The head of the Special Operations Response Team (SORT) Inspector Mark Hernandez was detained for questioning in connection with the deaths of murder suspects Joel Balcon and Andrew “Solo” Morris early yesterday morning along with three other police officers from the unit.
Police sources close to the investigation told Guardian Media that Hernandez was not arrested but was asked to come in and be interviewed as part of the ongoing investigation in which several SORT officers have already been questioned and later released.
The three other officers who had just finished their duty were later met by investigators in Cumuto and asked to accompany them to the Maloney Police Station.
Guardian Media understands that Hernandez was first taken to the Maloney Police Station and later to the Pinto Police Station where he was being questioned in the presence of his attorney by officers of the Professional Standards Bureau (PSB).
Police sources dismissed inaccurate social media reports that Hernandez home was searched.
Guardian Media understands that Hernandez is being represented by attorney John Heath.
Up to late yesterday evening, police sources told Guardian Media that Hernandez and the three other officers were still in custody and had not been released.
Sources say the other three officers up to 5 pm yesterday had not been interviewed by officers from the PSB.
Well-placed sources said that due to the alleged treatment of SORT officers who were interviewed in the last few days, their attorneys were weighing their legal options.
Close to 20 officers from the unit both police and Defence Force have already been interviewed over the last week and later released.
Balcon and Morris were prime suspects in the kidnapping and murder of Arima court clerk Andrea Bharatt on January 29.
Within hours of Bharatt’s disappearance, both Morris and Balcon were picked up by a team of SORT and Anti-Kidnapping Unit (AKU) officers.
However, Morris subsequently died at the hospital on February 1, while Balcon succumbed to injuries he allegedly sustained while in police custody on February 8.
Bharatt’s decomposing body was found four days prior to Balcon’s death (February 4), dumped over a precipice in the Heights of Aripo.
Inspector Hernandez has been short-listed for one of three posts of Deputy Commissioner of Police(DCP) and his nomination is yet to be debated in Parliament.
Senior police sources said apart from murder the officers could face other charges, which include assault occasioning actual bodily harm, misbehaviour in public office and perverting the course of justice.
The charge of assault occasioning actual bodily harm is against a man who had previously been detained by the officers during their investigation into Bharatt’s disappearance, but he was later released without charge.
Negus George was later charged with the murder of Bharatt and that matter is now before the court.