• Probe launched into allegations that cops took detainee on a spree across town • Concerns raised about lawmen accepting bribes to allow inmates out for enjoyment
A high-level probe is underway into allegations that a serial fraudster “mysteriously” walked out of his cell at a police lock-up in the Jamaican capital and went on a spree that lasted several hours, law enforcement sources say. At least one of...
A high-level probe is underway into allegations that a serial fraudster “mysteriously” walked out of his cell at a police lock-up in the Jamaican capital and went on a spree that lasted several hours, law enforcement sources say.
At least one of the unauthorised excursions reportedly happened following a handover of the detainee to officers from another police station, when they came to pick him up at the Kingston Central Police lock-up, between late December and early January, they claim.
The detainee, Garth Savoury, was seen at several places, including his home and a restaurant, during his unauthorised release, which was uncovered on the day he was to appear in court, multiple sources claimed.
On Thursday, Deputy Commissioner of Police Fitz Bailey told The Sunday Gleaner that an incident is now the subject of an “active” high-level investigation by the Professional Standards Unit of the police force.
“I know that there are some irregularities surrounding someone who was in custody, but I don’t know the details and I don’t know the name of the prisoner,” Bailey said.
“I am aware of an investigation into what I call a mysterious situation in which one person who should have been in custody was not there,” he said, before insisting that he would make no more comments on an active probe.
However, an investigator close to the case told The Sunday Gleaner that a cop who reportedly negotiated a payment of at least $50,000 for Savoury’s joyride has been suspended from duty.
Savoury, a former marketing manager of the Jamaica Football Federation, and his co-accused Ramone Gordon, both from the same upper St Andrew community, are facing charges of forgery and uttering forged documents, the Court Administration Division (CAD) confirmed.
The case stretches back to at least three years ago. In a ruling handed down on November 30 last year, a judge of the Corporate Area Criminal Court ordered that the case be transferred to the Home Circuit Court, which can impose higher sentences.
Missed court appearance
According to law enforcement insiders, the two men were being held at the Kingston Central police lock-up when a group of cops from another police station showed up and requested Savoury, indicating that he was needed for an interview related to another case.
A signed entry was reportedly made in the station diary by the cops who requested Savoury, the source said, adding that it was later discovered that: “they took him out of the lock-up and carry him go a him yard and all ‘bout inna town.”
During an investigation, it is part of police procedure that lawmen, particularly detectives, from other divisions request detainees at the Kingston Central lock-up and take them elsewhere for various reasons, including interviews and identification parades, the source said, explaining why Savoury was handed over to the other cops.
“They themselves were not even checking up on it because it’s the norm,” said the source, referring to higher-ups at Kingston Central Police Station, the headquarters for the Kingston Central Police Division.
“So, is when the court mention come up and they called for him, that’s when dem a realise that him not there.”
Deputy Superintendent Michelle Campbell, acting commanding officer for the Kingston Central Police, said she was unaware of the incident.
“This is news to me. I know nothing of that, I can’t assist you,” Campbell said when contacted by The Sunday Gleaner.
Up to 2018, Savoury had 19 convictions of similar charges, court documents reveal. Both he and Gordon were previously convicted of fraudulent offences, including forging the signature of former minister of national security Peter Bunting on letters they wrote to the Registrar General Department under the ministry’s letterhead requesting emergency birth certificates for several people.
In that 2016 case, the two pleaded guilty. Savoury was fined $350,000 and given a three-year suspended sentence, while Gordon was sentenced to two years’ probation.
Both were remanded when they were arrested on the current charges.
Attorney-at-Law Denise Walker told The Sunday Gleaner that she has removed herself from the case involving Savoury and Gordon, and directed queries to their new lawyer Donovan Williams, who is also the member of parliament for the Kingston Central constituency.
Calls to Williams’ mobile phone up to press time went unanswered.
Walker said the two are due back in court on March 27. The CAD said their matter was last mentioned in the Home Circuit Court on February 14.
It is not clear whether Gordon was ever a participant in the joyride scheme.
Transferred to high-security centre
Savoury has since been transferred to the high-security Tower Street Adult Correctional Centre, formerly General Penitentiary or ‘GP’, in Kingston because of a medical condition, said one official, citing the explanation given by police top brass.
A writ signed by a judge is required for detainees to leave the Tower Street prison, the source explained.
Campbell said questions about the transfer should be directed to the police Corporate Communications Unit.
The jail cells at Kingston Central Police Station were shut down for repairs in January and all detainees transferred to a location in St Catherine, one insider disclosed.
Detainees and convicts ‘inducing’ cops and correctional officers to get special favours is a long-standing concern, according to veteran law enforcement operatives and one former prison boss, who cited a recent string of jail-breaks, including two at the Kingston Central Police Station within a 10-month span.
Orville Purnell, who is wanted in St Lucia for murder and other offences, simply ‘walked out’ of his cell at Kingston Central police lock-up on December 1, 2021 amid reports of a multi-million dollar payment to several people, including cops. A probe was launched into that incident. Purnell is still at-large.
On October 6 last year, accused killer Rudolph ‘Boxer’ Shaw escaped from the same lock-up after he was arrested in the Cayman Islands and brought back to Jamaica. He was killed by the police days later.
Micheal McLean, the man who was convicted of slaughtering six members of a St Thomas family, blurted out during his 2018 murder trial that he was spirited from the maximum security Horizon Remand Centre in St Andrew at least 15 times and taken to a guest house in the Three Miles area to have sex with different girlfriends.
McLean said, over the 12 years he was in custody awaiting trial, he “dated” two teachers and a secretary and claimed that he had proof on a memory card.
Abuse of privilege
A former commissioner of corrections also cited an incident involving a convicted killer who was given permission to attend his father’s funeral under escort by correctional officers.
“On the way back from the funeral, he stopped at his wife’s home with the escorts and beat her up and that’s how it came out,” the former prison boss, who asked not to be named, told The Sunday Gleaner.
“The stop at the house was not permitted. Nobody is going to risk their job to deviate without some form of inducement, but it’s just a question of proving it,” he added while acknowledging that there were numerous challenges that prevented prison authorities from getting proof that money was exchanged to induce warders to deviate from policy.
The former commissioner disclosed, too, that the authorities also had information that the convicted killer was leaving the prison without authorisation to engage in “sexual trysts”.
He detailed how the convicted killer was collared at a medical facility adjoining the one he was given permission to visit for treatment and immediately returned to his prison cell.
“He seemed to have had influence over a member of the medical team. So he was going to a private medical centre under escort for some tests and we had them under surveillance,” the former commissioner of corrections said.
“And then he went to a doctor’s office on the same complex that was unrelated to the original visit and that’s when the team that had them under surveillance took him back into the facility,” he said, adding that the prisoner had a cheque book at the time he was apprehended.
He said the lesson that should be learnt from these incidents is that prisoners should lose some of the privileges they are allowed while serving their punishment.
“When you deviate to accommodate things that appear humane, it is abused,” he said.
‘We have a few corrupt among us’
Arlington Turner, chairman of the Jamaica Federation of Correctional Officers, acknowledged that “we have a few corrupt among us”, but pushed back at critics saying, in most instances, allegations of impropriety are baseless.
Turner said he was aware of the claims made by McLean and disclosed that three correctional officers, including a senior officer, were “immediately” transferred, though the allegations were never proven.
He indicated, too, that he was aware of the case cited by the former prison boss, but lamented that correctional officers are judged unfairly for years “when none of these things happen in a continuous way”.
“These things really are unfortunate situations, but it happens in the minority. Maybe for the year you might have one case, maybe you don’t have any, but the one that happens many years ago still haunts us,” he said.
Turner also cautioned that correctional officers are often falsely accused by prisoners who believe they are too strict in enforcing prison policies.