RELATIVES of Sea Lots businessman Cedric “Burkie” Burke, who reportedly died as a result of complications linked to covid19, are planning to petition the court to have an independent autopsy confirm his cause of death.
Newsday was told that Burke spoke with relatives on Friday morning and was in “good spirits” but hours later relatives were told he had died due to complications associated with the virus.
The Health Ministry has stopped autopsies for anyone who died from covid19 as it is against best practices since it is believed that the virus can spread from a deceased host. The bodies are also disposed of quickly as part of the best practice.
Newsday visited Burke's relatives at his Sea Lots home where tears and tempers flowed freely after word began spreading of Burke’s death. Newsday was told relatives were so incensed that they did not want to comment on his death. They did say, however, that his death was suspicious as he was speaking with them on Friday and was in good spirits.
“He went West Shore and they refused to take him, end up in Couva and just so they saying he dead?” one woman said.
She believed a larger conspiracy was at play since she claimed he could not be charged for any criminal offence or be killed. She argued with a representative from a funeral home, saying that the family was not even allowed to identify the body.
Other relatives chased Newsday out of the area, saying they did not want to be interviewed. Walking through the community, residents' faces reflected sadness. A group of elderly women advised Newsday “not to report anything today, darling.”
One man cried openly, saying Burke was the reason for peace in the Port of Spain community and believed that because of his death, “The place going and get hot.”
He also believed Burke’s death was suspicious, saying he was healthy and speaking with friends up to Friday morning.
Burke, 45, was regarded as a pillar of his community.
Former parliamentarian for the area Marlene McDonald, who was supported by Burke throughout her political career, told CNC3 news that Burke was a “dedicated man,” adding. “We have lost a good supporter in Mr Burke.”
Newsday was informed that Burke was admitted to the Port of Spain General Hospital on Wednesday night and tested positive for covid19. He was transferred to Couva Hospital, “because of the state he was in,” where he died.
Who was Burkie?
The father of 17, was, according to him, a successful black businessman who, because of his success, gained the envy of everyone, even the police.
In 2011 he was charged with being a gang leader but two months later he was released after the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) said the police had no evidence to support the charge. Burke sued the State and the matter is still before the courts.
In February last year, his home was raided by police and he was among 258 people detained in connection with various offences during a three-day police exercise targeting people across the country including Beetham Gardens, Sea Lots and Laventille. He was released without charge. Burke was supposedly the target of a drive-by shooting that month as well.
He was again arrested in July in connection with several shootings and at least three murders in the Laventille area days before his arrest. Police seized his cellphone before releasing him without charge. Weeks earlier he was held for questioning in relation to $200,000 which he had in his possession. He was released two days later after he proved he withdrew it from his bank account for business.
Burke was the owner of three businesses. As at January 10 last year Burke had a certificate of good character from the police, who have without evidence labelled him a gang leader.
In 2006, he incorporated his first business, Burke and Co Ltd, a construction firm that employs three of his sons. The following year, he launched his second business, Goodfellas Security Company.
In an interview with Newsday last year, Burke dismissed claims of a close personal relationship with McDonald, then Port of Spain South MP.
His presence at President’s House for McDonald’s swearing-in ceremony raised concerns among Special Branch police. Two days later, without ever having set foot in her new ministry (Public Utilities), McDonald was removed by the Prime Minister for her association with Burke.
He was immortalised through countless memes of him in the clothing he wore to the swearing-in ceremony.