The Guyana Prison Service has announced that it will retain custody of the body of Royden Williams, called “Smallie,” whom it says was charged with 23 counts of murder, including the Lusignan and Bartica massacres.
Williams was found guilty of nine counts of murder, which involved the killing of women, children, and a Guyana Defence Force (GDF) officer, and was sentenced to death for each count. Williams had previously escaped from lawful custody in 2017 but was recaptured. However, on May 19, 2023, he escaped again from the high-security block of the Mazaruni Prison. His escape involved the use of high-powered automatic rifles, with several individuals charged in relation to the incident. Two of Williams’ accomplices were killed during the pursuit, and Williams himself was shot dead by a Joint Services team on June 1, 2023.
Following Williams’ death, the ministry said this sister approached the Prison Authorities, who informed her that the state would not release the body to the family and would handle the funeral arrangements. According to the ministry, prison authorities and Williams’ sister reached a mutual agreement on the funeral, which will be held at Memorial Gardens, Le Repentir, with limited family members present, and the family’s pastor conducting the final rites.
The justification provided by the Guyana Prison Service for retaining custody of Williams’ body is based on the fact that his convictions and sentences have not been set aside or reversed by a competent court, as required by the law. The pending appeals against his convictions and sentences do not alter this position, the ministry said.
Additionally, the repeated escapes and the involvement of individuals with high-powered automatic rifles during his most recent escape have further complicated the situation. Considering these factors, the prison authorities have decided to keep custody of the body and proceed with the funeral arrangements.
The ministry’s statement comes mere hours after Williams’ father expressed concerns over the post-mortem examination. His lawyer, Nigel Hughes commented on the importance of a second autopsy to put to rest speculation and provide closure to the Williams family.
According to Hughes, one of the more pressing questions is whether Williams was shot in the back. He said that Williams Snr. was “not allowed” to view that portion of his son’s body during the examination.