3102723
Mark Hernandez

Special Operations Response Team (SORT) head Inspector Mark Hernandez, who was detained for questioning into the deaths of murder suspects Joel Balcon and Andrew “Solo” Morris on Wednesday morning along with three other police officers from the unit, remained in police custody up to late yesterday evening.

Police sources close to the investigation said yesterday they were expecting to complete the interview process for the officers by last night.

Guardian Media understands that attorneys representing the three SORT officers, who were picked up in Cumuto, intend to file a habeas corpus today if the officers are not released after they are interviewed.

One attorney, Guardian Media understands, had already drafted a letter expressing serious concerns about the police’s handling of the ongoing investigation and intends to send it to the Director of Public Prosecutions and senior police officers.

Hernandez was not arrested but was escorted by police officers of the Professional Standards Bureau (PSB) to be interviewed in the ongoing investigation, in which several SORT officers have already been questioned and later released.

Hernandez was taken to the Pinto Police Station, where he was questioned in the presence of his attorney by PSB officers on Wednesday. Hernandez is being represented by attorney John Heath.

Close to 20 officers from the unit, both police and Defence Force members, have already been interviewed over the last week and later released.

Balcon and Morris were prime suspects in the kidnapping and murder of Arima court clerk Andrea Bharatt on January 29.

Within hours of Bharatt’s disappearance, both Morris and Balcon were picked up by a team of SORT and Anti-Kidnapping Unit (AKU) officers.

However, Morris subsequently died at the hospital on February 1, while Balcon succumbed to injuries he allegedly sustained while in police custody on February 8.

Bharatt’s bloated body was found four days prior to Balcon’s death (February 4), dumped over a precipice in the Heights of Aripo.

Inspector Hernandez has been short-listed for one of three posts of Deputy Commissioner of Police (DCP) and his nomination is yet to be debated in Parliament.

Senior police sources say apart from the charge of murder, the officers could face other charges, including assault occasioning actual bodily harm, misbehaviour in public office and perverting the course of justice.

The charge of assault occasioning actual bodily harm is against a man who had previously been detained by the officers during their investigation into Bharatt’s disappearance, but he was later released without charge.

Negus George was eventually charged with the murder of Bharatt and that matter is now before the court.