'Copper' killed 2 cops in failed robbery at Caymanas Park (Part 2)

Crimes that Rocked the Nation

Sunday, July 07, 2013

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Bring in your guns, son, leave your guns at church, son - Dudley Thompson

BEFORE the year 1969 ended, Dennis 'Copper' Barth had amassed sentences totalling some 40 years' imprisonment upon conviction for robbery with aggravation and several counts of wounding with intent in the Home Circuit Court.

In August 1969, the late Justice Wilkie (acting at the time) passed a sentence of 20 years' imprisonment at hard labour on Barth on his conviction by a mixed jury on two counts of shooting with intent in the No 2 Home Circuit Court.

Dennis Barth and Alva Green of East Kingston addresses went on trial in the No 1 Home Circuit Court jointly charged with robbery with aggravation that same year. Barth was defended by attorney Patrick Atkinson (now attorney general) and Green was defended by attorney Churchill Neita (both later appointed QC).

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Barth also received a further life sentence for shooting two police officers at a bar in Rum Lane in Kingston that same year.

By that time, the cop killer no longer spoke to me; on the ground, he told police officers in the lock-up that I had joined the enemy - meaning that I had married a member of the Jamaica Constabulary Force.

Then in February 1973, Barth made his first escape bid from the St Catherine District Prison and two months later, he was recaptured. Again, in March 1977, Barth escaped from the facility. On that occasion, five other inmates joined him in the escape. At the time, the prisoners were alleged to have been playing a game of football, according to reports from the prison.

From 1977 to 1978, posters were put up all over the country for Jamaica's most wanted criminal -- Dennis 'Copper' Barth. Rewards were offered by the police for any information leading to his arrest and capture.

April 30, 1978. That was the fateful day. "Copper" and his cohorts decided to hold up Caymanas Park after races had been completed and the day's sales were being tallied. For these criminals, it was to be one of their biggest hits, but they failed to put into the equation the firepower of the police who were present.

And so, when the firefight ceased and the smoke cleared, two policemen - A/Cpl Keith Moss of the Mobile Reserve and Special Sergeant Eugene Leigh of Harmon Barracks were injured. Moss died the following day in the Spanish Town Hospital and Leigh died four days later.

'Copper' died on the spot from a policeman's bullet when his sub-machine gun fell from his grasp as he and his colleagues took flight He had turned back to pick up the weapon when the sharp-shooting cop found his mark. Also killed that day was one of his accomplices, Derrick 'Shabba' Adair, a former jockey.

On May 2, 1978, the then Minister of National Security Senator Dudley Thompson, QC (now deceased) issued a statement, expressing condolence on behalf of the Government in respect of the fatal shootings which had taken place over the weekend.

Nicknamed 'The Burning Spear', Thompson, in his eulogy of Barth, was as stark as he was dramatic:

"I have a message for the nation which is not a happy one. In fact, it is a very sad tale, for death is the end of the road. The death of a young man is like watching a ship wreck; not of a ship, but of a life.

"Over this weekend, there has been the deaths, at the hands of gunmen, of at least two people. This should bring sadness to the heart. One is that of a young policeman, literally on the field of battle, protecting the society. Acting Cpl Moss of the Mobile Reserve, with nine years of service for this country, during which time he had earned nine commendations, was shot down at Caymanas.

"Yesterday, a very well- known, beloved city editor, in the peace of his own home, where he should be enjoying retirement, in the autumn of his years, was shot down in cold blood, and defenceless by two gunmen.

"This gives cause for great concern, and brings home the point that once there are illegal guns roaming the streets, the law-abiding citizens of this country will not be free. This one is not a simple case of one more gunman running loose in
the city.

"I have made it clear, both to those who agree and to those who disagree, that the security forces are determined to bring in these guns; if they are not in, in time, through the priests, the churches, or the sweethearts, who want to prevent themselves from
becoming widows.

"The policeman was shot by a notorious criminal who had deliberately chosen a life of crime. This one was Dennis Barth, otherwise called 'Copper'. Today, he lies like a dead dog on a cold slab to prove that crime does
not pay.

"He was no sufferer looking for employment. From the age of 18 he had his first sentence for murder and since then he has been convicted of at least 12 crimes, including shooting, robbery with aggravation, illegal possession of firearms, etc and has been connected with over a score more, including bank robbery, murders, etc He chose a life of crime, and, as I said, crime does not pay. Sooner or later, you will come to the end of the road, as he has done. He is now beginning a long, endless night of darkness.

"The policeman of whom I spoke and the editor represent law-abiding Jamaicans, and those who would try to make this world a better place for all of us to live in, is of these I speak.

"This young man, Barth, was on the run for about 16 months since his escape from prison. He has been on the run -- a fugitive in hiding, himself being hunted, fearing his very shadow, jumping if a door opened or if he saw a policeman. He has now come to the end of the trail, shot down in his youth like a wild animal. Yes, like a mad dog should be, like all mad dogs will be.

"No one should look at this wasted life as any son of glory. He had a choice and he chose the gun. The gun got him and this is a message and a warning to those who still have illegal guns. 'Copper' must have heard my own warning several times. If he had followed it, today he would be among the living, feeling the sun, sharing the laughter of his loved ones, eating and drinking.

"Some people feel big when they have a gun in their hands. I warn you: what you have is a death certificate. Stop it before it is too late. Bring in your guns, son, leave your guns at church, son. Do not make a widow of the woman you love, or leave a fatherless child behind.

"The city editor was like the average Jamaican, in his home, where he belongs. It is the duty of the security forces, as far as possible, to defend all people like him, and this we will do to the best of our abilities, and with your help. It is certain that 'Copper' and his gang could not have remained at large for so long if there were not people who helped him to hide. We are in possession of information about some of the assistance he received.

"All those who helped him can feel that they took part in the killings and robberies which filled his life of terror. All those who helped him, whoever you are, helped him to spread a path of terror for too long, over this beautiful land and the majority of the law-abiding people. Many in this country, today, will feel relieved by the news of his death, but he leaves another message in his death, to the other gunmen out there. Stop now! Today, because sooner or later you will be cut down like just another wild animal. There is no glory in that sort of death, and it is certain you are running today, maybe tomorrow, but the trail will end for all gunmen.

"If you understand this message and send in your guns, perhaps his death will have done something after all. Perhaps you will stand in his favour in the final trial, where no lawyer can help him before the Almighty judge who one day will ask, not only him, but those who connived with and harboured him, among others, 'what did you do with your life, when you were
on Earth?'

"The Government would like to sympathise with the family of the brave policeman who died and those who were wounded. The Government also sends its condolences to the family of that well-beloved editor, Jack Anderson. I want personally to thank all those members of the security forces who put an end to that unhappy life of 'Copper'
at Caymanas.

"I am sure that all law-abiding Jamaicans will thank the security forces for carrying out the very dangerous operation. I know how many sleepless nights many of you have had. I have shared some of them
with you.

"Once more thank you all --The Jamaica Constabulary Force, the Jamaica Defence Force, the Special Constabulary Force, the Home Guards and those citizens who are helping to bring about a sense of relief to the nation by curbing gun crimes. The country needs all of us.

"One thing is as clear as day, that is, if Government is to spend for the security of our people so much money, we have so much less to spend to relieve the poverty that exists among us. Millions spent on crime prevention ought to be spent more on works, education, houses, food for the poor of this land, so please learn that crime hampers production.

"The man who takes his hard-earned cash home must be protected from the criminal who only works with his gun. We, therefore, must have, and will provide security. Crime is not only non-productive but hampers production. It only produces death and fear.

"A gun in the hands of a criminal is destructive, not productive and eventually will destroy the user himself. Bring those guns in. Let us restore calm and peace so that there will be more resources to put people to useful work. It is in this way that criminals assist in increasing poverty just as peace increases productivity, happiness
and security.

"Copper will never pull another trigger. Give up your guns and enjoy your life. Justice will be done. We will try by protective methods, to secure a just society for all. Where there is justice in the hearts of men, there is no room for hate, no need for guns and more hope for the true brotherhood of mankind. To all gunmen, wherever you are, the message is clear, the verdict is yours. You make the choice while you can still
do so."

NEXT WEEK: Daughters testified against father for beheading their mother in St Mary

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


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