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More witnesses appear before the Truth, Reconciliation, National Unity Commission | 27 November 2019

More witnesses appeared before the Truth, Reconciliation and National Unity Commission (TRNUC) yesterday to share what they know in different cases related to the coup d’etat including several cases of deaths and disappearances.

Two witnesses – Guy Roucou and Donatien Dogley – were heard behind closed doors in the morning while two former police officers – Georges Fock Tave and Paul Bedier – who had worked mostly with the CID Unit and who are now both retired and living in Australia, interacted with members of the commission via Skype.

Mr Fock Tave had been called in because the commission believes he may have relevant information on the Simon Desnousse as well as other cases while Mr Bedier was named as one of the CID officers who came to the Desnousses’ house to look for fingerprints for identification of the body following the death of Simon Desnousse.

Mr Fock Tave, a former police officer for 21 years aged 71, was the first to give evidence to the commission.

Mr Fock Tave said he worked in different units of the police including 10 years in the CID and was also at some point based at the Cascade police station but he resigned from the force in November 1987 before migrating to Australia the following month.

At the time he resigned he was an inspector at the Police Mobile Unit.

Mr Fock Tave recounted that the day of the coup d’etat he was at home at Quincy Street when his neighbour knocked on his window and informed him to listen to the radio where he got details of the coup.

“I stayed at home,” he said, noting that on the following day he phoned headquarters to speak to police commissioner James Pillay to know what will happen to him. He was asked if he supported the government and when he said yes he was asked to return to work where he met his superior, Superintendent Joseph Isnard and other officers.

He went on to give details of the orders he received to place guards at different posts at L’Exile on different shifts.

One day, he said, assistant Superintendent Raymond Savy turned up at the PMU at Mont Fleuri and Superintendent Isnard asked him what his business was as he carried a dossier. He said he was investigating the disappearance of Hassanali which apparently happened the night before.

He interacted a few minutes with Mr Isnard before leaving. Two guards from L’Exile informed them later that Hassanali was at l’Exile the night before but Mr Isnard asked them to keep their mouths shut to avoid putting him in trouble.

Later after the guards had left, Mr Fock Tave said Mr Isnard informed him not to divulge what he had heard to anyone.

“I never repeated this to anyone until today,” Mr Fock Tave said.

He noted that soon after the incident he asked the commissioner for a transfer to the CID Unit where he started conducting investigations, most of which were fraud cases.

With regard to the Simon Desnousse case, Mr Fock Tave said he was instructed by one of his superiors to go to the mortuary to try and identify two corpses and he was told that one of them should have a ring on a finger. He was accompanied to the mortuary by inspector Paul Bedier who was in charge of the fingerprint unit.

One of the corpses did carry a ring on a finger and Mr Fock Tave went on to describe the state of the corpses describing one as “looking like a big roast”. He said there were two doctors in the mortuary at the time – pathologist Dr Rubell Brewer and Dr Low. He explained what happened in the mortuary and how Dr Low used a scalpel to cut and x-rayed the arm of the corpse and cut a finger to remove a ring and handed it to him.

Inspector Bedier photographed the corpse with the ring which he brought back to his superior and Mr Fock Tave affirmed that this was the only thing he knew about the Desnousse case.

Asked by the Commission’s chairperson, Gabrielle McIntyre, where the information that there was going to be a ring came from when an x-ray had to be taken to show that there was a ring, Mr Fock Tave said he couldn’t say but he affirmed that the corpse was so badly burnt. Asked why an arm had to be cut to be x-rayed, Mr Fock Tave said only one corpse had an arm because both corpses were so badly burnt.

Asked if both corpses still had heads, he said one had but it had partly exploded while the other corpse it was not possible to say if the head was still there and he could not remember after so long.

Mr Fock Tave noted that according to his superior, the corpse with the ring was Desnousse’s.

He said there was no investigation in the case because there was no case file. Had there been a case file it would have been registered at Anse Royale but it never came down to headquarters.

He said he heard later at the police station that the two men accidentally blew themselves up while they were making bombs.

He said he didn’t ask any questions as to why there was no investigation in the case because they had learned not to ask questions.

Asked why he decided to resign in the police force, he said around 1985 he was in charge of the CID Unit when the commissioner at the time one day handed him a pistol and told him that the president had ordered he kept it for protection. He asked what would happen if the military searched him and found the weapon they would beat him up and he was not given any answer. He said he pondered over the event and concluded that things were not ok and that this could be that his life was in danger and there were people who wanted to get rid of him.

On the Hoffman case Mr Fock Tave recounted that one evening he was informed of two other corpses in the mortuary and that there had been a car accident.

Later that evening Inspector Bedier informed him that he was on his way to photograph the two corpses and he accompanied him. This is when he learned that one of them was Hoffman’s who worked with the police as a storekeeper.

He said both corpses were covered in blood and both had a gash in the forehead.

He recounted how he asked Dr Brewer if it was a vehicle accident and he said this was “bull shit” but that both wounds had been caused by a blow from a large knife.

Again there was no investigation as no case files reached the CID and that was all he knew and he never recounted what he saw to anyone. Asked if he talked to the survivor of the alleged accident, Brian Victor, Mr Fock Tave said he learned later that a survivor reported to Beoliere clinic but he never talked to him.

He noted that the fact that there were no investigations in these cases discouraged him.

Asked why he did not bring what he felt to the attention of the police commissioner James Pillay at that time, he said no and that Mr Pillay himself at that time relinquished his position probably because he was not happy with what was happening.

He went on to recount the incidents surrounding the investigation related to the post office where parcels were being opened illegally and large sums of money stolen from them.

He said one day he got home and his wife was crying and she recounted how she had received a threatening phone call from Romeo Quatre who was in charge of the post office. Other incidents involving the same person and the post office were later reported.

He explained how the close relations that Mr Quatre had with the people in power kept him above the law.

Asked about any other incidents that he had witnessed like drug trafficking, Mr Fock Tave gave details of a big wooden box under lock and key in the office of a senior CID officer in which the drugs hashish and cannabis were kept and all the different incidents related to that.

For his part Mr Bedier said he joined the police force in 1971 and resigned in 2009. From 1971 to 2007 he worked in the fingerprints section. From that time his main duties were related to crime and crime scene investigations and he went on to detail his responsibilities. But he said the cases are now over 35 years old and he would not remember all the details of all the different cases he investigated.

He said he was directly or indirectly involved in all criminal cases and he went on to detail his work and how he entered everything in the police notebook.

He detailed three cases which he was involved in namely Hassanali where he received a call around 7 to 7.30pm when he reached the scene of the incident at St Louis and he recounted what he saw at the scene but he could not recall who the police officer at the scene was. He did what he had to do before leaving the scene and this was his only involvement with the case. He said the case was discussed among police officers and they were told Hassanali had disappeared and that was all.

He said no identification was carried out and no fingerprints of any suspect were ever received in that case for investigation.

Asked by McIntyre why they did not ask any questions in relation to the case Mr Bedier said unfortunately he could not answer the question even though he was suspicious. Asked why he did not report to the commissioner he said unfortunately he could not do anything.

With regard to the Desnousse case Mr Bedier affirmed he could not remember the exact date of the incident but it was in October 1982 when he received a call from command centre in the early hours of that particular morning on the day of the incident. He explained how things unfurled after that and how he found the car torn with the impact of the explosion with the two bodies burnt beyond recognition and parts of the car and MPR leaflets scattered around.

He also said one or two live hand grenades were near the car and the fire was out but he insisted he does not recall how the two bodies were positioned. He went on to say that he left the scene around 6 to 6.30am to later be called to the mortuary to take photos of the body and like Mr Fock Tave he confirmed that the bodies were unrecognisable with large wounds to the head with one corpse skull partly blown off.

He also said on that day he accompanied one of Mr Desnousse’s brother to their house to try and find his finger prints, something which was difficult.

Later he was informed by an officer he could not remember that one of the corpses had been identified as Desnousse and he mentioned a ring as the form of identification.

He further noted that to date what still baffles him is how the other body was identified as belonging to Mike Asher because personally neither him nor his colleagues can say.

He also confirmed and corroborated Mr Fock Tave’s story that part of an arm was cut off to be X-rayed.

Mr Bedier said he did not recall seeing an arm on the scene of the accident.

Mr Bedier said he did not know where the Seychelles NATION newspaper received the photos of the accident that it published because he personally did not provide any media photos of the scene.

Again he confirmed that no investigation was conducted in the case as he was not asked by anybody nor any investigating officer or officer in charge of the region to revisit the scene for further investigation and he was never asked to give any statement in the case so the case was never investigated.

Asked if he knew anything in the disappearance of Gilbert Morgan, Mr Bedier said he was not involved in the investigation of the case but his boss at that time Mr Antoine Lau Tee was.

Mr Bedier also gave details of his involvement in the case of Michael Hoffman and Tony Elizabeth in a fatal accident at Sans Soucis and he noted that contrary to what he had heard in previous testimonies, the injuries were not caused by beating. He noted that a few days later he became aware that there was a survivor in the accident and again he said he was never approached in any investigation in the case.

In the Marjorie Baker’s case, he said he remembered the case but not if he was directly or indirectly involved and if there were any proper and full police investigation in the case.

In the case of the burnt car found with a body at Le Chantier around the time of the rebellion, there again he said he was not involved in the case and the commission has launched an appeal for people who know anything in the case to come forward.

He affirmed that in the case of Dave Benoiton found dead at Providence and in which he was involved, it was an execution case as he was shot in the forehead at close range and his skull was torn open.

In the Dhamendra Eulentin’s case he said he was not involved but he is aware of the case.

As for Ricky Hermitte’s case he said he was sent to the scene and he went on to describe the scene of the accident at Kan Tobrouk where Hermitte apparently left the scene as a trail of blood was left where he went trying to get help before collapsing on the steps of a house in the vicinity. He said he could not remember the name of the owner of the house but he has promised to get back to the commission if he remembered any other information in the case. He said some form of investigation was carried out in that particular case.

Ms McIntyre said the information received are very important for the commission and she has called on members of the public with information on any of the cases before the commission to come forward and she also reminded complainants who have not yet asked the commission to take up their case that they have no later than February 9, 2020 to do so.

 

Marie-Anne Lepathy

 

 

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