Jamaica Defence Force (JDF) Major, whose unit was responsible for helping to place a cordon around Tivoli Gardens in May 2010, testified yesterday that it is plausible that then ‘area don’ Christopher ‘Dudus’ Coke could have escaped the community through his sector.
Major Kevron Henry was responding to questions from Tivoli Enquiry commission member Professor Anthony Harriott when he said that Coke could have slipped out of the community because his unit had faced difficulties closing the cordon due to intense resistance from gunmen.
During earlier evidence, Henry had said that the gunfire was so intense that it took his unit three hours to move a distance of 500 metres.
he major, whose unit was also tasked with the responsibility of preventing gunmen outside of Tivoli Gardens entering the community, gave evidence that 16 bodies were found in his sector which covers Denham Town and the Coronation Market.
And in response to questions from Lord Gifford, who is representing the Office of the Public Defender, Henry said that none of the men with him reported shooting anyone.
The commission is looking into the circumstances surrounding the death of 73 people during the operation to apprehend Coke, who was wanted by the United States at the time.
The commission is also looking into how Coke could have escaped the community. Coke was apprehended in late June 2010 while travelling in the vehicle of Rev Al Miller. He said he was on his way to the US Embassy in Kingston to surrender himself.
Yesterday, Henry told the professor that his unit arrived at Pechon Street at 11:00 am and never gained immediate control of the area. He said it wasn’t until 4:00 pm that his unit took control of Foxy’s Plaza from gunmen.
Questioned by commission Chairman Sir David Simmons on Coke’s escape, Henry said it was plausible he left the area on foot or in a motor vehicle.
Earlier, during his examination-in-chief led by JDF attorney Linton Gordon, Henry spoke of heavy gunfire from gunmen that kept them pinned down on the roof of Foxy’s Plaza. He said his unit was also fired on from the high-rise buildings in Tivoli Gardens and that criminals fired on a helicopter that came to conduct reconnaissance. Videos of them being pinned down in Foxy’s Plaza were also played for the commission.
He said his unit was still under fire the following day.
Henry told Jamaica Constabulary Force attorney Deborah Martin that he had never seen such coordinated attacks by gunmen.
He said the gunmen appeared “well prepared” for the offensive by the security forces.
At one point, he gave evidence that the gunmen were driving his unit into a “kill zone” with strategic gunfire and that sections of roads were blocked.
The JDF Major testified that a number of grenades, explosives and various makes of weapons were found during a search after the operation. He described Chestnut Lane in West Kingston as an armoury shop because of the number of weapons found in premises there.
The enquiry will resume at the Jamaica Conference Centre in downtown Kingston on October 20. Jamaica Gleaner reports.