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A Manchester man's horrible St James mystery

BY ALICIA SUTHERLAND Sunday Observer staff reporter sutherlanda@jamaicaobserver.com

Sunday, May 25, 2014    

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MANDEVILLE, Manchester — It's a horror story with no obvious explanation.

In August 2011 Alwayne Smith, who is now 27, woke up in the Cornwall Regional Hospital suffering from severe burns.

Incredibly, he claims that he has no idea how or why he was injured. He told the Jamaica Observer that the last thing he remembers prior to waking up in hospital is going to bed at a house in Montego Bay.

Smith's badly maimed face greeted the Sunday Observer recently as he sat on the verandah of his mother's house in Oxford, deep rural North West Manchester.

He also bears scars to his neck, upper back and feet.

Apparently, as a result of the severe burns he has gradually lost sight in both eyes; has hearing problems in his right ear and has trouble eating and talking.

Without having to utter a word, Smith presented a horrid picture of pure trauma.

The way he tells it, he left Oxford for Montego Bay in July 2011 for a job interview in the hotel industry.

Short of money, he decided to stay at an unoccupied house owned by a friend in Long Bay while waiting to see if he would get the job.

Meantime, he took temporary work helping another friend who had a truck and a contract with a large western Jamaica company to distribute mainly food items to businesses.

On August 7, 2011 he was free for the day and went to visit yet another of his friends.

He remembers returning from that friend's house sometime after midnight and going to bed shortly after. He remembers smoking before retiring to bed and when he came out of a coma in hospital seven days later, he was told that he had been found severely burned and left for dead at a roadside. Smith insists he has no recollection of the presumed assault on him.

"The doctor did a sey if mi never wake up inna the next two day maybe dem woulda pass mi dead," Smith told the Sunday Observer.

When contacted, the Barrett Town Police in St James - that supports the Long Bay area - told the Sunday Observer that they were unable to find any information on the incident. Up to press time the Constabulary Communications Unit (CCU) had not provided promised feedback.

According to Smith, the conclusion of the police in the initial stages was that his injuries may have been the result of an acid attack. However, according to him, doctors said that it could have been caused by a fire torch.

He said he heard that the house in which he had been staying was not damaged, but a DVD player, clothes iron, items of clothing, mobile phone and his NIS card were missing.

Smith's mother, Lydia Hooker, told the Sunday Observer she had heard that even the grass on which her son was found was scorched.

Smith claims he stayed a year and seven months in the Cornwall Regional Hospital and had multiple surgeries. He is hoping to get further medical attention but has no idea how or when. Nor does he have any money for medical treatment.

In response to Sunday Observer queries, Acting Chief Executive Officer at the Cornwall Regional Hospital Anthony Smikle said that medical information about Smith could not be released without his signed consent.

Despite the odds, Smith, the father of one, remains optimistic that with help from a plastic surgeon and an optician he will be able to regain his sight and be active again.

Smith said that he went back to the Cornwall Regional Hospital in January and since then has contacted the hospital by telephone.

He said he was not told what should be his next step, medically.

Smikle said that it was "doubtful" whether the hospital could provide further assistance.

Smith worries that his eyes do not close when he is sleeping and fears they are being damaged further.

He now spends quiet days at home or visit places nearby mainly accompanied by his mother.

Smith said that he does not want to harbour bitterness but wants an opportunity to really live again.

While he said he sings at times to lift his spirit it has been very difficult for his unemployed mother, financially and emotionally.

"Mi nuh like see him sometime. Mi eye full a water when mi see him; fi know sey him did alright and this happen to him and I don't know (what is) the reason... Everything is just me alone, plus I am not working," she told the Sunday Observer.

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