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TRNUCMonday13January2020 Truth, Reconciliation and National Unity Commission (TRNUC) Circumstances around death of radio presenter comes to light, attack survivor speaks out | 14 January 2020

TRNUCMonday13January2020  Truth, Reconciliation and National Unity Commission (TRNUC)     Circumstances around death of radio presenter comes to light, attack survivor speaks out

Brian Victor (Photo: Thomas Meriton)

 Before a large crowd including family members and friends, an emotional Brian Victor was yesterday morning before the Truth, Reconciliation and National Unity Commission (TRNUC) to complain about an attack against him and two other persons with him that occurred in July 1983, in which he was the sole survivor.

It is alleged that he, along with Michael Hoffman and Sony Elizabeth, were involved in an accident after their vehicle fell off a ravine at Morne Blanc when in fact it came to light later that they were ambushed by the army after going to collect guns at Sans Souci with the help of army personnel Jemmy Marengo on July 21, 1983, the day Hoffman and Elizabeth died while he (Victor) survived from an attack.

Mr Victor, who lived at Bel Air at that time, said that following his resignation as a postman driver, he bought a car (S3133) in which as a driving instructor, he taught three soldiers (he knew and didn’t mention their names) based at the Pointe Larue army camp how to drive. He noted that at times, if space was available in the back seat, he would have his former postman colleague, Sonny Elizabeth, to join him along as he teaches the soldiers to drive.

He said he once met Mr Elizabeth in town to join him as usual on the driving courses with the soldiers and as he was with Mr Hoffman, he (Hoffman) also joined in and that happened twice. He claimed that at the time he never knew Hoffman that much but he was very friendly with Mr Elizabeth who was also a Bel Air resident.

Mr Victor, who now resides in the United States of America, said that one day he caught up with Mr Elizabeth who claimed that Mr Hoffman was seeking a ride to collect items at Sans Souci. He noted that Mr Elizabeth has stated that soldier Jemmy Marengo, who was a state security, had some items prepared to be given to Mr Hoffman and it was at Sans Souci. He said that when he asked what was there to be collected, he said Mr Elizabeth noted that they were going to meet Mr Marengo first, along with another man (a Mr Leon) to collect the item and they will tell him about it on the way and after that they will go for some toddy at Elizabeth’s uncle living at Port Glaud.

Mr Victor, who claimed he knew Mr Marengo as he was one of his classmates, alleged that after driving around in town a few times, late in the afternoon, he, Elizabeth and Hoffman picked up Mr Marengo and the other man around 7pm and made their way up to Sans Souci. He noted that the atmosphere was friendly and calm. He said Mr Elizabeth was in the passenger seat while the three others took the back seat. He explained that it was on the way that he learned that Mr Marengo was going to give some guns to Mr Hoffman.

He said that upon reaching a check point, the car was stopped by a police security officer from the Police Mobile Unit, by the name of France Songoire (deceased), whom he knew very well and he had asked him where he was going. He noted that upon the given explanation, they were allowed to continue where at some point during the drive, he was advised by Mr Marengo to turn left into a small secondary road.

After a few metres drive, he said they came upon a road block in the form of a tree trunk. He alleged that with some swear words from Mr Marengo, they were ordered to get out of the car while suddenly, out of nowhere, the car was ambushed by soldiers carrying guns, sticks and bayonets and they were dragged out.

Mr Victor, very emotional, claimed that he was trampled on and beaten all over with sticks and gun butts but he didn’t see if Messrs Elizabeth and Hoffman were also being beaten. He noted that there were about fifteen to twenty soldiers in all including Mr Marengo and the other man who came with him participating in the beating. He noted that as he was lifeless on the ground from the constant beating, at one point he heard someone said that he (Victor) had been beaten enough and he would die very soon.

He claimed he was put in the front seat of his car with Elizabeth and Hoffman in the back seat and the car was driven by a soldier towards Port Glaud, followed by an army jeep. He said that though he was roughly beaten up and bleeding, he was still conscious and was observing what the soldier driving his car was doing. He further said that at one point the car was stopped and was pushed down the ravine. He noted that he was lucky that the car did not roll over and it was stopped by a tree.

Mr Victor stated that he had to flip down the light switch in the hood of the car to avert attention in case it lights up on opening the door and they were still watching. He noted that he told Mr Elizabeth, who was still moaning, to escape with him as Mr Hoffman did not give any indication that he was still alive.

 

He said that after he was unsuccessful in trying to get Mr Elizabeth to come with him as he was unable to move, with his body covered in blood and aching, he escaped on his own to seek help by climbing uphill and down toward Port Glaud until he reached a house where later an ambulance and two policemen came to his assistance.

Mr Victor said that he was brought for treatment at the Beolière clinic before being brought down to the then Victoria Hospital where he was bandaged mostly all over with only one eye in the open. He claimed that Dr Maxime Ferrari did come to see him at the hospital but he left in a rage saying something he could not understand. He also claimed that an injection was being prepared at the time to kill him in hospital but something happened and the injection was never administered.

He said he stayed for eleven days at the hospital before being released.

Still nursing his injuries and following treatment, he said that he was once called in by police commissioner James Pillay and upon telling his version of what happened, Commissioner Pillay told him that he was drunk that day and from information gathered from the Minister for Defence Ogilvy Berlouis, Mr Marengo was not present that night as he was on the outer island.

Mr Victor alleged that it was former President Albert Rene who gave the orders to kill him along with Messrs Elizabeth and Hoffman. He claimed that he was constantly harassed after the incident and he was very thankful to the American embassy through Ambassador David Fisher, for facilitating his immigration to the US before he came back to visit his family during Christmas 1993, the year the country returned to multi-party democracy.

He refuted allegations that prior to the hearing, the leader of the opposition Wavel Ramkalawan, the Ferrari family and others have contacted or paid him to interfere with his testimony. He said that he even went to see President Danny Faure on Friday January 10, 2020 who had encouraged him to tell the truth about the incident.

Mr Victor said that with Dr Ferrari linked with the coup, he would never meet up with him even though he (De Ferrari) had expressed his desire to meet him. Mr Victor also had a session behind closed doors.

The case is still being investigated.

 

Case 144 Vincent Jeannevole:

Dobin Samson, as a witness, had contacted the commission due to his name he claimed was being constantly mentioned in case 144 of ex-soldier Vincent Jeannevol in his testimony last week.

The commission had already scheduled Mr Samson for its February 3, 2020 session relating to security clearance and also of his employment with the Department of Defence at the President’s Office between 1978 and 1993 and furthermore in relation to case 0094 of Ramesh Naidoo who had claimed he was wrongly imprisoned in relation to a break-in and theft at the customs department but had allowed him to comment on the allegation made by Mr Jeannevole.

Mr Samson claimed that Mr Jeannevole was not speaking the truth about him while also noting that he (Mr Samson) was not qualified to occupy the post at State House. Refuting the allegation against him by Mr Jeannevole, he noted that when he was approached to join the defence forces in 1978, he was in employment and had a qualification following his study at the Kenya Institute of Administration in Nairobi sponsored by the SHELL Company and there was no reason for Mr Jeannevole to say he didn’t have a qualification.

Mr Samson stated that Mr Jeannevole was also not speaking the truth to the commission about him (Samson) when he said that in 1997 or 1998 he (Samson) gave money to a François Lesperance (who was also present in the gallery yesterday) to fetch a pistol with him (Jeannevole) at the port. He noted that in 1997 or 1998 he was not working at State House as he had walked out of State House in 1993.

Mr Samson claimed that he was never part of the coup of June 5, 1977, he was never a minister in the Albert Rene government, has never been a member of the Seychelles People’s Progressive Front (SPPF) central committee and has never killed or organised to kill anybody in Seychelles.

He further said that he had never threatened Mr Jeannevole in any way based on his allegation that he had claimed that he (Samson) would make him lose his job. He noted that as a Christian he doesn’t believe in making people suffer.

Mr Samson explained that he was not aware of the duties of Mr Jeannevole at State House as he did not report to him but claimed Mr Jeannevole had a grudge against him because he (Samson) reported him (Jeannevole) to his superior for sexual harassment against a receptionist also working at State House and who had also claimed that he was always drunk while on duty.

He noted that if Mr Jeannevole was mistreated somewhere along the line in his career like he had claimed, he should not vent all his frustration on him. He also asked the commission to get Mr Jeannevole to apologise to him for the allegations made towards him.

The chairperson of the commission, Gabrielle McIntyre, said that people who deliberately and maliciously give false information will be taken to task but one have to bear in mind that with the passing of time some people can get things wrong and it is not fair to take them to task if they have unintentionally got things wrong.

 

Case 0123: Murder of radio presenter Marjorie Baker

Juan Salamon in case 0123 was accompanied by his sister Myrna Rose-King and aunty Florange Mchan, a former police officer, to the commission to complain about the death of his mother, popular radio presenter at the then Radio Seychelles, Marjorie Baker, who died on the night of September 5, 1986.

Mr Salamon claimed that his mother was murdered and also alleged that the person and one time concubine (Douglas Cedras) who went to prison for her murder was not the one responsible for killing her. He said that he learned through various sources that his mother had previously claimed that she was having some trouble with former President James Michel who was at that time a minister and high ranking army officer.

He said that Mr Cedras had stated in a sixteen-page letter he wrote in jail that he had been ordered (under duress) to lure Ms Baker out of her residence at La Louise to North East Point where she was taken away by three armed men he claimed he didn’t know. He further said that Mr Cedras had written that he was not the killer and he was not present when they killed her as they had dropped him at his mother’s residence at Glacis before they took off with her.

Her body was later found in her car parked next to the residence of Mr Cedras’ mother in an attempt to frame him.

The letter, which was read by Mr Salamon in open session, added that Mr Cedras was body searched and a knife was found on him and it was the same knife that was used to kill Ms Baker. He said Mr Cedras had wanted a copy of the letter to be given to President Albert Rene, one copy to the then Minister for Defence, Ogilvy Berlouis and a copy to Chief Justice Earl Seaton. The letter was dated November 8, 1986.

His sister, Mrs Rose-King, who claimed she was the only child staying with her mother at La Louise as her older sister Betty May was staying at Greenwich while Juan was staying in the United States, said the day her mother was killed she got an arrogant phone call earlier during the day from someone asking for her mother. She noted that when her mother arrived home that day, she informed her about the call she had received, to which she didn’t say anything. Following another phone call later at around 7pm, her mother took her car keys and told her that she was going somewhere and she never came back.

She claimed that it was one of her mother’s friends who broke the news to her that night after she had used her mother’s phone to seek information from the police.

Mrs Rose-King said the post mortem had revealed that her mother had died from multiple stabbing with a sharp object with fatal wounds to the heart and lungs. She said that her mother was the presenter who announced the news of the June 5, 1977 coup on the radio along with Mr Cedras.

Mrs Mchan, who resigned as a police inspector in the criminal department, told the commission that someone had told her that some members of the army were plotting a coup against President Rene and she had leaked the news to her sister (Ms Baker) not knowing it could have resulted in her death as being close to President Rene it was found out that she held evidence that could jeopardise the attempted coup.

She noted that the death of her sister was so sudden and shocking to the family. She claimed that the family members are trying to seek some clarification surrounding her death and called on people with information to contact the commission. It is to be noted that after spending some years in jail, Mr Cedras was granted Presidential pardon.

Patrick Joubert

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