Police probing possible St Mary cultThursday, January 13, 2022
ST MARY, Jamaica — The police and other authorities in St Mary are probing what is said to be a possible cult-like operation, which involves a religious group allegedly illegally building an entire community as well as blocking law enforcers from entering their site at Ben Hill district in the Carron Hall Division.
"This is a serious matter!" declared chairman of the St Mary Municipal Corporation, Richard Creary, when the situation was brought to his attention during Thursday's sitting of the corporation.
He expressed hope that the situation does not turn out to be similar to a cult-like incident in St James in October last year when two people were killed as part of an alleged religious sacrifice headed by group leader Kevin Smith. A third person was shot dead during a confrontation with cops at the church. Days later, Smith died in a car crash while being transported by police. One of the officers transporting him also lost his life.
"We don't want a situation like what happened in St James,” Creary said. “I have no evidence, but it is alleged that it could be another possible cult-like organisation that is descending on this property and constructing [buildings] and so on. It is something that we need to take very seriously."
He promised to make personnel from the corporation available to accompany police to the location.
OBSERVER ONLINE understands that police tried to access the site recently, but the occupants reportedly prevented them from doing so.
In response, Creary said: "I am surprised to hear that the police and the media went there and were denied access; I did not know that we have anywhere in St Mary that the police would have been denied access."
He further noted that the corporation does not have the power to prevent individuals from accessing the property in question because it is said to be privately owned.
However, Creary advised that the identity of the rightful owner be ascertained in order to facilitate discussions.
Officers from the municipal corporation disclosed that they visited the property recently and served notices for the construction to cease, adding that the occupants promised to seek the necessary approval.
Creary responded: "In a lot of the cases where we serve notices, persons will ignore those notices and continue to construct and what we will have to do is bring them before the court. This matter seems to be more urgent than just a one-man constructing illegally; it is an entire community that is being built and it is being built without any approval."
The municipal corporation, on Thursday, was also furnished with a report on what its officers observed when they went to investigate complaints regarding the unauthorised development.
The report said: "The team noticed there was work being carried out which was made evident by material — blocks, cement, sand, gravel, lumber — to the side of the road. Upon further investigation, eight unauthorised board structures, completed and uncompleted, that appear to be for residential and institutional uses, were seen in a scattered manner. The property also contains large catchment tanks and the residents were seen doing what appears to be subsistence farming. It was also observed that other sections of the property were being cleared for development."
The residents of the settlement seem to be self-reliant, reportedly having their own electricity and water supply, and are planning to do work on the municipal authority's road that leads to their community.
Their religious leaning has not escaped Stanley Davis, commercial services and enforcement supervisor at the municipal corporation.
"The Christianity side of them seems to be leading them into a different direction," he said.
Head of the St Mary Police, Superintendent Bobette Morgan-Simpson, who recently returned from leave, said she is aware of the construction taking place.
She added that, based on information received, the group is a break-away from the Seventh-day Adventist Church and appears to comprise anti-vaxxers.