News

Bloodshed in St Elizabeth

Garfield Myers

Friday, January 10, 2014    

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SANTA CRUZ, St Elizabeth — For the first seven days of 2014, St Elizabeth recorded no murders. Sadly, the early tranquillity turned out to be only a false dawn.

Residents of Thornton in the Siloah area of north-east St Elizabeth and of Maggotty/Elderslie in the parish's north-west awoke early yesterday to grief.

Four young men, including two 15 year-old high school students, were murdered in two separate incidents in their communities late Wednesday.

The two teenagers, identified as Desrick Williams of Balaclava High School and Ashnell Coke of Maggotty High, reportedly left home in Thornton about 4:00 pm to catch shrimp at a nearby stream. When the boys failed to return home within a reasonable time their parents reported them missing to the Siloah police.

A search uncovered their bodies some time after midnight early Thursday. The bodies reportedly had chop wounds to the head.

In the other incident, reports say two men -- Gregory Bryan (otherwise called 'Dangles') and his companion known only as 'Urckle' -- were travelling in a minibus driven by Bryan when they were ambushed by gunmen and killed shortly after 9:00 pm Wednesday. Reports say the ambush was staged about two miles north-west of Maggotty on the road to Elderslie in a secluded, forested area close to Retirement district.

Police believe the path of the vehicle was blocked by logs and other debris placed across the road. The two men aboard the vehicle were shot and the vehicle set alight, police say.

Head of the Police Area Three (St Elizabeth, Manchester and Clarendon) Assistant Commissioner of Police Derrick Knight told the regular monthly meeting of the St Elizabeth Parish Council yesterday that no motive had been determined for the killing of the two schoolboys. However, he said police had a man in custody for questioning. A second man was held but subsequently released,

Knight said.

Knight said police had theorised that the murder of the two adults was the

result of "reprisal" flowing from "conflict between

two families".

The ACP said a "leader" -- identified by the St Elizabeth police as Samora Waite -- died in a motor vehicle accident late last year and "somehow fragmentation is taking place". Knight said there had been "a shooting last week, and now we believe these two persons who died are connected to that shooting".

Sources told the Jamaica Observer that "scamming" may be the root cause of the double murder in the Maggotty/Elderslie area.

Knight urged parish councillors to do their part in their communities in helping the police to fight criminals.

"Four murders in one night in a parish like this has serious implications... we (police) need help from everyone," Knight said.

There were 30 murders in St Elizabeth in 2013, three more than in 2012.

At Balaclava High and Maggotty High, Minister of Education Ronald Thwaites, who was on a scheduled tour of St Elizabeth, was among those seeking to bring comforting words to shocked and grieving students and teachers.

He encouraged the practice of mediation and dispute resolution in schools to minimise the long term effect of incidents such as had taken the lives of the two schoolboys and the minibus operators.

The wider society

should also play its part, Thwaites said.

"The school can't achieve culture change alone. The media, those in the entertainment industry, those in the business sector, on the streets have to help us too in order to make sure that we have a more peaceful society and that our students grow up not with a mind towards gangs and towards criminality, but towards achievement; growth of themselves and society.

Counsellors, including pastors, also visited the schools to provide moral and spiritual support.

Paula Miller-Foster, principal of Balaclava High, told the Observer that Desrick Williams was in his first-year having only entered grade nine in September as a result of the Grade Nine Achievement Test.

Among the student body are several of the deceased's cousins, she said. She spoke of tears and grief-induced denial. "One little boy said to me 'he (Williams) is not dead', Miller-Foster told the Observer by telephone.

Vice-principal of Maggotty High, Sean Graham, described Coke -- who entered the school two years ago in grade seven -- as a "quiet and very unassuming type of person".

He was so quiet and introverted, in fact, that in his last school report his form teacher had worried that he needed to "interact more with his peers (classmates) and build self-confidence".

Graham, who last saw Coke at school on Monday, lamented that "today he is not with us... as a society we really need to take stock".

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