Three members of the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) are now facing possible criminal charges in connection with the December 1 escape of 27-year-old Orville Purnell from the Central Kingston police lock-up.
Jamaica Observer sources say a corporal and two constables have been captured on closed-circuit television in the jail cell acting in a manner that indicated that they were turning a blind eye to allow Purnell to escape days after he offered $3 million to anyone who could ensure that he was not extradited to St Lucia to answer murder and gun charges.
In a release yesterday the police high command said investigations, including with the aid of technology, continue into Purnell's escape.
“While the internal investigation is still in the early stages, we can confirm that three JCF members who were on duty on the day in question have been placed on interdiction. We can also confirm that a parallel criminal investigation into this incident has begun,” said the high command in its release.
“Recent media publications have raised the question of whether JCF members have been compromised. As a matter of course, the current investigations under way will naturally probe all possible lines of inquiry. If there are persons who believe they have information that can assist the JCF in this regard, we urge them to call IPROB [Inspectorate and Professional Standards Oversight Bureau] tip line at 876-838-3084,” added the high command.
An obviously embarrassed Police Commissioner Major General Antony Anderson said that the improved integrity of police lock-ups is critical to the modernisation of the force.
“We have sought to refurbish many police lock-ups across the country, because we treat this function of policing as being critical to improving our ability to keep people safe,” said Anderson.
“Let me make it abundantly clear to the public and to the men and women I lead that this is a matter of accountability that I take very seriously. When people, through negligence or unprofessionalism, cause the name of the JCF to be tarnished, there must be consequences,” added Anderson.
He declared that, “while due process will be taken, there must be consequences for the recent escapes of detainees.”
Anderson also indicated that eight other JCF members have been placed on interdiction in relation to two other cases of escape that occurred since the start of this year.
While not providing details of those cases which have been the subject of much speculation in security and media spaces, Anderson said, “As a modern constabulary, we treat the integrity of our facilities and their capacity to securely detain criminal suspects as a matter of greatest importance to effective law enforcement.”
Since the start of 2021 there have been eight incidents of detainees escaping from police lock-ups. Of those incidents the police commissioner indicated that four investigations are far advanced and are the subject of administrative processes.
“IPROB investigations continue into the other four matters, and updates will be provided at an appropriate time,” said Anderson.
Observer sources had reported that Purnell, of Belgium Road, Buff Bay, in Portland, made an offer of $3 million to police personnel and inmates at Kingston Central Police Station to assist in his escape from custody.
But that came after he forked out $50,000 to inmates who were able to convince their cronies to throw cutting implements inside the yard of the police lock-up so that he could cut his way out of the jail.
A special investigation by the Observer has revealed that Purnell boasted, while he was in the lock-up, that he would not be extradited before he successfully escaped last Wednesday, December 1.
Purnell was arrested in Buff Bay on Wednesday, July 14, 2021 by investigators from the police Fugitive Apprehension Team. He was held on a warrant for murder, illegal possession of firearm and ammunition, and escaping custody in St Lucia in August 2020.
According to investigators, Purnell was in custody in St Lucia for the offences; however, he escaped in October 2020 and subsequently fled to Jamaica, where it is believed he had been hiding until his capture.
Purnell is of dark complexion, medium build, and approximately 180 centimetres (5 feet 11 inches) tall. He has several tattoos on both arms. At the time of his most recent escape he sported dreadlocks; however, investigators believe he may cut his locks.