VIDEO: Death Postponed - Green Bay survivor reflects

VIDEO: Death Postponed - Green Bay survivor reflects

Green Bay — the worst thing that ever happened to me

BY HG HELPS Editor-at-Large

Sunday, April 15, 2012

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This is the ninth in a series recounting close encounters with death by Jamaicans.

WHEN Jamaica Defence Force (JDF) soldiers slaughtered five men from the Central Kingston community of Southside in the early morning hours of January 5, 1978, Jamaica reacted with shock and disbelief.

Five other men escaped the incident, known later as the Green Bay Massacre. Now, one of three surviving members of the group of 10 that made the trip to the rugged St Catherine terrain located in the Hellshire hills is counting his blessings, as he relived the epic drama that unfolded.

The men were caught in the middle of a covert military operation that lured them into an ambush in the promise of getting jobs paying $300 a week and the possibility of acquiring guns, a coroner’s inquest heard later.

“Green Bay is the worst thing that ever happened to me,” Delroy Anthony Griffiths, the only one who still lives in Jamaica, said.

“People are still talking about it, even though so many have died in Garden (Tivoli Gardens). Sometimes people stop me, wanting me to give them history. Sometimes they will give me money,” said the man who was 23 years old when the incident occurred.

Griffiths, now approaching 58, still lives in Southside and frequently traverses the Foster Lane, Laws Street, and Ladd Lane areas of the bruising inner-city community.

“They promised us jobs paying $300 a week, which was big money in those times,” Griffiths, who is also called ‘Jadda Brag’ and ‘Green Bay’, recounted to the Jamaica Observer in an interview last week.

“Them times I used to run Ladd Lane. After watching a show the night called Godfather, I heard the men talking about the trip and saying who don’t come meet a big man who giving out work, can’t come again. But that was a trick to draw out everybody. You were going to die, you were not going to get any work. It was just a trick,” stated Griffiths.

Initially, 14 men were recruited to make the trip, but only 10 went, as the others either had a change of heart or slept late. But Griffiths remembered the gory details of the operation that left a stain on the JDF.

“I said I didn’t want to know that there is work and I don’t turn up for it, because I had my children going to school, so I said I was going for myself,” he related.

“They woke me up the morning and I told my baby mother that I would soon return. One of the youth was sleeping and I pushed my mouth up to kiss him and said ‘Paulette, me nah bother kiss him, me soon come back’ and I put him down.

“They brought an ambulance and a van. I went into the blue van at Laws Street. When we reach, my teeth were hurting me. They took us to a spot at Hellshire and told us to stay ya so. They said that every man should stand one place and they set us up in front of the (high-powered) general purpose gun, which we didn’t know about. Then they took away the head one, ‘Saddle Head’ (Winston Hamilton) to where the big gun was, give him one shot and then turned the big gun on everybody,” said Griffiths.

“Anybody who was not hit by that gun, the macka (prickles) that you had to run into would rip you up and tear you up. I run away when the shooting started and while I was going through the macka, I met up on a soldier, so I turned and run off. He shot at me and I ran away on a lonely road until I reached on a little hill with the sea below,” he said.

“I spent the entire day in the bushes and made my way down from the rocks toward the sea, when I saw some fishermen way out, went on a rock and signalled an X sign to them. I took nearly 20 minutes to make the X sign and I saw a man put up his hand. The fishermen came towards me and said I had to tell them what’s going on. I said that the soldiers were coming and if they saw us, they would spray us with bullets.

“The water over that side was cold and shark-infested. My knees were knocking,” Griffiths recalled.

“I jumped off in the cold water, got into the boat and they took me toward Greenwich Farm. When I reached there, I took off toward Caymanas Park, before realising that I should be going the other way towards Southside. It was like I had lost my mind,” he said.

“I saw some men at a betting shop at Harbour Street and told them that they had just killed some men and they said I was joking. By this time, the other men who escaped went through the macka and into the hills. As it turned out, every man who was killed had a bullet wound in his head,” Griffiths said.

“I escaped because I went to watch a movie called Honour Thy Father the night before, and seeing the guns and people saying hit the dirt, so I was crawling on my hands and knees when the firing started.

Is that me use pon dem,” Griffiths stated.

Griffiths believes that the move was politically motivated, as Southside had always been known as a stronghold of the Jamaica Labour Party, and the ruling People’s National Party at the time was preparing for fresh elections, which came two years later and resulted in defeat for the then Michael Manley-led regime.

“Is because election was coming on why dem kill the man dem,” Griffiths maintained.

“Right after the shooting, police and soldier curfew the place (Southside). They had a curfew in the Barry Street/Ladd Lane area, but them other man (survivors) a fool because them put on black as them come back. The police and soldier them detain every man who wear black,” he said.

“I was just walking around, passing the soldiers (who did not recognise him), then I sit in my yard eating some fish and rice and I saw them coming, so I opened the door wide, but them didn’t say anything to me. I was trembling.

“The next Sunday morning, they had another curfew. They said that nobody can cross from one side to the next, but I beat them still and cross over, even with a draw of weed (ganja) in my pocket. I then went to Manchester to hide at my auntie, but after that Sister Benedict from Holy Family school contacted me to come and give a statement to Mr Brown from Flying Squad in her office. She said that no police could trouble me, so I went back into Kingston and gave the statement,” he said.

“After that (lawyers) Winston Spaulding and (Abe) Dabdoub took up the case and started to carry us to court in the mornings,” Griffiths said.

Ten members of the JDF, some of them members of the Military Intelligence Unit, were later slapped with charges related to the incident.

Seven of them were charged with murder, while three were charged with conspiracy to murder. Two of the murder accused, including the head of the operation Major Ian Robinson, were also cited for conspiracy to murder, after the coroner’s inquest held in Spanish Town found that persons were criminally responsible for the men’s death.

The JDF maintained that the men went to the firing range to collect guns smuggled into the island and were surprised by a special strike force which returned gunfire after the men shot at them. Residents of Southside demonstrated against the act, which prompted the inquest and later the trial.

All 10 were freed by a jury at the end of a trial in the Manchester Circuit Court between June and July 1982.

It also emerged in court that the JDF had used an L8 General Purpose Machine Gun (GPMG), as well as Self-Loading Rifles and Sterling sub-machine guns in the operation. The court heard that the GPMG was rarely used by the army.

Griffiths, who before had other run-ins with law enforcers, maintain that the Green Bay incident was the most devastating.

“Dem kill dem others fi nothing. It was cold-blooded. I was very afraid. I was trembling. I didn’t believe that I would have made it out alive,” he told the Sunday Observer.

“Even when I was running away and heading towards the sea, I kept hearing ‘bow, bow’, all single shots to the heads of those who were lying on the ground. The soldiers went over them and shot all of them who were lying on the ground,” he alleged. “That was wicked. The general purpose gun is one that them use in war and can fire over 600 rounds in seconds. When that lick yu, yu can’t move,” Griffiths argued.

“No man no have no time fi bawl out, because when the gun turn on, you just a scatter. When they fired it, is pure blue flame you see, the place just light up. It was a wicked gun.

“When I was crawling away on my belly, sand was stinging me in my face. The soldier was firing at me and missing and I couldn’t run back to the (entrance) gate at the firing range, because they would have killed me,” he said.

The men slaughtered were identified as Norman ‘Gutto’ Thompson, an outstanding Santos Football Club and Jamaica footballer, who had a previous conviction of shoplifting while the Jamaica team toured Bermuda; Glenroy Richards; Martin Howard; Winston Hamilton; and Trevor Clarke. Only Hamilton did not have a conviction.

Apart from Griffiths, those who survived were Rudolph Nesbeth, Anthony Spencer, Ian Brown, and a man known only by the alias ‘Fire Booger’.

Griffiths appeared to be closer to Thompson, a Rastafarian, who law enforcers presented as a man who had several acts of indiscretion.

“Me and Gutto Thompson were close. We used to cook, eat and sleep. We used to go jail all the time for vagrancies,” Griffiths stated.

“I went to jail for store lifting (shoplifting) too boss, me naw hide and talk, but me never used to trouble poor people things. I went to jail two times for store lifting,” he said.

“Is nuff time me go through death and come back. You see this (pointing to a missing left little finger), is a machete do this. A man chop me straight through me hand, but me wrong still. Him chop the finger deep and them finish cut it off a hospital.

“Me tek way something from a firm, straight up, me naw lie, but I don’t bother with them things anymore. Me a behave miself now,” Griffiths insisted.

TOMORROW: Green Bay Massacre survivor makes an appeal to the Government


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