By: Rhenae Nunez
Steven Reichert , a Canadian national and Belize Permanent Resident investor of Benque Viejo Del Carmen and his two year old Belize born daughter were viciously attacked by a man armed with a machete and axe in the Chapel Hill area of Benque Viejo Del Carmen. This brutal attack, amounting to attempted murder, occurred on Friday, January 31 at about 11:30 AM while Mr. Reichert and his daughter were walking on the street returning home after working on some property in the area. This attack occurred with no provocation and it appears by his actions that the attacker intended to kill both Mr. Reichert and his infant daughter in a most brutal fashion.
Mr. Reichert is a happily married upstanding member of the community who has promoted Benque as a place to invest. Mr. Reichert has never been in trouble with the police and is a Lieutenant in the Zone 4 Neighborhood Watch. The motive for this attack has yet to be determined. Upon walking past the assailant’s home Mr. Reichert reported that he heard the assailant being loud and belligerent in Spanish while seated on his veranda. Not speaking Spanish Mr. Reichhert continued on his way walking with his daughter unaware of the malicious intentions of the soon to be attacker. Mr. Reichert observed his assailant emerge from his yard carrying a machete in one hand and an axe in the other still in an agitated state yelling in Spanish.
As Mr. Reichert was doing nothing offensive he continued on his way thinking his soon to be assailant was upset about some matter of which he had no knowledge or involvement. As the assailant approached the father and daughter it became apparent that he intended to do them great bodily harm. As Mr. Reichert grabbed his daughter to protect her, the assailant swung his machete striking the ground where the infant was standing less than a second before. Mr. Reichert started to run from the enraged attacker while carrying his now terrified daughter and his backpack. As the attacker gained ground Mr. Reichert threw his baby into the bushes along the road and was struck in the forearm by the attacker with the blunt side of the axe causing severe pain and lots of blood. Mr. Reichert, now bleeding and in great pain managed to grab his daughter and continue to run down the street from his crazed attacker. Now wounded, in great pain and carrying his child, the attacker soon over took him again.
Feeling the air from the machete being swung on the back of his neck Mr. Reichert knew he had to do something to protect his hysterical daughter even if it meant sacrificing himself. He threw his daughter again into the bushes as the attacker’s machete found its mark on the back of Mr. Reichert’s neck opening a huge cut that started to bleed uncontrollably. This chase and attack went on for several hundred feet. Fortunately at that moment a Zone 4 Neighborhood Watch patrol vehicle manned by Mr. Manuel Sosa happened upon the bloody scene and witnessed the final moments of the brutal and bloody attack and scared off the attacker who apparently was moving in for the kill. Mr. Sosa then transported the terrify infant and her badly injured father to the Benque Viejo Polyclinic. Due to trauma and blood loss Mr. Reichert started to loose consciousness at the clinic but there was no ambulance available to transport him to the hospital. The ambulance has gone missing from the clinic for the last several months without any explanation in spite of repeated inquiries to elected officials as to its whereabouts.
Fortunately the competent staff at the Polyclinic was able to stabilize Mr. Reichert and stitch up the tremendous wound on the back of his neck and treat his badly damaged forearm as best they could. Both father and daughter were very fortunate to escape with their lives thanks to the intervention of the Zone 4 Neighborhood Watch patrol and Mr. Manuel Sosa. The wounds were classified by the Polyclinic as Grievous Harm. Another Zone4 Neighborhood Watch Lieutenant, Mr. Hamner Bush was the first to report the attack to the police. His vigilance and prompt action lead to the speedy apprehension of the suspect before Mr. Reichert had been released from the Polyclinic. Without Mr. Sosa and Mr. Bush and the Zone 4 Neighborhood Watch vigilance program this horrific attack would have probably resulted in two fatalities including a child of two years old. Benque Viejo police officers in a professional and efficient manner proceeded to the Benque Viejo Polyclinic where Mr. Reichert was professionally interviewed in their presence. It must be noted that the International Law Enforcement and Diplomatic Community is closely monitoring this case in consideration of the ever increasing attacks on Canadian and American investors and residents nationwide.
As is customary Mr. Reichert was asked to proceed to the Police Station to give a formal statement. Upon arriving at the Police Station Mr. Reichert became aware that his case had been reassigned to low level PC who had no knowledge of the case instead of the two competent officers that had participated in the debriefing of Mr. Reichert at the Polyclinic. Additionally the police refused to interview Mr. Reichert’s eyewitness from the Zone 4 Neighborhood Watch, Mr. Manuel Sosa, in fact he was instructed to leave the Station. Even though he was a direct eyewitness to the alleged attempted murder Mr. Sosa was never interviewed. Mr. Nayo Hop of Benque Viejo was arrested and will be charged with undisclosed offenses in San Ignacio Magistrates Court on Monday.
When interviewed Mr. Reichert stated that he had no proof but suspected that this PC was assigned to his case rather than the professionals that were the first responders and participated in the initial interviews because the PC and the accused are of the same political party and connected to the Area Representative Minister Erwin Contreras and they intend to throw the case. He stated that he suspected this because a few years ago after the same person assaulted him, the police refused to take action for perceived political reasons. Mr. Reichert also told of a completely separate incident where, acting as a good citizen and responsible part of the community he went to the Police Station to give a witness statement concerning a crime he had witnessed.
The police refused to take his statement, much as they refused to take the statement of Mr. Sosa, and Mr. Reichert stated the police told him that Minister Contreras had ordered the suspect released. Mr. Reichert has informed the Canadian government of everything concerning this incident as detailed above as well as his observations on living and investing in Belize. Coming on the heels of the Townsend murder close scrutiny is being given to Belize’s ability to respond to crime as the international community decides their response to this targeting of their nationals and lack of effective police response.