Tobago recorded its sixth and seventh murders for 2020 after a shooting incident in Concordia left two dead and one wounded on Tuesday night.
Police said around 9.15 pm on Tuesday, Benson Nichols, a 29-year-old farmer of Les Coteaux, was driving his Nissan Tiida north along St Cecilia Road in Concordia with 35-year-old Kenny Wolfe of Les Coteaux, 23-year-old James Ferguson of Bacolet and another man among the passengers.
Police told Newsday a white Hyundai Elantra travelling in the opposite direction collided head-on with the Tiida and the Elantra's occupants immediately came out and opened fire on the Tiida with semi-automatic weapons.
Residents told Newsday they heard rapid gunshots and on checking found the crashed Tiida in the middle of the roadway with the engine running. The Elantra was also found abandoned on the scene.
Police believe that during the hail of gunfire, Wolfe attempted to escape but was shot in the back. His body was found 78 feet down in a ravine. Nichols suffered a gunshot wound to his back and was taken to the Scarborough General Hospital where he remains warded in a serious but stable condition. Multiple spent shells were recovered by police at the scene.
Homicide investigators returned on Wednesday morning and found the body of Ferguson riddled with bullets in a precipice. The TT Fire Service was called in and assisted with the retrieval of his body. The fourth man in the vehicle has not been found.
Ferguson’s parents visited the scene and identified his body.
Speaking with members of the media at the scene, ACP Vernon Roberts said it was too early to determine all the facts in the matter. He called on anyone with information which can lead to an arrest, to contact the nearest police station, or give the information anonymously through Crime stoppers 555, 800-TIPS, or 482-GARY.
Questioned about the current murder rate and the crime situation on the island, Roberts was adamant the “crime situation in Tobago is under control.”
He said, “As we know, for the first five months of the year there were no homicides, then in the last two months there has been seven incidents – nine persons as victims. We are not deterred by this, we’ll keep pressing on with some of those crimes as we bring the perpetrators to justice. I just want to reassure the public that the police would do all in their power to solve these crimes.”
Asked whether the incident may be gang related, Roberts said: “We don’t want to summarise anything at this time, but the investigation would lead us in a particular direction.”
Police sources told Newsday the incident may have been revenge for a previous incident.
DENNIS NOT WORRIED
Speaking at the weekly post-Executive Council media briefing on Wednesday in Scarborough, Chief Secretary Ancil Dennis said while he is disturbed by the incident, he is not worried.
He said, “I believe that we have a Trinidad and Tobago Police Service that is working here in Tobago. My information is that there is intelligence available and the police are quite clear as to what is happening in specific areas and therefore the necessary actions would be taken to address it.
“I am not worried and I do not want the people of Tobago to be worried at all, neither do I want us to go down the road of suggesting that we have a spate of murders or a spate of crime on the island at this point in time. Yes, it is more than we’re accustomed to especially in a situation where I think in the first five months of the year we did not have any murders at that point in time, but we would continue to do what is required to ensure that we manage crime on the island.”
Dennis extended condolences to the families and called on the public to keep their eyes and ears open.
“We want to continue to ensure that Tobago remains beautiful, calm and the safe place that we’re accustomed to. And therefore, I want to urge all of us as well as residents to continue to remain vigilant, to continue to remain disciplined so that we do not lose the kind of Tobago that we have grown accustomed to, especially in a situation where our peace, our calm, our serenity and our natural beauty is expected to be our strong point as we move forward and as we try to navigate these turbulent economic times,” he said.
People’s National Movement (PNM) Tobago East candidate Ayanna Webster-Roy extended condolences to the families and loved ones of the victims.
She said in a press release, “Whenever there is a loss of life it is always a sad event, especially when it is under tragic circumstances the pain is even more.”
She said the impact of this senseless act of violence would be felt throughout the community, and across the island. She former MP called on the public to respect the privacy of both families during this period of mourning.
Webster-Roy called on community members to “come together as a constituency and examine those factors that are leading to an increase in violence in our society and collectively work as a people to resolve them.”
Tobago had a tranquil start to the year with no murders in the first five months.
In June, Tobago had four murders: brothers Kelton, 39, and Kenwyn James, 32, were killed by a gunman on June 5 in Les Coteaux; the body of businessman Koongebeharry Jaisarie was found buried in concrete on June 23 in Lowlands; Dwight Turpin was shot dead in Mt Hay, Black Rock on June 24.
On July 5, the island recorded its fifth murder when Alvion Nurse, alias Crime Boss, was killed in what police said was a shootout with gunmen at Gru Gru Patch, Providence Road, Les Coteaux.