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The bloody reign of the notorious Natty Morgan

Sunday, September 02, 2012    

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ONLY a grieving mother can explain the depth and pain of the loss of not one, but two sons at the hands of, at the time, the country's most notorious killer and his band of gunmen.

But that is only part of this story, because after "Natty Morgan" o/c "Natty Kris" — real name Oneil Nathaniel Morgan — and his gang had finished their savagery at a 'wake' in Seaview Gardens in the early morning of Sunday, February 25, 1987, the tally of those dead was seven.

And it is hard to believe, but it is true, that the motive behind the murders stemmed from a reported fuss between two schoolboys — who hitherto had been having spats at school until one used a knife to cut the other in the face — and the bitterness festered in the heart of the one who was wounded.

Years had passed. A football match was in progress at the park on Lime Tree Lane, Seaview Gardens, when a ball kicked by a laughing teenager went across the field and ended up hitting the bicycle of another teenager who was watching the game. He took offence. Heated words passed. The brother of the footballer intervened. The aggrieved party left, using words to wit: "Ah going fi mi gun an shoot yuh pon yuh corner!"

And came back he did, but this time with no less than the fearsome Natty Morgan and company in tow.

What is more, innocent people attending the 'wake' for victim number one — 17-year-old Howard Dennis, o/c "Richard" of Lot 1623 Seaview Gardens, Phase 2 — were taken by surprise when Morgan, known in police circles as a notorious gangster, and members of his gang, arrived and embarked on what can only be described as a "reign of terror".

In all, arising from the initial incident, a total of eight people had their lives brutally snuffed out.

Charged with seven counts of murder arising out of the Seaview bloodletting were: Nathaniel Morgan; Brenton Jenkinson; Irvine Cox o/c 'Short Piece'; Barrington Stewart; Winston Williams; and Peter Lawrence (the teen, now-of-age, who had been nursing the grudge over the years).

Also charged in connection with seven of the murders were Floyd Howell o/c "Ticka" and a man known as Eddie Bap.

At a trial in the Home Circuit Court months later, the judge and jury were told how Peter Lawrence, charged separately for the murder of Howard Dennis, responded bluntly when asked about it.

"The bwoy diss mi an' mi shot him innah him face," was his retort.

The "Seaview massacre", as the media dubbed it, is recorded in the journal of Isadore "Dick' Hibbert, then Assistant Commissioner of Police (ACP) in charge of crime, as follows:

The Journal of

ACP Isadore 'Dick' Hibbert

"On the early morning of February 25, 1990, a group of terrorists shot and killed seven men at premises at 1623 Seaview Gardens. The victims were identified as follows:

* Christopher Gore, of Lot 1623 Seaview Gardens

* Paul Jackson, of Merrick Ave, St Andrew

* Leaford Monteith, of Lot 1619 Seaview Gardens

* Errol Gibbs of Pembroke Hall

* Durie Matthews, Stockley Merrick and Kensil Hughes, all of Seaview Gardens

(Jackson, an innocent bystander, was the younger brother of financial analyst John Jackson, and Gibbs, a newspaper photographer).

What could have led to such a deadly assault on the victims?

Investigations revealed that on February 22, 1990, Howard Dennis o/c Richard, of Lot 1623, was shot and killed by Peter Lawrence.

On the night of February 24, 1990, family and friends of Howard Dennis were having a wake/watch-night in his honour, at his parents' home — Lot 1623 Seaview Gardens.

Some of those in attendance were engaged in singing while others were playing ludo and dominoes in the yard and in the pathway.

About 1:30 am February 25, 1990 five men, led by the notorious Nathaniel Morgan, all armed with M-16 rifles and hand guns, were seen approaching the yard. Most of those in the yard rushed inside the house and locked themselves in. The gunmen broke open a rear door and entered. By then, some of the patrons had hidden in different sections of the house.

About 20 persons who crammed into the bathroom were able to push up the ceiling tiles, through which they escaped. The gunmen ordered others to lie face down on the floor. The seven were shot execution style in the head. Six died on the spot. The seventh — Stockley Merrick o/c 'Bald Head' — died on his way to the Kingston Public Hospital.

After the murderers left, Beverly Gordon, who was grieving the death of her son, Howard Dennis, was further distraught and full of grief at the death of another son — Christopher Gore — at the hands of the invading gang.

The scene was ghastly; bodies sprawled out on the floor, brains blown out, the victims lying everywhere in pools of blood.

The family at Lot 1623, as well as neighbours, were panic-stricken and had expressed fear for their lives as the murderers had issued threats to return and kill the rest of Beverly Gordon's family.

The scene was visited by forensic experts and photographed. Several spent shells and bullets were found.

The bodies were removed to the public mortuary for post mortem examinations to be carried out. Post mortem reports confirmed that six of the seven victims died from gunshot wounds to the head, while Stockley Merrick's death was due to shock and haemorrhage, caused by a gunshot wound to the thigh.

Revenge the motive

The motive was revenge. Peter Lawrence had been previously wounded by Howard Dennis in the knife fight. Then followed a dispute after the football game in which Dennis's brother, Christopher Gore, was alleged to have used insulting remarks to Lawrence and his two associates. Lawrence then issued his deadly threat.

I headed a team of very experienced senior detectives to investigate and bring the murderers to justice. The team included late Senior Superindent of Police (SSP) Donald Knight; Deputy Superintendent of Police DW Brown (later ACP-retired); Acting Superintendent of Police Arthur Martin (ACP-ret'd); Detective Inspector Haley (later promoted Superintendent); Detective Inspector Rowe; Detective Sergeant Cornwall 'Bigga' Ford (now SSP); Detective Sergeant Pusey (ACP-ret'd) and Detective Sergeant I Thompson.

A command post was set up at the Hunt's Bay Police Station. All suspects were taken to the command post to be interviewed.

"Following relentless and intensive investigations, the undermentioned were arrested and charged with the murder of the seven individuals at Seaview on February 25, 1990:

* Oneil Nathaniel Morgan o/c 'Natty', 24, of Riverton City

* Peter Lawrence, 19, of Seaview Gardens

* Brenton Jenkinson, 19 years, of Seaview Gardens

* Irvine Cox o/c 'Shortpiece', 24, of Riverton City

* Barrington Stewart of Seaview Gardens

* Winston Williams of Sandy Bay, Clarendon (juvenile)

* Floyd Howell o/c "Ticka," 25 years, of Seaview Gardens.

In the final analysis, not all seven faced the Home Circuit Court.

Peter Lawrence was further charged with the murder of Howard Dennis on February 22, 1960.

None of the accused showed any signs of remorse, They were 'cold and deadly'. All of them were identified as members of the Natty Morgan Gang.

Natty Morgan was leader of the gang of teenaged terrorists, which included females, operating out of Riverton City. They were heavily armed, dangerous and elusive, and they had the support of the community.

It was a matter of record that members of this gang extorted regularly, sometimes large sums of money, from the business sector in the Hunt's Bay Police Division; robbed and killed numerous persons, including persons suspected of being informers; and were responsible for burning to ashes in the dump a number of bodies of people declared missing.

Natty Morgan and the other co-accused appeared in the Gun Court, South Camp Road, St Andrew on September 24, 1990 and were committed to stand trial in the Home Circuit court in connection with the seven murders at Seaview Gardens. They were remanded in custody.

On December 19, 1990, Natty Morgan and Peter Lawrence escaped from the Gun Court. A profile of Natty Morgan appeared on television, in the newspapers and police bulletins.

Natty Morgan quickly regrouped with other members of his gang and committed a number of robberies, shootings and murders throughout Jamaica.

"Needless to say, the detectives were pushed to the limit, virtually living in the swamps and dumps of Riverton City in their endeavour to recapture the fugitives, especially Natty Morgan.

The end finally came on August 19, 1991. Natty Morgan and Lawrence were shot and killed in a confrontation with members of the Flying Squad along Mandela Highway, in the vicinity of the Caymanas intersection. Shortly thereafter Eddie Bap was also shot and killed.

A juvenile who was charged along with Howell and Cox in connection with the Seaview massacre later escaped from the Stony Hill Place of Safety, leaving those two to face trial in the Home Circuit court before Justice Harrison and a jury.

The highest commendation is due to those members of the Flying Squad for their diligence, courage and commitment in the pursuit of these most dangerous and notorious killers and enemies of the State.

Howell and Cox were convicted on all seven counts of capital murder, following an in-camera trial at which the prosecution's case was presented by Paula Llewellyn, the then deputy director of public prosecutions (now director), assisted by Gina Morley, crown counsel.

The death sentence was pronounced on each accused.

Howell was defended by Messrs Robin Smith and Linton Walters, attorneys-at-law. Appearing for Cox were Earl Witter and Walter Scott (later appointed QC).

The defence was an alibi in each case.

Next: The 'Peeping' Tom' who pleaded guilty to not one, but two murders

Sybil E Hibbert is a veteran journalist and retired court reporting specialist. She is also the wife of Retired ACP Isadore 'Dick' Hibbert, rated as one of the top Jamaican detectives of his time. Send comments to allend@jamaicaobserver.com

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