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Permanent Secretary gunned down in broad daylight

After alleged hit on Ted O'Gilvie, George Flash, Tony Brown fled to Cuba

Sybil E Hibbert

Tuesday, January 08, 2013    

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IT was a murder that shocked the nation.

In broad daylight, on June 16, 1977 hitmen gunned down Edward 'Ted' O'Gilvie, permanent secretary in the Ministry of Construction, as he stood at the gate to his Lydia Drive home in Havendale, St Andrew, .

O'Gilvie had gone home for lunch and was returning to his car when two men on a motorcycle rode up and shot him twice in the head.

The shooters were later confronted by two policemen on foot patrol but got away after a brief gun battle.

First rushed to Medical Associates Hospital, O'Gilvie was transferred to the University Hospital where he later sucuumbed to his injuries. Dr John McCartney, consultant neurosurgeon at the Kingston Public Hospital would later testify that he had examined O'Gilvie on the afternoon of June 16, 1977 and found that O'Gilvie died as a result of brain damage resulting from bullet wounds.

At the time of his death, he had been in the midst of conducting an audit of a housing project in the deprived east Kingston community of McGregor Gully, where it was alleged that some $1.9 million was spent on the project in just six weeks, apparently overshooting budget targets.

It is against that background that in June 1980, a jury of 12, after hearing evidence, convicted a former Superintendent of Works, Weston Dyer of 17 Florida Avenue, Independendence City, St Catherine on charges of conspiracy to murder and incitement to murder arising out of the death of his ministry's permanent secretary.

Dyer was sentenced to 10 years imprisonment at hard labour on the conspiracy to murder charge, and six years imprisonment on the incitement to murder charge, the sentences to run concurrently.

The main witness in the case, Winston Reid of an East Kingston address, testified in the No 2 Home Circuit Court before the late Justice Chambers that on several occasions he had heard the accused, Dyer, saying to other persons that O'Gilvie "must dead" as he was the one who had "stopped money from flowing".

Reid, who described himself as Dyer's right-hand man, said that he became acquainted with Weston Dyer during the accused man's visits to the McGregor Gully construction site. He said he had ingratiated himself with Dyer, telling him that he "knew the runnings" around the area and could control the "yout man dem".

Reid's job thereafter, he testified, was to control the men in the gully and pay them, and that was how he had come to call himself Dyer's 'finance minister'. He also said that Dyer was like a father to him.

Although he never really did any work, Reid confessed, he was paid sums varying between $8,000 and $13,000 per week just to be Dyer's right-hand man.

Reid also told the court about a meeting on Dyer's verandah at 17 Florida Avenue in 1976 at which he said he heard Dyer make a certain statement in the presence of one Anthony Brown and one 'Froggy' Gordon. During the course of the meeting O'Gilvie's name was mentioned, at which point Reid claimed that he walked out of the meeting and into the street. He said he heard one of the two men say: "Is awright boss, we'll take care of the job... just deal wid us direct and leave Reid out of it".

Asked what he felt the job was, Reid said that he took it to mean that O'Gilvie would be killed.

Reid further told the court that he did not know what O'Gilvie looked like but that one day while they were at the Ministry of Works, Dyer pointed out the permanent secretary to him.

Reid said that Dyer had been "pushing it" and trying to get him to influence some men in a gang he led at the time, to kill O'Gilvie but he had said that that would be worries as O'Gilvie was no little "crebbeh-crebbeh" man but a senior government official and the police would find out, even if it took them 10 years.

One night in early June 1977, according to Reid, Dyer told him that from December 1976 O'Gilvie had stopped payment on contracts and that he needed to be killed as he was the one preventing the government money from flowing. Reid said that he told Dyer he would have nothing to do with the killing.

The motorcycle used in the murder also became a pivotal point in the court case. Reid said that he knew the bike — now an exhibit in the case — by the cowling, which he said had been on his brother's cycle three months before he gave it to a man named 'Liniment' of a Rosemary Lane address who was the owner of the cycle. Reid said also that the gas tank now on the exhibited motorcycle was not the one he had before.

When asked by Patrick Atkinson — now QC and attorney general — of the attorneys representing Dyer, if the cowlings now on the bike could not have been taken from another bike, Reid replied: "I just know this bike diffrantly." He knew it from 1975, he said.

The last time he saw the motorcycle before he came to court was on June 16, 1977 between 3:30 and 4:00 in the afternoon. Reid said that he was never asked to identify the cycle at any police station.

Re-examined by Crown Counsel Warren Richmond about what he had said about the difference in the gas tanks, Reid said that the one he remembered from before was green and carried a gauge on the cover.

Asked how he had managed to get along in view of the cessation of contracts and money, Reid told the court that he had had enough money and had been "living off himself". He disagreed with a suggestion by defence counsel Atkinson that he bore the accused ill will because he had ceased giving him contracts from December 1976 as he (Reid) had stopped paying his workers. He said he neither hated nor liked Dyer.

An alleged eyewitness, 17-year-old student Keble Tinker told the court that he had been on his way to school on the day of O'Gilvie's death, when he saw two men on a motorcycle in the vicinity of O'Gilvie's Lydia Drive home in Havendale. Shortly thereafter, he heard five explosions. He turned back and saw O'Gilvie lying across the front seat of his car with blood all over the vehicle. The witness further related how he was summoned to an identification parade at the General Penitentiary in late 1978, but he was unable to point out anyone as being any of the two men at O'Gilvie's gate on June 16, 1977.

An application made by defence counsel Atkinson in respect of Tinker's evidence was turned down by Justice Chambers. Atkinson had submitted that due notice had not been given by the prosecution to the defence as to its intention to adduce evidence by Tinker, whom counsel said had not deponed at the preliminary enquiry. His Lordship said he was of the opinion that the defence had received sufficient notice as the sitting had started three days prior.

The judge and jury also heard evidence from the late acting detective Inspector Anthony Hewitt of the Flying Squad ( later Sr Supt), who testified that he had been assisting in the investigations of the murder of Ted O'Gilvie and that he had taken possession of a green Honda 354 motorcycle (an exhibit in the case) from a motorcycle repair shop in Harbour Street. He reported that he would be able to identify the cycle if he saw it again by its colour and licence number.

He said he knew Winston Reid and told the court under cross-examination that he was unaware that Reid had made a statement to the effect that he, Reid, received money he did not work for. He said Reid had been detained but not in connection with O'Gilvie's murder.

Detective Inspector Cranmer S King, later Deputy Superintendent (now deceased) said he met Reid in January 1978. He also gave evidence that he was aware that Reid had made the statement about receiving money he did not work for.

Attorney A J Nicholson (now QC and minister of foreign affairs), a member of Dyer's defence team, made a no-case submission on behalf of his client, but His Lordship ruled there was a case to answer.

In an unsworn statement from the dock, Dyer denied any involvement in O'Gilvie's murder. He claimed he was innocent.

The jury retired and found Dyer guilty on both counts. Following sentencing, an appeal was lodged.

The Crown's case was presented by Attorneys Dennis Maragh and Warren Richmond, crown counsel.

Nicholson with Atkinson also appeared with Glen Cruickshank and Norman Manley for Dyer.

For its part, on July 17, 1981, the Court of Appeal comprising the president, Edward Zacca, Justice Rowe and Justice Carey, held that the trial judge had omitted to tell the jury that there was no corroboration in the case and that that might very well have led the jury to regard as corroboration evidence which did not amount to such. The court held that in its view the omission was a serious misdirection which would warrant the conviction being quashed.

In setting aside the conviction and sentence the judges expressed the view that in the circumstances of the case "we feel that the interests of justice dictate a new trial of the appellant".

So saying, a new trial was ordered for Dyer. On the application of late Queen's Counsel Ian Ramsay, who argued Dyer's appeal, bail was later granted the appellant on the ground that "he was seriously ill and the medication he required was not available in prison".

But the terms of Dyer's bail, which included showing up at the Caymanas Police Station twice a week, were never honoured due to illness, it was reported.

He died from complications of diabetes at the Kingston Public Hospital on December 23, 1983. The father of nine children had lost both legs by the time of his death.

George Flash and Anthony "Tony" Brown, two alleged People's National Party (PNP) activists who had also been charged for O'Gilvie's murder, but fled Jamaica, reportedly for Cuba, in 1980, returned in 1993 when all charges against them were dropped.

They were acquitted because the case file was discovered to be missing and there was no trace of the statements on the file. Both men have since died.

Phillip Burrell of a Corporate Area address, the fourth man charged in connection with O'Gilvie's murder who had been committed at the end of a preliminary inquiry in the Gun Court to stand trial in the Home Circuit Court, was freed in December 1978. This, after the prosecution told the court that there was insufficient evidence to substantiate the charge against him. A nolle prosequi was entered in Burrell's favour, and the judge in discharging him, expressed the hope that investigations would still be carried out.

Prior to his being charged with conspiracy to murder and incitement to murder, Dyer had been convicted and sentenced to 12 months imprisonment on one count of conspiracy to defraud, eight counts of forgery and eight counts of causing money to be paid out on forged instruments involving some $2 million of the McGregor Gully Project funds. The late U D Gordon, resident magistrate (later judge of appeal) presided over that trial in the Half-Way-Tree RM Court and passed sentence on Dyer on September 6, 1979.

On an application before a judge in chambers, Dyer was later granted bail pending the hearing of an appeal. It was while he was on bail that he was slapped with the charges of conspiracy to murder and incitement to murder 'Ted' O'Gilvie.

Next week: Murder at Morningside Drive — cop accused of killing ex-wife, two sons

Sybil E Hibbert is a veteran journalist and retired court reporting specialist. She is also the wife of Retired ACP Isadore 'Dick' Hibbert, rated as one of Jamaica's top detectives of his time. Send comments to allend@jamaicaobserver.com

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