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'We've been to hell and back'

Irwin brothers tell of terrible ordeal in lock-up

BY MARK CUMMINGS Editor-at-Large, Western Bureau cummingsm@jamaicaobserver.com

Friday, July 26, 2013    

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MONTEGO BAY, St James — Although acquitted of charges for the rape and assault of five females, including an eight-year-old on Monday, brothers Sheldon and Kerron Brissett say their lives will never be the same again.

According to the Irwin residents — who spent six months in at least five police lock-ups across the parishes of St James, St Ann and St Mary before they were granted bail — they have been "to hell and back" for a crime they did not commit.

"I had to sleep on the concrete; I was badly beaten by prisoners and could hardly get any visitors. It was just a terrible experience," said 20-year-old Kerron, the elder brother, in an interview with the Jamaica Observer yesterday.

For the small-framed Sheldon, 19, the experience in jail was even worse.

"I was boxed, kicked and beaten with batons by policemen on the block, while some prisoners thump me in my face and eye, causing them to swell-up," he said, adding that he was often times referred to as "rapist boy".

The brothers were jointly charged with burglary, robbery with aggravation, illegal possession of firearm, abduction and assault at common law, as well as the sexual assault charges, including rape, buggery, sexual touching and grievous sexual assault, arising out of an incident in the upscale community of Irwin Point, on the night of September 24 last year.

The incident, which drew widespread condemnation and anger, occurred just a stone's throw away from where the duo resided.

They told the Observer yesterday that despite pleading their innocence, they were carted off to jail two days after the horrible incident, and were later pointed out at an identification parade.

Six months later they were granted bail.

But on Monday the men were freed of all the charges after the prosecution called two of their 10 witnesses during the first day of the much-anticipated trial.

Attorney Lambert Johnson, who appeared for both men, told the Observer then that he was "very happy that justice has been done".

He said while he was not surprised by the acquittal of the men, he was rather astonished that the prosecution had insisted on going to trial after the DNA evidence that they had volunteered to give, did not place them at the scene of the assault.

Johnson said yesterday that he is contemplating taking out a suit against the Attorney General for false imprisonment of the brothers.

"I have already consulted other attorneys and they said that I am on good grounds with that course of action," he stressed.

Joan Brissett, an aunt of the duo, said family members are in "constant dialogue" with Johnson in a bid to get redress for what they perceive as a "wicked act" against her nephews.

She explained that the incident has taken a toll on her nephews, as well as other family members.

"While the case was going on we could not sleep, we were devastated and it costs us a lot financially," she said.

"But in addition to that, I believe my nephews are scarred for life. People still see them as rapists and they have been finding it extremely difficult to get jobs. It is really sad, because I know that my nephews would never hurt a fly, they would protect women, they would never hurt them," she added.

Meanwhile, Winston Brissett, the father of the two, said he has been traumatised by the " unjust arrest" of his sons.

"I have even lost my job as a tractor operator because I had to spend lots of time going back and forth to visit them while they were in jail. I really don't know why the police arrested them in the first place, because they were at home when the women were raped," he argued.

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