IT was a lovely, moonlit night.
The stars were shining brightly, the night then appearing to be full of promise, with the refreshing sea breeze blowing ever so gently.
The love-struck young couple decided to sit for a while on the beach — so quiet and inviting. They were frolicking as youngsters do. After all, life was beautiful! The future looked rosy and bright! What else could a couple ask for on a night that seemed so perfect?
But the beauty and serenity of that romantic night was shattered by the unthinkable.
A huge, bearded hulk of a man appeared out of nowhere — a murderer on the prowl and he was out for blood. The frightened teenagers huddled together, fear gripping them, a Circuit Court jury was later told by the survivor.
This was the year 1951. I recall the year because I was then a young teacher at what was then the Crescent College on Duke Street in Kingston. This was the era of the tutorial colleges: St Simon's College, West India College — all on Upper Duke Street; Excelsior High, first established on North Street; Bodmin College, on Blake Road, and a number of others that are no longer in existence today.
My teenaged schoolmate (name withheld because of court rules) had been at the eight o'clock mass at the Holy Trinity Cathedral on North Street the previous Sunday. It was the last time I would see her alive.
The weekend of the tragedy, the young girl went driving along the Palisadoes Road in Kingston with her teenaged boyfriend, Sydney Garel, a student of St George's College.
Jamaica then was a place of peace and love. It was not unusual to see couples of any age strolling hand-in-hand in the parks on a moonlit night, or to see young lovers holding hands on their way to the beach, to a matinee, or just to get a hamburger at a snack counter. Life had its bumps and grinds but there was love.
After surprising the young couple, the intruder demanded money. He then attacked young Garel with a knife, stabbing him to death on the spot. He savagely raped the girl before making his escape.
This story made the headlines for days. The police followed several leads at the time but none bore fruit for some time.
Incidentally, the man who was later charged with Garel's murder and with raping my former schoolmate, had been known to me personally for a number of years. His name was Aston Jolly, otherwise known as 'Whoppy King'.
Jolly had been living at the time in a small back room on Upper King Street, just above North Street, opposite the then United Dairy Farmers, a business which sold bottled cow's milk. The company also had a number of ice cream parlours of the type no longer seen in today's Jamaica.
As a young teacher, I was accustomed to visiting the premises where Jolly lived. He was a handcart man. His handcart could be seen parked regularly on the sidewalk on Upper King Street, opposite the United Dairy Farmers business place. He would be sitting on the side of the cart, one foot or both feet dangling over the side of the cart.
I had three students, all girls, who were residing with relatives on the upper floor of the two-storey building. I was engaged privately by the parents of the girls, who were overseas, to give them private lessons for the London Junior Cambridge Examinations.
So when Aston Jolly, o/c 'Whoppy King', was finally arrested and charged in connection with the Palisadoes Road murder and rape, my curiousity was aroused. I visited the Supreme Court after school to listen to two days of evidence. I got there to hear most of the trial judge's summing up to the jury.
From those days, I was intrigued by the pomp and ceremony exhibited in the courts. I never envisaged at that time that I would have spent most of my professional life in the Supreme Court of Judicature of Jamaica. And how I would have enjoyed it!
Needless to say, before his arrest, it was noticeable that Aston Jolly had trimmed his locks and had removed his long, matted grey beard. A dead giveaway! He was also pointed out at an identification parade by his young female victim. Results from the police ballistic experts also tied Jolly to the murder and rape.
The sensational coverage given to the trial by the media had a ripple effect. The teenaged girl, what with the shame and degradation she suffered at Jolly's hands, and her life in tatters due to the media frenzy, was forced to leave her beloved country in order to find peace in a foreign land.
For it must be remembered by those old enough to recall such events, that there were no 'in camera' trials in existence then.
In the name of justice, an aggrieved person such as that teenaged girl was, would have had to go to court and reveal the whole sordid details of her experience. In full open court! By doing so, she would be thus reliving the anguish, dehumanisation and shame to a public, which seemed to thrive on other people's misfortunes, like parasitic vines clinging desperately to a favourite plant.
That is said to be the reason many victims in rape and other related sexual cases, fail to make a report to the police and why serial rapists, in particular, continue to prey on the young, the disabled, the elderly and the unsuspecting.
The trauma also led to changes in the way rape cases are tried. Victims now testify 'in camera' where the public is excluded and is only admitted inside the courtroom after delivery of the jury's verdict. And, of course, the media is not allowed to reveal the name/names of the victims, especially if the person/persons are under age.
But that came too late for a girl who could no longer walk the streets of Kingston or anywhere in Jamaica in peace after that trial; or after the funeral was held for young Sydney Garel.
She was hounded morning, noon and night by the media; with people pointing her out and making snide and crude remarks, making certain she heard them. This happened in the streets, at church, everywhere she went. How much more insensitive could we get? What wretched human beings we can be at times!
She was living another nightmare; this one, it seemed, much worse than the first. She took the only way out she thought best. She fled her beloved country.
The fact that Aston Jolly paid the ultimate price — death on the gallows at the St Catherine District Prison — was little comfort to her and the bereaved families. Hopefully, time has since dulled the pain.
NEXT WEEK: VIC HIGGS — DEATH LURKS IN A RED MUD LAKE
Sybil Hibbert is a veteran journalist and retired court-reporting specialist. She is also the wife of retired ACP Isadore Hibbert. Send your comments to email@example.com