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Gunman’s sexual assault of St Catherine schoolgirls sparks anger

Outrage!

BY KIMMO MATTHEWS Observer staff reporter matthewsk@jamaicaobserver.com

Saturday, December 07, 2013    

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THE sexual assault of three female students of a prominent St Catherine school by a gunman on Thursday has left worried residents demanding urgent action that will lead to the arrest of the perpetrator. The incident has also raised fresh concerns about the absence of proper fencing at the school.

The St Catherine North Police said the girls were held up at gunpoint and sexually assaulted as they participated in an agricultural science class on the school grounds. The gunman reportedly gained access to the schoolyard through thick vegetation adjoining the property.

"We hear that the girls were at a section of the school ground participating in agriculture class when they were attacked," said one man as he made his way through the rural community.

"The incident happened during school hours," he added.

It has triggered anger among the residents, some of whom spent the day helping the police to search for the gunman.

"In all of the 15 years I have been living in the community, it is the first I am hearing of something like that," said another man.

"We are cut up over the incident and the stigma it has placed over the area," interjected another male resident.

"And that is why we decided to help police search for the criminal," he added.

Others said the incident has brought to the fore the urgent need for improved perimeter fencing at the school.

"The wall at the front of the school intact, but what about the back?" one woman asked.

Yesterday, while emotions ran high all around, it was the vendors who sell outside the school gates who appeared to be the most peeved. They claimed their purpose goes beyond trading, but that school officials had isolated them.

"What happened at the school should have never happened. The school needs to work closer with vendors," commented a vendor, who said she has been selling at the location for more than 20 years.

"School officials take every step to ensure that students don't come at the front of the school, but they don't see that the back needs attention," another vendor fumed.

That vendors claimed that if school officials were willing to work closer with them and people in the community they could look out for each other.

Yesterday, the Ministry of Education said that, arising from the horrible incident, its Trauma Response Team was dispatched to the school to counsel shaken students.

"Members of the... team have been offering individual counselling to three girls who were sexually assaulted by an armed intruder at the school," the ministry said in a release.

The ministry also used the occasion to call on residents of the community to assist the police in carrying out their investigations.

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