A former member of the High Command of the Royal Grenada Police Force (RGPF) is convinced that the remains of late Prime Minister Maurice Bishop and his Cabinet colleagues who were executed on October 19, 1983 were buried at the St George’s Cemetery.
The retired senior officer told THE NEW TODAY that he was present at the True Blue Campus of the American-run St George’s University (SWU) when an autopsy was conducted on the remains that were recovered from Camp Calivigny and brought in several heavy-duty plastic garbage bags that looked like construction garbage bags.
He recalled that a Barbadian police photographer along with a member of the Criminal Records Office (CRO) of the local Police Force were present to witness the autopsy and took pictures with a Hasselbald camera, of the remains and it is totally false to accuse the United States of having possession of the remains.
According to the ex-High Command member, he knew that a team of police officers from Barbados were at Camp Calivigny when the bodies were being removed to SGU. He said the Bajans who were part of the Caribbean contingent in the U.S-led military intervention to topple the coup leaders against Bishop left one of their Hasselbald cameras for use by RGPF.
The ex-High Command member disclosed that the films that were used to help conduct the autopsy were kept for years at the local CRO office at the old St James hotel that was destroyed during Hurricane Ivan in 2004.
He said the films were also lost during the hurricane but remembered the lawmen developing some prints years before and giving it to a group that was doing research on the remains of Bishop and his executed colleagues.
He felt that it is nothing but foolishness by those who have been claiming over the years that the Americans took away the bodies. “No, that is not true. The bodies were buried by Otway – the bodies were given to Otway and them – it wasn’t given to La Qua.”
The ex-police officer is adamant that the remains of Bishop and his colleagues were buried in the St George’s cemetery and nowhere else. “They were not exported – they were buried in the cemetery,” he quipped.
The retired top cop charged that a lot of people are only talking “stupidness” when it comes to what was done by the Americans with the remains of Bishop and his Cabinet colleagues – Unison Whiteman (Foreign Affairs), Jacqueline Creft (Education) and Norris Bain (Housing) who were executed on the fort following a protracted power struggle within the then ruling New Jewel Movement (NJM) between moderates and hardliners for control of the revolutionary process.
“All of them talking stupidness, talking all kinds of things. I am wondering why they’re lying and saying them things (the Americans went away with the bodies). It is not me alone that know that – a lot of people know that.”
“…We know for a fact that the bodies were burnt, the pieces that remained they brought it at the University complex on the Grand Anse beach there. We and them Bajans photographed them in garbage bags. I can’t remember how many garbage bags – I think it was about eleven garbage bags.”
“We photographed them at SGU. We take them (after the autopsy) and bring them by Otway (Funeral Home) and Otway give the old man, the Red man who was living on top Cemetery Hill to bury.”
“We photographed the garbage bags and everything. When we finished the garbage bags were handed over to Otway for burial. Otway that take it and Otway give the old man. I know is the old man that bury it. That is what happened.”
The now defunct Maurice Bishop Patriotic Movement (MBPM) involving medical doctor Terrence Marryshow has been calling over the years on the U.S government to return the remains of Bishop and those executed alongside him.
Evidence from Prosecution witnesses during the Maurice Bishop murder trial indicated that the bodies of the slain Prime Minster, three Cabinet Ministers and three businessmen were taken from Fort Rupert after the executions and brought to Camp Calivigny, placed in a hole and burnt with tyres and other debris.
Bishop was killed at the height of a power struggle with his deputy Bernard Coard and members of his ideological study group known as OREL who had gained a majority on the Central Committee of the NJM and was pushing for Joint Leadership of the ruling party between its top two leaders.
According to the retired senior police officer, the remains were in such a bad state and it was extremely difficult to identify any of the executed leaders. “Perhaps you could get a piece of hand that is Maurice Bishop’s own or perhaps (Jacqueline) Creft or one of them but you couldn’t say you pull out a body and you say that is that person. Everything was mixed up,” he said.
The retired cop gave a graphic description of what he remembered of the remains during the autopsy that was conducted by an American Pathologist. He said: “You know when you chop up pork or pig – like when you burning a dog, you pour … thing on it and it burning that is how it was. You can’t identify nobody.”
He was specifically asked if the bodies were badly mashed up from the hail of bullets during the executions by an army squad of soldiers led by Lieutenant Callistus “Iman Abdullah” Bernard. “I don’t think so – I think it was the fire that do that. Some people say they cut them up but I don’t find they cut them up – fire will burn bone and all kinds of things,” he remarked.
According to the ex-cop, he recalled that at the SGU compound when the autopsy was being conducted they did recognise in the bag some rings that belonged to the executed leaders. He also said he suspected that those who were given the orders to burn and destroy the bodies of Bishop and his close colleagues “didn’t know how to do that properly.”
“They throw tyres on it and all kinds of things. If they didn’t put it in a hole but out in the (open) air and they put it on top of the tyres and they light it (you would not get anything). What they did is they put the tyres on top and the fire had to burn down but fire don’t go down, fire go up.”
Coard along with his Jamaican wife, the late Phyllis Coard, top army officers the late General Hudson Austin, Joseph Ewart “Headache” Layne, Liam “Owusu” James, Leon “Bogo” Cornwall, and John “Chaulkie” Ventour, as well as former Mobilisation Minister Selwyn Strachan were convicted and given lengthy prison sentences for the murders.
None of the 17 former government and army officials who were implicated in the executions on the fort have shed any light on who gave the order to dispose of the bodies at Camp Calivigny.