticed missing around 6 am on May 15.
Yesterday at about 8.10 pm, when Sunday Newsday arrived at the house at which the Denbow and Findley were captured, children and adults were being removed from the partly wooden and brick house to four police vehicles parked nearby. When the children were taken from the home, police requested that media neither stay close to the house and nor take photographs of the children.
Police said the owner of the house was currently in prison for the attempted rape and robbery of a police woman which took place last year. His wife was pregnant when he was imprisoned. Villagers said the house was destroyed by fire but they came together and rebuilt it. In the house at the time of the arrest were the man’s wife, two teenage girls, a primary school girl, a baby and a special needs boy. Another woman who lives at the house returned home after the men were caught and looked on in shock as her family were being escorted. One of the children was heard crying for his mother.
The children were taken to the Oropouche Police Station by members of the Child Protection Unit. The baby was taken wearing a diaper only. Relatives who wanted to get better clothing for the baby were told to visit the police station.
After the escape, Crime Stoppers issued a $50,000 reward for the capture of the men. Disappointed residents told Sunday Newsday that had they known the men were there, they would have called the police and shared the reward among themselves.
While some were sulking over the loss in revenue, others were left feeling uneasy knowing that the men, wanted by police, were their neighbours for a short while. They said on evenings they would commune near the savannah with their lawn chairs oblivious that the two men were so close.
Residents said they never saw that amount of police in the area before and the officers went directly to the house. The officers, they said, moved with military precision and were out of the area within an hour with the men having secured all exits.
Griffith added that when the men were arrested there were other people in the house including minors. He said the men, who posted both videos and a statement on social media claiming they escaped in an attempt to get their court case expedited with the intervention of Griffith and the Director of Public Prosecution’s office, were just trying to “string him along.”
He said police had their job to do and it took a lot of work and time for them to deal with the escapees, time that could have otherwise been utilised. Griffith added that the investigation was still ongoing and those found to have assisted the men would be caught and brought to justice.
Commenting on the public’s supposed support for the men, Griffith said: “They broke the law, they escaped from prison and people were sympathetic. You can’t be sympathetic when people are breaking the law.
“We have reached a point now where we sympathise with wrongdoing. Whether they are guilty or not will not be decided upon by the individuals sending a message orchestrated by certain individuals with a shirt and tie but by the criminal justice system.”
This story was originally published with the title "Last 2 escapees held in South Oropouche" and has been adjusted to include additional details. See original post below.
THE remaining two escapees who were among eight who escaped from prison two weeks ago were recaptured today in South Orpouche.
According to police, Olatungi Denbow and Michael Findley were held at Ralph Narine Trace, South Oropouche by the Special Operations Response Team. The arrest of the men went off without incident, police said and comes two days after a man was arrested and released in connection with their escape.
The man was held at One Woodbrook Place on Thursday, questioned and released.
Denbow and Findley are charged along with three other men for the murders of construction workers Andre La Touche and Abiola Noel on February 22, 2016, at Eastern Quarry, Laventille.
On May 15, eight prisoners took advantage of the poorly lit cells and perimeter to escape from the upper south wing of the Golden Grove Prison, Arouca. All eight are practising Muslims and during Ramadan, special provisions are made for Muslim inmates. One of the special arrangements is to group them together so when they are awakened around 5 am to prepare for prayers they will not disturb other inmates.
Five were recaptured the day they escaped while the sixth was held the following day. Those accused of escaping custody are: Stefon Austin of Erin; Joshua Janet of Brasso Seco, Paria; Mikhale Mohammed of Wallerfield, Arima; Brent Johnson of Five Rivers, Arouca; Atiba Sealy of Five Rivers, Arouca and Kerry Valentino of Quash Trace, Sangre Grande. All six appeared in court earlier this week and pleaded not guilty.