AN eerie silence hung over the Nightingale Grove community in Old Harbour, St Catherine, yesterday as residents reflected on the savage mob-killing of a hapless teacher whose vehicle mowed down four persons as they tried to help a hit-and-run victim.
Forty-one-year-old Michael Melbourne, head of the Computer Sciences Department at Old Harbour High School, was chased and stabbed to death by a mob after his car ploughed into the four around 7:30 pm Friday evening, police said.
Official reports are that the group was assisting an unidentified man — who had been hit down and injured by a motor vehicle that sped from the scene — when Melbourne’s motor vehicle ploughed into them.
A panicked Melbourne ran from his motor car but was chased by the inflamed residents who beat, chopped, and stabbed him multiple times.
Melbourne and the unidentified man, whom the crowd had been trying to help earlier, were both taken to hospital where they were pronounced dead, while at least two of the four injured persons, including a sixteen-year-old girl, were treated at hospital and released.
Yesterday, the killing was obviously topical among residents of the community, but few persons wanted to speak to the Sunday Observer.
Queries during a brief trek into the community, however, produced a banged up and bandaged Kavin Reid — one of the four persons mowed down by Melbourne. The 31-year-old Reid, grimacing in pain, recounted the bizarre sequence of events.
“After the (unidentified) man get hit down we went out there and we started putting some drums in the road because we never want any other vehicles to run over him. Before that, about two other vehicles did already run over him,” recounted Reid, noting that Melbourne somehow disregarded the drums placed in the road, as well as residents who were waving at oncoming motorists trying to get them to stop.
“The two side of the road were jammed up (with traffic) because people were slowing down to look what was happening. Then all of a sudden this man (Melbourne) just cut out of the line and was in the middle of the road coming down,” he continued, questioning how Melbourne failed to see what was happening on the straight stretch.
“All of a sudden I just see the two [headlights] just come up on me and that is when I get hit down. I don’t even know what happened after that,” said Reid, his face and legs bruised and cut, and his right shoulder, which he claimed had been dislocated from its socket, bandaged.
Reid’s female neighbour, an alleged witness, said Melbourne then fled his vehicle.
“Same like how him run inna di crowd, him just jump out of the vehicle and started running back to Old Harbour; is like him panic,” she speculated.
“He saw a car coming down and he opened the door and ran into it, and dem (occupants) kick him out of that car, because people never know what was going, if he was a thief or what, so they never let him into the vehicle,” she supposed, adding that Melbourne continued running for his life, the crowd in chase.
“I don’t even know that they caught up on him,” she continued.
She said it was only later Saturday night that news surfaced among Old Harbour High students living in the community, that it was Melbourne who had been killed by the mob.
The woman said she, like her neighbour, was puzzled as to why Melbourne failed to see what was taking place but was nonetheless saddened by his killing.
“I am sorry for what happened still. Although he ran in the crowd and hit so many persons... bwoy, me still feel it for him,” she said.
Reid was equally remorseful.
“Me never really feel good about that (killing), still because when I was at the hospital I heard that he came in. He wasn’t dead at that time, but he died after because him was bleeding badly,” he said. “But I don’t feel good ‘bout that even though him coulda kill all of wi. I don’t support what happened,” he said.
Yesterday, a sombre mood hung over the Old Harbour High School as its principal, Lynton Weir, condemned Melbourne’s horrific death. The teacher had worked at the institution for 13 years and was pivotal in a number of the school’s achievement, he said.
“We are really saddened at how he died, because it was not like he was sick and died of natural death, he was mobbed. And this sort of jungle justice cannot work in a country where laws and regulations govern its people. We need to allow the law to take its course; we should not take the law into our own hands,” he fumed.
“We are talking about an educator who has significantly impacted the lives of the younger generations of this country. We are talking about a quality teacher who was doing his master’s degree and planning to come back to impact further the lives of students. So the school family is really saddened by this passing,” he said.
Weir said many Old Harbour High students had been calling him about Melbourne’s death, and that he has since sought professionals from the Ministry of Education to assist in counselling students when they return to school tomorrow.
In the meantime, Dane Warren, a 12th grader and a member of the school’s quiz team, said he was in shock and disbelief when he was informed of Melbourne’s death yesterday morning.
“He was someone that you could always go to. He was quiet and very easy to talk to. If you asked him a question, like, what is a computer’s CPU? He would always try to answer you with a rhetorical question like ‘what is the motherboard for the computer?’ Or something like that. Something that would always make you remember,” said Warren.