An internal police investigation has been ordered into the killings of criminals Joel Balcon and Andrew Morris, two of the prime suspects in the murder of 23-year-old Andrea Bharatt who was kidnapped on February 29 and her body found six days later dumped off a precipice in the Heights of Aripo.
Guardian Media understands from senior police sources that two Acting Superintendents of Police have been mandated to investigate the men’s deaths following the findings of their autopsies last week. This is the second investigation which has been launched into the men’s death; the Police Complaints Authorit (PCA) initiated an investigation into the deaths last week.
ACP for the Northern Division Andy Belfon would have mandated the second investigation, Guardian Media understands. “It’s standard procedure when someone dies in police custody for an investigation to be done,” a senior homicide source said. Because the men died in that division, the ACP of that particular division can order the investigation.
The probe into their deaths is expected to start tomorrow, according to well-placed sources.
The source said that the findings of this investigation which is expected to take close to three weeks will likely be sent to the Director of Public Prosecutions. “I expect the Professional Standards Bureau (PSB) may have some oversight while the Police Complaints Authority (PCA) do their independent investigation,” a homicide source said.
Morris, who was known to the police and was also a known drug seller in Tumpuna, Arima, where he lived, was detained by officers of the Special Operations Response Team (SORT) on January 31, and his family alleged he was beaten in their presence before being taken away. The following day Morris died at the Arima Hospital.
Commissioner of Police Gary Griffith said that Morris was sickly and had collapsed and died after falling off a chair.
Two post mortems were done on Morris’ body—one by the State and the other privately by relatives—revealed he died from blunt force trauma.
According to the first autopsy done at the Forensic Science Centre Morris suffered brain fractures, several broken ribs, bleeding from internal organs, burnt marks to the back (allegedly from a taser), contusion to the right eye, bleeding to the brain as well as damage to his shoulders and legs.
Balcon, who police labelled as the mastermind in the kidnapping and murder of Bharatt, was known to the police as a sexual, drug, firearms, robbery and larceny offender. He was in an unconscious state until he died on Monday, eight days after he was detained by police.
Balcon had been picked up mere hours after Morris and was later hospitalised at the Eric Williams Medical Sciences Complex after suffering massive head injuries. He was also paralysed.
A post mortem on Balcon’s body at the Forensic Science Centre in St James by pathologist Dr Eastlyn McDonald-Burris revealed that Balcon died due to multiple trauma to the body.
The injuries he sustained could have been due to a beating he allegedly sustained while trying to escape police custody.
Several senior police sources confirmed to Guardian Media that Balcon spent close to 13 hours in the custody of SORT.
Sources said Balcon was taken back and forth from the Cumuto base where SORT is stationed after he led police to several locations in east Trinidad as they questioned him about Bharatt’s disappearance. None of the searches led them to Bharatt.
Sources said Morris was also in the custody of SORT for close to 13 hours where officers attempted to find out where Bharatt was being kept. Sources said apart from a half-hour stay at the Malabar Police Station, Morris was also taken to SORT headquarters and then to various locations as well.
Guardian Media was told that several entries made in the diary at SORT headquarters have been seized. The contents of those entries may now be in the hands of the PCA. “Some of the entries in that diary are flimsy, but it does show that the men were brought in there and they had allegedly made certain utterances,” a senior source said.