BY HORACE HINES & KARLA JOSEPHS Sunday Observer staff reporters firstname.lastname@example.org
MONTEGO BAY, St James — Much of western Jamaica is still in shock, struggling to come to terms with the murder of prominent Montego Bay Obstetrician/Gynaecologist and philanthropist Dr Barrington Dixon.
Outrage and horror have been the predominant sentiments pouring in from representatives of the Government, the Opposition, members of the medical fraternity, as well as numerous residents of St James and neighbouring parishes who were familiar with Dixon.
The affable 66-year-old, served the medical profession for 32 years, rising to the position of senior medical officer at the Cornwall Regional Hospital, a position he held for 20 years, until his retirement.
Dr Dixon, who operated the Barnett Clinic in Montego Bay was shot just after 1:30 Saturday morning at his home in Spring Gardens, St James, and died despite the valiant efforts of his medical colleagues at the Cornwall Regional Hospital.
According to reports, early Saturday morning Dr Dixon was in his bedroom when he was pounced on and shot by three armed men who had somehow managed to get inside the house.
The men, who were reportedly wearing dark coloured clothing resembling the blue denim overalls worn by the police, then proceeded to the ground floor of the building where Dr Dixon's two sisters were sleeping, and robbed them of cash and other valuables. They were, according to reports, unharmed, however.
One source told the Jamaica Observer that after robbing Dr Dixon's sisters, the gunmen calmly informed them that they could "call the police".
Yesterday, when reporters visited the crime scene, the splattered blood on the floor inside of the medical practitioner's bedroom bore horrific evidence of the cold-blooded murder.
His sisters, who were still at the home sufferring from shock, had to be consoled by several members of the medical profession who had converged on the scene.
Among them was Member of Parliament for North West St James Dr Horace Chang, who described the killing as a tragedy for Jamaica, in particular Montego Bay.
"Dr Dixon has served this town with distinction. In fact, it was a colleague of mine who said he may have even [been the doctor who] delivered the young man who shot him," bemoaned Dr Chang.
He described Dr Dixon, who was chairman of the Cornwall College school board for six years, as an absolute professional, and expressed concern about what he cited as the recent escalation of murders in the city.
"To know that he has died in this way is very hard to accept. On a wider scale, I'm finding the atmosphere in Montego Bay to be tense. We have seen some spikes last month in the homicide rate and one has to wonder what is happening. I've had discussions with the police and certainly there is a lot of tension in the community, and none of it can be excused. We have to take control of the criminal situation," he said.
Meanwhile, a woman who described herself as a former colleague and close friend of Dr Dixon lamented the loss as she spoke with the Sunday Observer.
"I am very disappointed and depressed. For a man who brought so many lives to this world skilfully, and looked after so many mothers and babies, he didn't deserve this. I just want crime to stop, crime needs to stop now. He was not only a colleague, but a friend and big brother to me. I have known him for 30 years. He was a man who was so harmless," she rued, while sharing details of a recent medical situation that was skilfully handled by the slain doctor.
"Ten days ago we had a difficulty with a patient, and he handled the situation so well, and I was telling him how proud I was of him. He was so good in his work.This is very sad," said the woman, who asked reporters not to publish her name.
For Dr Patrick Lloyd, who was also among the many doctors at the scene, the killers ended the life of a friend.
"We maintained a very close relationship even after our school days. We both worked at Cornwall Regional Hospital for many years, and he has certainly given sterling service to Montego Bay. It is really tragic to know that he departed in this way. We are in disbelief and in total shock, and it will take some time for us to come to grips with this unthinkable tragedy. We plan to play our small part in giving our support to the family during their time of bereavement. We can only hope that the perpetrators will be caught and that justice will be served," Dr Lloyd declared.
Chief Executive Officer of Cornwall Regional Hospital, Everton Anderson, said he was devastated by news of Dr Dixon's murder.
"I am in shock and completely distraught. Words elude me at this time. The staff of the hospital and health care community is traumatised by the incident. Barrington Dixon devoted his life to helping others and certainly did an excellent job. He was the consummate professional. On behalf of the members and staff of the Cornwall Regional Hospital, I offer my deepest sympathies to his family and close friends. This is a terrible tragedy," Anderson said.
In a press release, Minister of Health Dr Fenton Ferguson expressed deep regret at the murder of a man who he described as a stalwart of the medical profession; who served with unstinting distinction.
"My sadness is more profound as Dr Dixon's family has served the wider field of medicine and other endeavours with distinction. Two of his sisters, Jennifer, a medical practitioner and Joan, a hospital administrator, work at the Cornwall Regional Hospital, and his father was a distinguished pharmacist who gave to the community.
"I urge the security forces to leave no stone unturned in bringing to justice the criminals who committed this dastardly act," said the health minister, who is currently in Canada attending the World Cancer Leaders' Summit in Montreal.
The health minister's opposition counterpart, Dr Kenneth Baugh, was equally horrified, as he explained that Dr Dixon had been a friend of his since their days at Cornwall College.
"From being fellow students at Cornwall College through UWI, and closer than brothers as colleagues in the profession of medicine and in the management of the difficult nascent years of the Cornwall Regional Hospital. Together, we operated on many patients. He was a meticulous and methodical surgeon and he enjoyed his profession," Baugh said in a release yesterday afternoon.
"Barry Dixon was a gentle, personable Obstetrician and Gynaecologist who was highly qualified and would have been at the top of the field in any country in which he worked. Being a patriotic Jamaican, he chose to live and work in his own country," said the Opposition spokesman, who described the killing of Jamaicans, including professionals, as a bad signal with serious consequences.
Up to late Saturday evening, the police had not made a breakthrough, but Devon Watkis, the Assistant Commissioner in charge of the Area One Police Division, which comprises the parishes of Trelawny, Hanover, St James, and Westmoreland, promised that the ususal thorough investigations would continue in the effort to bring the perpetrators to justice.
"I have assigned the senior investigator to lead in the investigation, and if it becomes necessary we will seek all the assistance we can get in carrying out the investigations," ACP Watkis told the Sunday Observer.