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Death Postponed: Gun at Michael Hall's head sours his night

Sports executive, wife, held up at home twice

BY HG HELPS Editor-at-Large helpsh@jamaicaobserver.com

Sunday, October 28, 2012    

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This is the 35th in an award-winning series of close encounters with death by Jamaicans, some of whom are in prominent positions of the society.

PEOPLE would see chief executive officer of the West Indies Players' Association Michael Hall and take him for granted.

At a glance, he does not seem to be the kind of person who would undergo the horrific experience that he has been put through by bandits.

But Hall, who co-owns Deli Works restaurant at Sovereign Centre, Liguanea, with wife Colleen, has stories to tell that would scare even the lion-hearted.

He was held up at his Havendale, St Andrew, home and even in earlier life had to fend off a few minor scares that could have impacted seriously on his survival.

Hall's most telling experience occurred at a time when Jamaica and West Indies batsman Chris Gayle was himself using his willow like a gun at Galle, Sri Lanka, blasting a triple century (333) against the Asians.

It was November 16, 2010 and Hall had sat up to watch the action, but fell asleep at a point, leaving the bedroom light on, when a strange sound aroused his sub-conscious state around 2:00 in the morning.

"Colleen and I were both sleeping, but for some reason I heard a sound and I remember saying 'is wha dat?' and started looking around. And as I opened my eyes there were two guns in my forehead — two boys dressed up in masks and bandana and all you could see were their eyes," Hall told the Jamaica Observer.

"One of them said, 'weh the gun?' and then he said 'weh the gold?', because at that time there was the Cash for Gold thing," Hall related.

"So he kept saying 'weh the gun?, weh the gun?' and I kept saying 'brethren, I don't have a gun, I don't use gun'. He then flung me to the ground, tied my hands behind me with one of my belts, put me face down on the floor, and held the gun to the back of my head.

"He then said 'me nah romp, you know, me nah romp, you know... p..... hole why the f..... gun... pure bad words," stated Hall.

Colleen Hall was at that time sitting up in the bed. What she did next surprised her husband, who later embraced the view that she was braver than he.

"The other one went around to her wanting to know where the gold was and where the money was. He made to grab off her chain, that time I was on the ground praying and I just heard my wife saying to him 'don't touch me, I will take it off and give it to you, don't put your hands on me'.

"I am on the ground saying 'Colleen, stop arguing with the man, just give him what he wants', but she was insisting that he mustn't touch her, she will take it and give to him. I wasn't seeing anything at that time, because I am face down on the ground with the gun in my head. I am only hearing.

"The other man said to her: 'Mi a tell you say mi want the gun, you know, weh the gun deh woman?, weh the gun deh?'" Hall recalled.

The robbers ransacked the room, pulled out the drawers, overturned objects and even went under the bed where the couple had a safe deposit box with insurance policies and other documents.

Not getting any money from it, the men scattered the items and pocketed jewellery that Mrs Hall had in a box.

"I remember being there on the ground and saying 'just take what you want and go', and the man with the gun at my head said 'shut you mouth p..... hole you waan dead?'.

"After they scraped and turned over everything and ransacked everything, they said to my wife 'go pon the ground beside you husband and put you face down. When he said that I said to myself, me dead now. The one who was standing up over me was getting very agitated, because he kept saying to the other guy, 'just tek the things dem and come, no man, weh you a tek so f..... long to do wha you a do,' but the other guy was intent on searching and looking for gun and whatever else.

"I swear that they were going to kill us, now that they asked us to put our heads down," Hall said.

The robbers had gained entry through a grilled gate, left open by the Hall's gardener, but even Michael admits that he did not know the full story of how things occurred.

Hall's mother-in-law, who was also asleep, came under threat too.

"They also threatened when they were cussing and going on, saying 'me know say granny over the next room,' because they must have gone to look. So one said 'if you go on with any f....... we a go kill her too.'

"I begged them and said 'please, whatever you do, don't trouble my mother-in-law. Do anything you want to do, but please don't trouble her'."

The experience, approaching its second anniversary, is proving challenging for Hall, who sometimes gets jumpy whenever he gets up at night to quench his thirst.

"To this day, sometimes if I get up and I am walking down the passage I just get afraid, thinking that a man is down the corner waiting on me. It's a terrible feeling. Anybody who has experienced that can tell you that this is the worst feeling in life — you wake up in the sanctity of your bedroom and when you open your eyes, its two coots with guns," Hall said.

The men, upon leaving the scene of the crime, closed the bedroom door, told the couple not to move and took their own time to walk out through the front door. Seconds later, the sound of a car driving away led to speculation that another man might have been waiting on them.

The entire episode, Hall said, lasted a mere five minutes, although it seemed like they were there for about an hour.

Hall refused to budge until he felt that it was safe for him to get up off the ground. Even the urgings of his wife failed to delay the rise to his feet again.

At the end of it, the robbers took all of Colleen's jewellery, his watch, all the money they could find, but there was still a demand for one particular item.

"They didn't get what they came for — which is the gun because that was the thing they were focused on. They kept saying 'you must have gun' and I have never carried a firearm in my life because those things attract criminals," Hall said.

The men also got $60,000, which Hall had brought home to buy supplies for his restaurant the following morning, as well as US$200.

To this day, he said, he breaks out into a cold sweat at times when he wakes up at night.

An incident three years before, in hindsight, was the curtain raiser for the more horrific experience.

It was National Heroes night in October, the night of the Merritone Reunion 'lap lap' — a traditional party to end the week-long Merritone music celebrations.

That time the Halls had a house guest whom Colleen decided to transport to the party and return home to join her husband as they were both too tired to party, following a hectic week.

"My wife dropped the guest at the party and came back home and she was so tired that she put the key in the front door, turned it to let herself in, pushed the door and left the key in it on the outside," said Hall.

"Late that night, we woke up to the voice of a man in my bedroom saying 'don't move. Three a we inna di house and the whole a we have gun'.

"He said to me, 'you love you wife?' and I said 'Yes'. He said 'well, hug her up and don't look at me a b...c...., just hug her up tight and don't look pon me a r..... and he started to ransack the room. This went on for a while and he kept saying 'I going kill oonu b......c...... don't look'. Again, he couldn't have been in there for more than three or four minutes, but it felt like an eternity," Hall said.

"Maybe my wife was brave in the second incident, because it had happened to her before and she was really upset, but this time we just hung onto each other like when leaves hang on to trees when breeze blowing. We were not saying a word. I even held up my hand and said take my watch, because I just wanted him to get out," Hall said.

The robber was apparently a crack/cocaine addict, who had robbed other people in the area.

It also appeared that he had made up a story that there were three of them in the house, and there was no proof that he actually had a gun, even though he said he had one.

"Apparently there was nobody else in the house but him, but obviously I wasn't going to get up and ask 'really, where's the rest of them?, I just said 'allright fine'. I never even turned to look at him," Hall explained.

The following day, a taxi man found Hall's wallet along Manning's Hill Road. They money was gone, but his driver's licence and credit cards were intact.

The former general manager of the Sports Development Foundation (SDF) had, even before that, been a victim of crime, as a youth, coming from a Major League football match between Boys' Town and Real Mona.

While waiting on the number 67 bus along Roosevelt Avenue, now Herb McKenley Drive, going to Hope Pastures, two men pulled up on a bike with knives and robbed him.

He was also robbed at knifepoint by a group of youth from Gem Road, off Maxfield Avenue.

"I used to do some work down there with SDF and some things on my own. Out of my own pocket I used to put on a double-wicket cricket competition on Heroes' Day.

"I dropped my mother-in-law there one Sunday morning at a funeral on Maxfield Avenue and when I came out of the car to buy a pack of cigarettes, some youth came around me and said 'wha happen father, we waan put on a pot', so I said I am going to buy cigarettes, when I come out I will give you something.

"At the time I took out $400, which could put on a nice pot and I notice that about six of them surrounded me and one of them put a knife at my stomach and said 'let off everything.'

"The car was running, one of them searched it, maybe looking for a firearm, and while they were robbing me, people were walking by going to the shop, so I said to the youth, 'you no know me?', and I started calling all kinds of names of people in the area.

"The youth said 'yeah we know dem, and we know you, but we a look a food'. Then they robbed me and took away my watch and ring."

Hall drove up the road and contacted some of the people whom he knew in the community. He later got back all that the youth had taken from him, except the cash.

With all of that behind him, Hall still makes mental notes over the most horrific experience that November night when the men held a gun at his head and underlined the attitude of his wife that acted as a motivational tool in the scheme of things.

"My wife doesn't talk about it, maybe it means that she is braver than me. That night when I heard how she was talking to the guys I knew that she was fearless and she has a strong faith. She was more outraged and incensed that here I am in the sanctity of my bedroom and how dare you come in here now," Hall said.

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