News

'Tony' Hewitt and the untold story

BY HG HELPS Editor-at-Large helpsh@jamaicaobserver.com

Tuesday, September 18, 2012    

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RETIRED senior superintendent of police and top-line detective Anthony 'Tony' Hewitt agreed on five occasions to tell his colourful crime-fighting story spanning almost 40 years, to the Jamaica Observer.

Hewitt, throughout his life, was not one who liked the media limelight, choosing instead to remain in the background while doing the tough work that comes with policing and tackling some of Jamaica's ruthless criminals.

"Yes man, we can sit and talk about all them times with 'Copper' and them other boys," the father of three boys and three girls told this journalist, referring to some of the notorious bad men whom he came in contact with, including arguably the most dangerous of them Dennis 'Copper' Barth, who murdered, maimed and robbed several citizens before he was shot dead at Caymanas Park during an attempt to rob the establishment of race day sales in April 1978.

Barth was shot with a single bullet by an alert policeman who saw him approaching one of the cashiers in a bid to pull off the heist. However, the fugitive shot two other policemen with a submachine gun before he died. One of the policemen succumbed to his injuries in hospital.

"I had some serious times with gunmen all up in Wareika Hills when they pinned us down for hours ... several shoot-outs with people like Copper and George Flash (also deceased)," Hewitt said in an earlier conversation around a domino table.

But the interview dates for the Sunday Observer's 'Death Postponed' series, had to be put off four times because Hewitt had other engagements that clashed with his job as a senior investigator at the Firearm Licensing Authority, and once by the writer's desire to go after news that was deemed to be more urgent at the time.

"Boy a can't do it again today because a had to go to country, but let's link up Friday afternoon," was the last time that Hewitt pushed back his scheduled meeting over a month ago.

"Boy I could write a book about my life in the force. There were several shoot-outs all over the place — Half-Way-Tree, Three Miles, Vineyard Town, West Kingston, East Kingston, all over the place," Hewitt had said before that.

Hewitt, 69, originally from John's Hall in Clarendon, near Frankfield in North Clarendon, a community located close to the border with St Ann, had buried his last surviving uncle, Besley Allen in John's Hall a day before he was shot four times by gunmen and later succumbed to his injuries in an operating theatre of the Kingston Public Hospital.

The St Andrew North police later announced that they were interested in contacting Jermaine 'Duppy Bat' Smith and Richard 'Red Head' Francis of Donmair Close in St Andrew, in relation to the fatal shooting and both turned themselves in, Karl Angell, the Jamaica Constabulary Force's director of communication confirmed.

"It's extremely difficult for us," said Hewitt's younger brother Lance, a retired inspector of the Jamaica Constabulary Force, who now lives in the United States.

"The limited time we spent on Saturday at our uncle's funeral was like a gem. We had a little fun and we were expecting to hear from him before we left. In fact, he called us at 12:38 Sunday, less than a half an hour before we were told he was shot," Lance Hewitt said.

Tony Hewitt had built up a reputation as a fearless crime-fighter coming through the tumultuous 1970s, into the 1980s and until his retirement from the constabulary in 2003.

Once the head of the Flying Squad Division of the Criminal Investigation Branch, and the Special Anti-Crime task Force, he, in tandem with other colourful police characters, fought criminal elements with little concern for his personal safety.

A popular police officer despite his low media profile, Hewitt teamed with some of the respected policemen of the last three decades to cool criminal elements, which had threatened to make life more difficult for the Jamaican people.

During his time, Hewitt was seen as one of the no-nonsense law enforcers in a group that included Keith 'Trinity' Gardner, Arthur 'Stitch' Martin, Hector 'Bingy' White, Cornwall 'Bigga' Ford, Devon Watkis, the late Reuben Robertson, Larry Trouth, Lloyd Thomas, Osbourne Dyer, Donald Pusey, Kelso Small, GC Grant, Isaiah Laing, Calvin Benjamin, Reneto Adams, Radcliffe Lewis, and Walcott Brown.

Close friend, attorney-at-law K Churchill Neita remembered Hewitt as one of the finest individuals to serve the police force.

"Tony Hewitt was one of the most loved, respected, and adored policemen by members of the police force and the public. As a leader he looked out for the interest of his workers and would reward them according to how they performed," Neita said.

"He was a relentless crime-fighter who was prepared to confront gunmen in a bid to protect the society. He was a police officer who never indulged in excesses.

"A lot of his achievements were not made public because he frowned on publicity. He had a great sense of modesty and humility.

"He was not one of the police officers who people would demonise and he was not one to fabricate evidence in order to get a conviction. Nobody in the police force could get more information than Tony Hewitt, which helped to solve so many crimes, because he built up trust in people," Neita added.

A passionate lover of dominoes, Hewitt was part of a group that included a former director of public prosecutions, Supreme Court and Appeal Court judges, lawyers and others, who would meet on Wednesdays to play the board game at alternating houses.

One of his former squad members, also a retired senior superintendent of police, Reneto Adams, admitted to being "depressed" when the Observer contacted him yesterday.

"I met him in 1975 when he was managing a special squad that I was a part of. He was then a corporal and I was impressed with the qualities that he brought to the job," Adams said.

"He showed great respect to everyone, including the criminal elements. As much as I think that I am one of the most informed persons when it comes to police work, he was better informed than me. He could get more information than anyone else in the police force.

"He was the best police officer as it relates to fighting crime with strategies and skills and operating under meagre resources. He was one of the most honest men that I have ever known... a brilliant guy and excellent police officer. I would have preferred to know that he died from an accident or natural causes than to have been killed like this," Adams said.

Yesterday, the Police Officers Association joined several other individuals and organisations in condemning the murder.

Hewitt also leaves behind widow Nerissa, who is based in Florida.

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