MONTEGO BAY, St James — Despite ill health, 75-year-old Agatha Peterkin, placard firmly in hand, braved the sweltering mid-morning heat in the historic Sam Sharpe Square on Friday, to join the rallying cry for an end to violence in the society.
Dressed in black, the pensioner had journeyed from the small Hopewell community in Hanover particularly to register her protest against the vicious rape and robbery of five persons, including an eight-year old, in the middle-class community of Irwin Point in St James last Monday.
Peterkin vividly remembers the disappearance of her two grandchildren, aged 11 and 15, on July 21, 2007, on a shopping trip to Montego Bay.
Their skeletal remains, she said, were found in bushes in Hanover almost a year later.
With those sad memories still lingering in her mind, nothing could have prevented the ailing pensioner from supporting the 'Black Friday' protest in Sam Sharpe Square.
"I am here to stand up (for) all the children who have been raped and murdered, with tears in my eyes. I can't forget what happened to my two grandchildren. It still hurts. It was a wicked act," said an emotional Peterkin.
She recalled that on that fateful day it was her grandson's (the 11-year-old's) birthday, and he, along with his sister (the 15 year-old), left Hopewell for Montego Bay to purchase birthday gifts.
"It was the little boy's birthday and the two of them went to Montego Bay to buy something for the little boy's birthday, and up to this day I haven't seen them again," she recounted.
"It was about one year after that, that a man found some skeletal remains in bushes in a section of Hanover and we know it was theirs (the grandchildren) because it was the same clothes that they were wearing, the same handbag... everything," she explained.
According to Peterkin, the case has never been solved.
When contacted Friday the police were unable to provide any additional information on the disappearance and likely murder of the youngsters.
Peterkin told the Sunday Observer during the two-hour-long protest to denounce acts of criminality in the society that she was pleased with the turnout and the messages that were being delivered.
The protest had the support of the Government, the Opposition and a raft of other agencies, including the Women's Inc and the Victim Support Unit in Montego Bay.
"Stop it now, stop it," echoed across the busy town centre as various speakers, with the approval of the large gathering, made it clear that violent acts will no longer be tolerated in St James, which is now the leading parish for violent crimes are concerned.
Deputy Speaker of the House Lloyd B Smith made an impassioned plea for a "special" facility to house rapists; while President of the Montego Bay Chamber of Commerce Davon Crump said it was time to take back the parish from the criminals.
The city's mayor Glendon Harris, as well as National Security Minister Peter Bunting, co-ordinator for the Victim Support Unit in Montego Bay, Debbian Dalley, as well Head of Centre of the Investigation of Sexual Offences and Child Abuse (CISOCA), Superintendent Gladys Brown-Campbell were among the other persons who addressed the riled up protesters.
But many of those who did not get a chance to address the gathering, which consisted mainly of females, delivered their messages on placards. They read: "Big men don't rape; "Castrate rapists; "Our children deserve a chance;" and "Say no to rape".