News

Two more murders in St Elizabeth

BY GARFIELD MYERS Editor-at-Large South/Central Bureau myersg@jamaicaobserver.com

Sunday, January 19, 2014    

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SANTA CRUZ, St Elizabeth - The murder toll in St Elizabeth has now risen to seven since the start of 2014, following two killings in the north western and south easterly sections of the parish betwen Friday night and early Saturday.

Police said that 73-year-old pensioner Robert Campbell, a returned resident whose wife died on January 8, was shot dead in Middle Quarters, north west St Elizabeth, around 8:45 Friday night.

And around 6:30 am Saturday, 54-year-old farmer and vendor Vivian Staple was found dead on his verandah in Ballards Valley, south east St Elizabeth. Police said that Staple's body had multiple chop or stab wounds.

According to the police, Campbell was driving his helper home along Baptist Road in Middle Quarters when someone shouted for him to stop. The voice reportedly said "mi have something fi you". Campbell reportedly stopped the vehicle. A man approached, pulled a gun and shot him.

Campbell drove a short distance before the vehicle came to a stop with him slumped at the wheel, police said. He was rushed to the Black River Hospital where he was pronounced dead.

Investigators theorised yesterday that Campbell's murder could have been the result of a contract hit. Sources said that information has emerged that since the passing of his wife, Campbell had been complaining of receiving death threats, apparently related to disputes over property.

Police said that early Saturday, Staple's son returned from a neighbour's house where he had spent the night, to find his father's lifeless body on the verandah.

Police believe that Staple was killed after returning from the market late Friday night into early Saturday. However, investigators said that there is no evidence to suggest that he was robbed.

The latest murders follow the shocking death of four young men, including two 15-year-old schoolboys and two bus operators in two separate incidents on January 8.

On January 12, farmer Alex German, 56, was found dead at his home in Hopewell, south west St Elizabeth, with stab and slash wounds to his back and throat.

Police have one man in custody in relation to the January 8 murder of the two schoolboys, Desrick Williams of Balaclava High School and Ashnell Coke of Maggotty High. However, he is yet to be charged.

Investigators have named several persons of interest in the January 8 killing of the two bus operators Gregory Bryan, also called 'Dangles' and Shawn Smith, also called 'Urckle', on the Maggotty/Elderslie main road. The two men were shot and their bodies burnt inside their minibus. Police said that two men have so far voluntarily responded to their request for them to come in for questioning in connection to that incident.

Police said that seven murders in 18 days is an extremely unusual statistic for St Elizabeth, where murders are usually relatively low, even when there is a spike in criminal activity. There were 30 murders in the parish last year, up three from 2012.

Deputy Superintendent Lanford Salmon, who heads police operations in St Elizabeth, urged residents to remain calm.

"We know the reports are disturbing, but citizens must not panic. They should stay calm and continue to assist the police in any way they can by providing relevant information," Salmon said.

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