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Aug 31, 2001

Transport Minister testifies in Tower Hill Inquiry

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The fourth day of the Commission of Inquiry into the Tower Hill riot was anything but dull. Transport Commissioner Glen Arthurs took the stand along with a ballistics expert, Albert Ciego. As Ann-Marie Williams reports, not only did the commission find concerns with how Arthurs handled the situation, but the expert testimony places further doubt on the B.D.F.’s version of the truth.

Ann-Marie Williams, Reporting

Four witnesses took the stand today as the Commissioner of Inquiry into the July thirtieth riot at the toll bridge in Orange Walk continued. Among them were Commissioner of Transport Glen Arthurs and Albert Ciego, firearms technician.

When Arthurs testified, he told chairman Christopher Blackman that he told Amelio Tillett Jr., owner of Tillett’s Bus Line that his permit will not be renewed until an investigation is completed to see if there’s need for his permit. Arthurs continued by saying ,”It’s not automatic to renew a road transport permit after the two-year expiration.”

Justice Blackman countered “You cannot cut off a renewal just by saying it. Tillett is providing an essential service and there are no documented examples of breaches. He has a licence to operate.”

Arthurs counter argued that if a permit in not issued, a bus driver should not drive because if there’s a fatality, the transport officer can be charged if he gives the driver the go ahead.

Both Rev. Lazarus Augustine and Justice Blackman objected, saying that’s not in the law. Arthurs said, “I thought so.” Chairman Blackman told Arthurs he cannot interpret the law himself as it has contributed in part to a breakdown in the system.

The last witness to testify this afternoon was Albert Ciego, the police firearms technician. He told Justice Blackman that he was handed a slug from one of the victim’s wounds. He also told Justice Blackman that he examined the slug and found that it was a thirty-eight special Winchester unjacked slug. When the justice asked him if it came from a police weapon, he laughs saying, “I will hesitate to say, simply because there were other people out there with weapons.”

A composed Ciego told the inquiry that not only nine millimetre, thirty-eight special and five point five-six calibre rifles were used, as he found four holes on the buses that could have been made by another weapon other than the three types.

Video footage of the riot was also introduced as evidence. Ciego clearly stated that shots were heard coming from another weapon other than Captain John Borland’s.

The Commission of Inquiry moves back on Monday to where it all started, fifty-five miles north In Orange Walk Town, when they hear testimonies from two of the victims, Miguel Novelo and Jorge Sanchez. Reporting from the Supreme Court building in Belize City, Ann-Marie Williams for News 5.

Ciego also testified that, while it is not condoned by the B.D.F. for soldiers to possess extra rounds of ammunition above those that are officially issued, the practice of carrying extra bullets is common. The additional ammo is known as “buckshee.” Testifying on Thursday, B.D.F. Captain John Borland first denied that any of his fellow soldiers would have been in possession of extra rounds. However, during further cross examination, he reluctantly agreed that this was a possibility.

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