The Truth, Reconciliation and National Unity Commission | 12 September 2019
‘Son’ Chang-Him was unarmed and shot intentionally by Phillip D’Offay, says on-duty PMU officer
Guy Roucou, a former Police Mobile Unit officer who was on duty at the Central Police Station on June 5 1977, yesterday appeared before the Truth, Reconciliation and National Unity Commission to recount his account of events on the tragic day of the fatal shooting of Seychelles Democratic Party activist, Davidson Chang-Him allegedly by Phillip D’Offay, a civilian at the time.
Mr Roucou, the second witness to appear before the commission in its third hearing in the same matter, recalls that he was one of the officers within the Police Mobile Unit (PMU) and a sergeant within the special forces division of the Seychelles Police Force, at the time of the Coup d’Etat in 1977 and that he witnessed the shooting incident.
According to Mr Roucou, the duty sergeant responsible for the deployment of officers, on June 5, 1977 he was at the Mont Fleuri Police Station at around 10pm where he conversed with Berard Jeannie, a telephone operator, about long-distance running, since they were on the team together. As with Mr Savy’s account from the commission’s second hearing heard on Tuesday, Mr Roucou remarked that officer Jeannie was eating boiled sweet potatoes from a bowl at the time, which he offered to him as well. The two men had scheduled a long-distance practice run on June 7 or 8.
Mr Roucou continued on to state that he left the station shortly after to visit his wife and newly-born child at home, located not far from the police barracks. After having made a cup of coffee, at around 1am, he heard the sound of a gunshot, screams, followed by rapid fire. At that instance, Mr Roucou noted that he saw tracer bullets flying over the cemetery close to his house and his first thought was that there was an attack by foreigners. At that instance, his first reaction was to grab his wife and baby to get away through the cemetery to a neighbour’s house. As they were running, bullets were flying over their heads.
Mr Roucou then returned to the cemetery, and recalls hearing the armoury being broken into. A while after he had been hiding in the cemetery, Mr Roucou alleges that inspector (Edouard) Hugger Roucou, who had been on the shift with Jeannie, ran past him and disappeared into the river. He stayed in the said location until around 5.45am when all police officers in the police barracks were instructed to come down with their hands up, by which point he also proceeded from his hiding place and met with other officers at a malay apple tree (ponm lokal) and when they entered the guard room, they were confronted by the sight of Jeannie who had died on the spot after being shot.
“I saw Berard Jeannie and he had already died, his head was resting against the wall with a bullet wound here (gestures to middle of forehead) with a small hole in the front. I did this (gestures that he pushed Jeannie’s head forward) and the bullet had hit the wall behind him. The bowl from which he was eating earlier with sweet potato was still on the table where he was working,” recounted Mr Roucou.
Mr Roucou continued on to note that men involved in the coup, most of whom were armed, were present at the station and that officers were instructed to work at the Central Police Station by the men and Mr Isnard, their superior. At that point, the English officers who were on duty had been rallied up along with their family and relatives and were being held at the station’s mess while they awaited deportation. Upon receiving the instruction, the officers went home and to the police barracks, got dressed and went to the Central Police station with Mr Isnard.
He recalls numerous officers having been arrested and in detention at the station. Mr Roucou continued on to note that Hugger Roucou was also present at the station and the inquiry office was temporarily located at the gate facing the Anglican Cathedral of St Paul in Victoria.
According to Mr Roucou, among the people present at the station were perpetrators of the coup who were armed, Dr Maxime Ferrari who was armed with an AK47 and Phillip Lucas while the radio was announcing the curfew and coup.
As per his account, Phillip D’Offay had fired a shot at a vehicle at some point during the day, before returning in the afternoon and ordering Mr Roucou and another officer to accompany him to go and find “Pti Son”, to which he abided along with other officers, who had no choice against the armed men.
“He told me and another officer to come with him to find ‘Pti Son’, he never mentioned his full name and I and another guard got in a blue Land Rover short-wheel base for the police, based at Mont Fleuri but which they were using. In the Land Rover were me and the officer, two people who executed the coup and who were armed, Phillip Lucas who would drive with an AK 47, Phillip D’Offay who would sit in the front with and AK 47 and he told us we would go through North East Point to Bel Ombre, where the Chang-Him family resided.
“Addressing Phillip Lucas, he said “Today, if I see ‘Son’, what I will do to him!” and we didn’t dare say anything. We didn’t find Son and he said we would return to Central police station which we did,” Mr Roucou said.
He has no recollection of seeing Harry, Davidson’s son or whether he had already been arrested at the time.
However, later during that tragic afternoon, Mr Roucou recalls that around 4.30pm, Davidson Chang-Him entered the station through the front entrance. From what he has heard, Chang-Him arrived at the station in an ambulance.
“As soon as he entered, he passed Roucou and said “I heard you were looking for me”, Phillip D’Offay who was also present, went in front of me in the corridor to the veranda where the cells are located and instructed ‘Son’ to put his hands up which he did. ‘Son’ was unarmed, and I thought he was going to place him in a holding cell but suddenly, I saw D’Offay remove his gun from his left back side and he pointed the gun, an AK47 and he pulled the trigger and the bullet hit ‘Son’ in the back. ‘Son’ did a little run in the compound, and there was a slip there for vehicle reparations and he fell, and the bullet had exited his body and went and hit Dr Ferrari’s car,” said Mr Roucou.
“When son fell, Mr (France Albert) Rene, Commissioner (James) Pillay, and Dr (Maxime) Ferrari came down, I heard Rene say to D’Offay “la ki l...i ou’n fer ankor?” and D’Offay did not reply,” Mr Roucou continued.
Contrary to what has been said by other witnesses, who implied that Dr Ferrari, who was unarmed at the time, did not touch ‘Son’’s body after the incident, Mr Roucou stated that Dr Ferrari checked his pulse, looked ‘Son’ in his eyes and said he would not survive but that he should be taken to hospital. D’Offay then apparently followed Mr Rene back upstairs to his office.
As per his account, ‘Son’ had not died at the scene but was still breathing after he fell just outside the station. He is also unsure of who picked ‘Son’ up as he had returned inside, but is adamant that the weapon used to shoot ‘Son’ on the tragic afternoon was an assault rifle AK-47 since Self-Loading Rifles (SLRs) are high-powered rifles used for long-distance and since the men involved in carrying out the coup, often trained with AK47 to his knowledge.
Asked whether the shooting was intentional or in self-defence as former President Rene had apparently stated to Dr Ferrari, Mr Roucou confirmed that the shooting was indeed intentional on account that ‘Son’ was walking in front of D’Offay with his hands up and if he had been resisting or struggling, he would have to be facing D’Offay and would therefore have been shot in the chest. Mr Roucou suggested that D’Offay did not cock his gun, as it was on safety and he only removed it on safety to single bullet mode to shoot ‘Son’.
Mr Roucou, also confirmed that the incident was recorded in the occurrence book as Hugger Roucou, had written ‘Phillip D’Offay shot son Chang-Him in the back in cold blood’ and when asked why he included it, he argued that it was his job to report this is the occurrence book.
The commission proceeded to question Mr Roucou as to his involvement in the coup, whether he had knowledge of such actions before June 5, 1977 in which he said he found it strange that Mr Rene, who was Prime Minister at the time came to visit the armoury at the police barracks stating that it needs to be extended to accommodate a new consignment of weapons around three months before the coup.
Mr Roucou concluded his sitting before the commission by stating that he decided to come forward with evidence to clarify the allegations that ‘Son’ was trying to overpower D’Offay to disarm him and set the fact straight that ‘Son’ was indeed unarmed and not resisting but rather had his hands up above his head.
Former chief of SPDF not aware of location of memorial fund documents
The first witness to appear before the commission yesterday morning was Leopold Payet, former chief of the Seychelles People’s Defence Forces (SPDF) who enlightened the commission as to the memorial fund from which the Chang-Him family was supposed to benefit.
The fund, established by Decree 24 of 1977, was intended to support the families of the three men killed during the coup and was apparently extended later to cover officials from the force who have suffered from injuries or other tragedies.
“There was a fund but I have not got the documents. It’s better, I am requested to come later, when I have the correct information. I was on the committee which was established but the list of people who has been paid or paid, I can’t remember,” Mr Payet noted.
Mr Payet noted that he was among the board members until two years ago when he stopped participation, and the board was allegedly headed by former President James Michel and former Governor of the Central Bank of Seychelles (CBS) Francis Chang-Leng also sat on the board.
He continued on to state that the Vice President’s Office had requested the board documents before he retired from the post in December, and that he was recently informed by Vice President Vincent Meriton that he is unaware where the documents are located and they might possibly be at the President’s Office.
The commission agreed to have Mr Payet at a later date allowing him some time to acquire the documents.
Phillip Lucas denies accompanying D’Offay to look for ‘Son’ at Bel Ombre earlier during the day
The third witness to appear before the commission, Phillip Lucas who was also a police officer at the time, noted that on the morning of June 5, 1977, he arrived at the police station at around 7am or 8am from L’Exile and that the first person to greet him was Phillip D’Offay who approached the vehicle in which he and his colleague were in and asked where he was going informing him that he needed a driver or to borrow the car.
According to Mr Lucas, D’Offay didn’t appear to be under the influence of substances but stated that he was of an aggressive nature.
However, according to Mr Lucas’ account, he refused and informed his colleague Norcy Chung-Loye to remain in the vehicle in which they had arrived while he went inside to talk to Ogilvy Berlouis, who was inside with Mr Rene, then Commissioner James Pillay and former President James Michel, and was told to wait.
At that point, Mr Lucas proceeded downstairs and saw D’Offay standing in the entrance of the police station facing the church and after around 15 minutes, Ogilvy Berlouis came down and together with Berlouis and Lucas, they made their way to the airport.
Upon returning from the airport shortly after, he was informed by a fellow officer that D’Offay was unhappy with how the officer had addressed him and also informed him that D’Offay had left with a named Ratnan Pillay.
From there, Mr Lucas returned to the airport until between 3pm to 4 pm when upon arriving at the station, he learned that “Mr Chang-Him had been shot by Phillip D’Offay”. According to Mr Lucas, he proceeded upstairs to the offices to address an issue with the team based at the airport and once this was sorted, he returned to the airport until much later in the night when he returned home.
The commission were interested in the interaction between D’Offay and himself and whether he had any prior knowledge of the coup.
Asked by chairperson Gabrielle Louise McIntyre if he was driving the vehicle in which D’Offay was looking for ‘Son’ as alleged by the previous witness Guy Roucou,he categorically said “no” and went as far as saying “I have never driven a Land Rover in my life” and “I have never been inside a Land Rover with anyone, not even driven a Land Rover”.
The unit based at the airport which Mr Lucas was part of was according to him as a form of security, part of the contingency if the coup was to be successful. This statement led the commissioners to question Mr Lucas as to whether he took part in the coup and whether the unit stationed at the airport was also aware or part of the coup. He answered ‘yes’ to both.
“I was not sure exactly what date it would happen but I knew when it was happening because I was close to Mr Rene. In reality, I was driving him around. Sometimes, you know in life, not everything you like or not like, as Mr Rene was my boss and when he told me there would be this and to take part, the answer becomes a bit difficult,” he said.
Mr Lucas answered ‘no’ to being asked if he was aware if there would be bloodshed in the coup and if these shooting incidents were planned, stating that during the last meet, it was decided that it would be better if nobody was hurt.
He was asked to state the names of persons who formed the unit and said that he was not familiar with some of them and that others have since passed. He however mentioned Ogilvy Berlouis, McDonald Marengo, Noel Marengo, Armand Kilindo, Norcy Chung-Loye and former President James Michel. Mr Lucas also mentioned that he encountered others for the first time that day. He clearly stated that D’Offay, despite being part of the coup, did not form part of his unit and that he was unaware whether he had any formal training.
According to his account, around 75 Tanzanian military officials arrived in the country three days after the coup with their “full pack” to train local military personnel. He described the first batch as very disciplined and a second batch as “mixed-minded”. They were under the command of a Tanzanian major and frequently rotated quarterly. A further 30 North Koreans also arrived in the country to train officers.
Regarding whether he has any knowledge of where and if those who took part in the coup received training prior to the coup, either on Ile Recife or elsewhere, Mr Lucas stated that he was unaware. He stated that on the day of the coup, he and his unit carried ‘Kalashnikova’ (AK-47).
Asked by the commission’s vice-chairman Michael Green where he had learned to use such a weapon, Mr Lucas stated Tanzania. He denied having followed training in Tanzania in preparation for the coup and that he learned to shoot from a friend, a captain in the Tanzania military forces who he says, would bring his weapon home and practice shooting while he was on holiday in Tanzania. He said that he met the Tanzanian friend in a meeting after being introduced by Mr Servina.
“It was not a training. He came with his gun at home and as you know, we practiced and he showed me and told me to try,” he said in response to whether this was before or after the coup.
“I don’t think there was anyone who received intensive training on the guns but as you know, some are brainier than others and catch on quicker and that’s what happened. There was no intensive training, I don’t remember,” Mr Lucas continued.
He noted that he was comfortable handling the weapon despite no intensive training since he was of the habit of hunting small animals with smaller guns and that guns were permitted at the time.
Perhaps adding another piece to the puzzle, Mr Lucas remarked that he has witnessed the supposedly small white round Panadol-like pill which allegedly forces the animals in officers to come out and which was said to strengthen them but that he is unaware who distributed the pills. He was personally not offered the pill.
Mr Lucas concluded by calling for others to come forth and to be truthful.
The commission will resume at 9am today with the first hearing in the case of Lewis Betsy. It will however, continue to take evidence in relation to case 1, the Chang-Him family, for the next two weeks.
The commission is urging persons with information pertaining to the cases of Hassan Ibrahim, Brian Victor, Alton Ah-Time, Simon Desnousse, Gilbert Morgan, Hoffman and Elizabeth to come forward and provide evidence.