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July 16, 2018
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July 17, 2018

The William Mason saga: Two years later

Posted: Tuesday, July 17, 2018. 7:00 a.m. CST.

By BBN Staff: Two years have passed since the horrific murder of Dangriga pastor Llewellyn Lucas, and while a stroke of luck helped police discover the murder, numerous developments (and lack thereof) in the case has the public speculating on how the saga will end.

On the night of Friday, July 15, 2016, Belmopan police found Lucas’ head stored on ice in a bucket inside the pan of a Ford F150 pickup truck outside a bar.

When police found it, they were unaware that Pastor Lucas was even missing, much less that he was dead. Cops searched the pickup because its owner, the now infamous William “Danny” Mason, was wanted in connection with the alleged kidnapping of Rosie and Lloyd Friesen on May 31, 2016, and in connection with an allegation of extortion. The startling discovery had a snowball effect, revealing a larger more intricate web of criminal activities.

Following Lucas’s death, investigations revealed that there were considerable issues with his nationality. Several documents surfaced revealing conflicting information. The first was a birth certificate that said Mason was born in Crooked Tree village to James Mason and Sharon Tillett. Immediately after, an application form surfaced showing that Mason applied for nationality in 2013, and a gun license which was granted despite important information being missing from the application form.

Things got even more complicated when it was revealed that Mason had several identities, going by the names Danny Ouellet, Ted Ouellet, Danny Mason, and Raj Ouellet, each one with a gun license in that name.

At the height of the public outcry, Prime Minister Dean Barrow held a press conference to try and ease public concerns and do damage control, after it came to light that police had actually been “looking” for Mason, several weeks before Lucas was killed.

Then-Acting Commissioner of Police Russel Blackett, explained that Mason’s farm located in the Intelco Hill area of Belmopan and his other property located at mile 31 on the George Price highway made it tactically impossible for a team to raid the compounds by surprise, so they had to wait until they caught him on the move.

Blackett also said that there was a connection between Mason and Lucas, citing that Lucas had “worked” for Mason and was also suspected to have been the “bag man” in the $300,000 extortion of businessman David Dodd.

Addressing the concerns about Mason’s numerous gun licenses, Blackett assured that there had to be some form of fraud because the ultimate decision on granting a gun license rests with the Commissioner of Police, an office which has been held since 2013 by Allen Whylie.

Police charged Mason and four others (Ashton Vanegas, Keiron Fernandez, Terrence Fernandez, Ernest Henry Castillo) for murder, while they continued an investigation trying to gather evidence. They found burnt remains at the mile 31 property, and sent samples to the United States trying to determine if they had found Lucas’s body; however, after two years, police have not revealed the results of those tests.

A week after Mason was charged, police put out a warrant for his common-law wife, Melissa Ferguson, in connection with the kidnapping charge. Ferguson was set free in February of 2017 after the Director of Public Prosecutions determined that there was not enough evidence to mount a successful case against her.

While Mason was on remand, further details surfaced about his connection with various government ministers, such as Dangriga Area Representative Frank “Papa” Mena, to whom Mason gave some $20,000 during his campaign. Shortly after Mena’s connection to Mason became public knowledge, Mena said that he was going to give back the $20,000 which should have been spent on campaigning.

Minister of National Security John Saldivar was the most implicated for having a connection with Mason after leaked documents showed that Mason had spent some $50,000 on Saldivar’s football team, the Belmopan Bandits. Prime Minister Dean Barrow “suspended” Saldivar for a week over the incident, while he sought legal counsel on whether or not Saldivar should face some kind of penalty for his ties to Mason.

Barrow said that his advisors determined that there was no actionable wrong on Saldivar’s part, and he was “restored” after the suspension was lifted. Notably, Saldivar enjoyed all his ministerial privileges while on suspension, but due to the suspension did not have to fulfill any of his ministerial obligations.

The Prime Minister did split the Ministry of National Security into the Ministries of Home Affairs and Defence and put Saldivar in charge of the Defence ministry which comprised of the Belize Defence Force and Coast Guard. Minister Godwin Hulse then took over the responsibility for the police department in the Home Affairs ministry.

Since then the Belize National Teachers Union, during its 2016 Stand up for Belize Campaign, called for an independent investigation into the Lucas murder as a part of its eight-point demands. While the BNTU got most of what it asked for, there has been, to date, no tangible effort on the Government of Belize’s part to commission such an investigation.

In March, as a response to a surge in violent crime, Barrow reunited the Defence and Home Affairs Ministries, and restored Saldivar to his former glory, noting that he was the “best man for the job”. Mason’s several court cases are ongoing in the Supreme Court of Belize.

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