Guyana death-row inmate escapes during jailhouse fire

Death-row inmate Mark Royden Durant Williams escaped the Guyana prison on July 9 during a raging blaze that gutted the wooden structure.
Neil Marks

Less than one year after prisoners perished in a fire in the Guyana prison on Camp Street in the capital, Georgetown, the fire service was on Sunday, July 9 called to a raging blaze that gutted the wooden structure, from where mastermind, and death-row inmate Mark Royden Durant Williams, also known as “Smillie,” was jailed for murdering citizens in the villages of Lusignan and Bartica.

The escape of Williams puts a strain on the already cash-strapped prison system which housed more than 1000 inmates in a cramped building where one prison officer was shot caught in the devastating, daring escape and fire that began at approximately 4:45 pm.

During a news conference immediately after the incident, Director of Prisons Gladwin Samuels said Williams held a prison officer at gunpoint, and gunshots were heard in the prison. According to Samuels, after the standard operating procedures were completed, prisoners were evacuated safely. He said that 1018 prisoners were at the time being housed at the prison

Officer Odinga Wickham, who was shot, later died at the Georgetown Public Hospital. Samuels said one other officer was in critical condition, while three others were now in a stable condition.

Prisoners are being housed at Lusignan and Mazaruni prisons, outside of the capital Georgetown.

Police Commissioner Seelall Persaud said that the Guyana Police Force contacted its counterparts in neighboring Suriname, where prisoners in the past have sought refuge but were later captured.

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