Police say strangers sighted in Manchester are church hikers, not Haitians
BY GARFIELD MYERS Editor-at-Large South/Central Bureau firstname.lastname@example.org
MANDEVILLE, Manchester — The Manchester police have confirmed that a church group hiking in the Providence/Newport area of South Manchester yesterday morning led to rumours of illegal arrivals from Haiti in the area.
"There were about 30 members of the Christ Evangelist (church) hiking in the area and that is what caused the confusion," Deputy Superintendent Melvin Kerr of the Manchester police told the Jamaica Observer late yesterday.
A major police operation was launched in Providence/Newport following reports from the area that strangers, believed to be Haitians, had been seen walking "with bags". Police from St Elizabeth were dispatched to Manchester to assist the operation,
The reports which spread like wildfire, followed news that a boat believed to have been carrying Haitians arrived in Alligator Pond, South Manchester late Tuesday.
However, Kerr told the Observer that the boat being referred to was checked by the police and found to have originated in Rae Town, Kingston.
Reports over recent days had suggested that the police had seized a boat in Alligator Pond.
However, head of the Marine Police Deputy Commissioner James Golding yesterday refuted such talk.
"I am not advised of any boat being seized by the police," Golding told the Observer.
Like Kerr, Golding said there had been no sightings by the police of any Haitian arrivals. Though, he said, the police were continuing to investigate persistent reports.
Member of Parliament for South Manchester Michael Peart told the Observer yesterday morning he was very concerned by reports from locals that the boat, which was said to have brought the alleged illegal arrivals, was seen leaving Alligator Pond Wednesday morning "on its own steam".
The MP said residents reported seeing men arrive on the beach with "buckets". Peart told the Observer that there was also a report of an "attempted rape" as one or more of the new arrivals accosted a woman who managed to escape.
"I am very, very concerned," Peart said.
A television news report that the Alligator Pond police were investigating a possible link between a murder in the community and alleged illegal Haitian arrivals was not confirmed late yesterday.
There are fears that the alleged illegal arrivals may include prisoners who broke out of jail in Haiti recently.