Five children outside their neighbour's house in the dead of night was the first sign that something sinister was afoot in the quiet farming district of Crawle in Riversdale, St Catherine, on Tuesday.
Neighbours soon learnt that the five siblings, all boys between the ages of six months and 14 years, had been sent out of their house by gunmen who had forced their way inside and murdered their mother, 45-year-old Kerrian Higgins McGrath; grandmother, Dorothy Higgins; the helper, 38-year-old Dianne Nicola Johnson of Tom's Hope in Fellowship, Portland; and her spouse, known only as Kevin.
Police said the brutal murders were committed about 2:15 am by three men, all dressed in dark clothing, wearing masks and armed with handguns.
According to Kerensia Morrison, the Member of Parliament (MP) for St Catherine North Eastern, one of the gunmen placed the baby in his stroller and told the other children to pack food and clothes and leave the house.
Morrison said the victims were known to the residents as "hard-working people".
"It's a peaceful constituency; you see the humble people — small farmers, shopkeepers. They go about their daily course of life. So to hear the concerns, the cries, [and] the grief, it is unbearable, and as their Member of Parliament they are looking to me for answers, for comfort. So, what I can commit to is to work closely with the police as they go about finding who the perpetrators are and, very importantly, that this does not become a feature of an otherwise peaceful community," Morrison said.
As news of the murders started to spread, residents gathered on the road near the house looking on in disbelief.
One resident, who described the family as "very quiet" told the Jamaica Observer that he is shocked that something like this happened in the community.
"It rough, because I never expected this…Crime turn up everywhere," the man said, adding that he has lived in the community for more than 20 years and this was the first time he had seen something like this.
A 54-year-old woman said the slain family concerned themselves mostly with farming and taking their children to school.
However, the grandmother, Dorothy, was "more jovial" and sociable and would readily participate in various church activities.
"I feel very overwhelmed because we never see anything like this. I've been here from I was born," the distraught woman said.
A relative of the victims said he was "in shock" and was worried about the children.
Senior Superintendent of Police Stephanie Lindsay, while lamenting the tragedy, thanked God that the children had not been harmed.
"They are in police custody and they are currently working now to find some relatives to take custody of the children," she said.
Lindsay, who heads the constabulary's communications arm, said at the time that the police had no leads as to the motive, as the investigation was still in the early stage.
"They are picking bits and pieces of information from whoever they can talk to and from what our intelligence is telling us. But still we don't know, so they are following some lines of enquiries and looking at everything they are getting now to see if we can be closer to what led to this attack and then who are the persons responsible," Lindsay stated.
She also revealed that before the attack the family was in mourning as a male member had died suddenly last Friday. Lindsay said a complete profile for him would have to be done now that his family members had been murdered. Additionally, a post-mortem is to be done to confirm the cause of death.
With a number of theories circulating as to the motive for Tuesday's murders, Lindsay urged anyone with information to contact the Riversdale Police Station, the Spanish Town Police Station, Crime Stop at 311, or the Jamaica Constabulary Force's anonymous tip line 811.