News

Fear grips Barton district

Residents demand street lights after attempted rape of three sisters

BY PAUL HENRY Co-ordinator -- Crime/Court Desk henryp@jamaicaobserver.com

Monday, December 23, 2013    

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THE mother and her three teenage daughters stood stunned, fear gripping them at the command "Don't move", barked by one of two gunmen who had emerged from a cane field.

The four were on their way to the wake of a church sister in Barton, St Elizabeth, around 10:30 three Saturdays ago. This was the last thing they expected.

The mother and her daughters had moments earlier turned onto the Barton main road. It was very dark. They walked pass the Shiloh Apostolic Church at the left-hand side of the road. Only one of two street lamps there was in working order.

Other people were heading to the wake but had stopped in the Newton square as the four made their way.

They walked by the Barton Seventh-day Adventist Church where it was especially dark as two street lamps that gave light to the cane field had been broken for some time.

The mother was the first to see the figures emerging from the cane field in the dark as she and her children crossed the bridge to Barton Isles. She asked herself why the men were crossing so close to them, but she said nothing to her daughters because she didn't want to startle them.

Barton, which in on the way to the community of Maggotty, is usually a quiet district, but an incident a few months earlier had left the community jittery and had the women who had to pass the cane field hustling to get home before dark. In that incident, a young woman was dragged into the cane field, which flanks the main road, and raped. The traumatised victim has since left the area.

Now, the mother and her teenage daughters noticed that the two men stopped on the road and turned to face them. The four noticed they had guns of varying sizes.

"Ah nuh no joke thing," one of the men said pointing his weapon skywards. "Unnu stand up right yah so!"

The four froze. Then the speaker grabbed one of the teens, pulling her toward the cane field. The mother started screaming and pleading with the men. The teen who was held, shone the flashlight from her cellular phone in the man's face, distracting him. She pulled away from him and kicked him on the foot and he loosened his grip. She ran back to Newton square, raising an alarm.

Undeterred, the men held unto the other girls, one of whom is an 18-year-old. They started dragging them into the cane field. The girls fought back, but to no avail. The mother continued screaming and pleading with the men. She identified herself and her husband and begged them not to take her daughters.

The older daughter, who had been experiencing a bout of fainting spells since last month, collapsed, her eyes rolled back into

her head and she shook uncontrollably.

In her mind, the mother prayed that the men would not shoot her daughters.

By this time, a man who had been alerted to the attack, drove his vehicle in the direction of the distressed victims. His headlamps illuminated the area and the attackers escaped into the cane piece.

The mother got to her knees, pounding the chest of her daughter in an effort to revive her. It would be a while before the girl regained consciousness.

The police were quick on the scene, but were unable to apprehend the men. A report was made.

In the days after the ordeal, the daughters had to undergo counselling. They are still fearful of leaving home. The mother now eyes every young man in the community suspiciously.

As news of the attack spread, a wave of fear gripped the communities of Barton and Newton. Women tried their best to be home before nightfall. The general consensus was that they were not safe, even travelling in groups.

During a visit by the Jamaica Observer to the area, residents complained about the general lack of street lighting in the communities of Barton and Newton.

"We need to get street light on the bridge," said a 31-year-old Barton resident who gave her name only

as Natasha.

"I have two girls and I'm afraid they may get taken away at night. The area is very lonely at night. Since the incident, people are afraid to walk on the road late," Natasha added.

Another female resident, who gave her name as Ludelle said she was fearful for her daughter and herself. Ludelle, said she hasn't been on the road after nightfall since the incident and that she cautioned her teen to get home while it was still daylight.

"It could have happened to any of us," she said.

Vinceroy Blake, the councillor for the Barton Division, didn't respond to messages for a comment on the lack of proper street lighting in the area. Parish councils are responsible for street lighting across the island.

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