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May 20, 1998

More Stann Creek witnesses assert innocence of Teul and Vasquez

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More people have today come forward to protest the continued incarceration of Alfonso Teul and Eluterio Vasquez, two farm workers who have been charged with murder and robbery in the May second mass holdup on the Hummingbird Highway. News Five’s Patrick Jones has just returned from the citrus orchards of the Stann Creek Valley and files the following report.

Christopher West, Farm Supervisor

“I am just trying to aid the police; I am not trying to get in their way. I am not going against them; I am only coming forward because this is the truth what we are saying.”

The workers at H.T.A. Bowman Limited say it is impossible for their colleagues Vasquez and Teul to be in two places at the same time, as the police are alleging.

Angel Chavin, Farm Worker

“On May second we were working, picking fruit together – all the guys, even the ones that they took away.”

The grove workers, including the two accused men, returned to the job on Saturday, following the Labor Day holiday, many of them picking up where they had left off on Thursday evening.

Angel Chavin

“In the morning we went to work together in the same trailer. At about nine thirty we were together where I was to receive my task and I saw them when Mr. West scolded them for picking fruit in the wrong row. They gave me the front row to work close to them and they were working the whole day.”

Patrick Jones

“The field is now empty as harvesting in this particular orchard has been completed, but these are the same trees that the farm supervisor says that Eluterio Vasquez and Alfonso Teul were picking oranges from while the hold-up was taking place on the Hummingbird Highway.”

Christopher West

“It was a qualifying day and whenever the supervisor is not around, they take advantage of that situation. I wasn’t there at the moment and they saw the tree look good and they were given a task so they jump at it. That’s why when I passed through I had was to tell them about it. This is the exact spot, Teo was on this tree reaping when I passed with two other persons to give more row at the other end, and I had the confrontation with him, just about around, nine-thirty, ten. I guess the time the robbery was taking place so I don’t know anything else like how could it be that they were there at the robbery and they were right here.”

One of the people who was accompanying West to get their day’s assignment was Maria Bernaldo Reyes. According to Reyes she not only witnessed the dispute between her supervisor and the two men, but also noted the time the discussion was taking place.

Maria Bernalda Reyes, Farm Worker

“Yes, I was going with him to receive my rows to keep on picking because we had our task. When we passed by where they were, Teo and Teul, he asked them, who put you there, these guys haven’t finished their job’s yet, he said. You guys should have looked for me so I could go and give you your rows.”

Q: “Do you know what time this was taking place?”

Maria Bernalda Reyes

“It was 9:30.”

Q: “How did you know it was 9:30?”

Maria Bernalda Reyes

“I was checking the time when I had to do the task. I was worried about the time so I asked a young man what time it was. He said it was 9:30.”

Another worker, who was assigned rows immediately next to the ones assigned to Teul and Vasquez, says that throughout the day on May second, the two suspects were on the farm.

Juan Choc, Farm Worker

“Whole day, I saw him because he was coming towards me. What happened is that we started to double the rows dem. That’s the reason why I saw Mr. Teul coming towards me as I was going towards him.”

Q: “You talk about Teul. What about Mr. Vasquez?”

Juan Choc

“Also, because I guess they are working together.”

And speaking about working together, the workers say that if Teul and Vasquez were really co-conspirators in the plot to terrorize over a hundred people near Roaring River, the police might still be looking for Vasquez.

Christopher West

“They picked up Teul, and Vasquez was right there with them, right there. They were together when C.I.B. or I don’t know how they call it, two vehicles just rushed into this grove and they asked me for Teul. And I went and showed them Teul… leave Vasquez and then the following day they came back and asked for Vasquez. And then they took Vasquez then. To my belief if they were involved in anything like that I believe that Vasquez would have fled the scene. He had twenty four hours to leave if he, I would say was guilty of such accusations.”

Patrick Jones

“Police Commissioner Ornel Brooks at his press conference on Monday afternoon in Belmopan told reporters that company records do not conclusively place Teul and Vasquez on the farm on the morning of May second, 1998. Supervisors, however, say that the nature of harvesting oranges makes it impossible for the two men to have slipped away anytime during the day and still be able to turn in their quota at the end.”

As it now stands, it’s a case of the word of the farm workers against that of the police.

Christopher West

“I am aware of that Patrick, I am aware of that, but the truth of the matter is that it’s not because we would want to create alibi for anybody.”

Ornel Brooks, Commissioner of Police

“It is our intention to pursue these alibis, these allegations, but we are certain that at the end of the day the character of five independent witnesses shall hold forth.”

Christopher West

“As much as the whole nation would want these people to be captured, I would want them to be captured too. I am not creating an alibi for some people who rob our own native Belizean. I mean it’s just the plain truth. I know they were here working with me and they haven’t been out anyway because I would have known that because I was physically checking so I am not like creating any problem for the police or anything like that. I am just frankly telling the truth.”

Angel Chavin

“We continue picking fruit; finished our task. We were close to him throughout the day. In the afternoon we all went home together in the same trailer, so they are not guilty of what they are accusing them of. They are innocent.”

Maria Bernalda Reyes

“They stayed there picking oranges, working. They didn’t go anywhere until in the evening when we returned to our rooms. They came with us; they didn’t go anywhere.”

Q: “Could they have been on the highway robbing people?”

Maria Bernalda Reyes

“I don’t see how they can be accused. The day of that assault they were working for the company here. So we here say they are innocent – not to be blamed for that robbery because I saw them. We all say that they were working here.”

Patrick Jones, for News Five.

Following his interview with News Five, Christopher West and several other witnesses traveled to Belmopan to formally present their testimony to police. Meanwhile, forty six year old Teul and twenty four year old Vasquez remain in the maximum security section of Hattieville Prison.

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