Today, on Mother’s Day, 51-year-old Christine Bryan is the most fearful she has ever been for her life, claiming that her family and herself have been receiving multiple threats from both law enforcement officers and disgruntled citizens.
Her son, 34-year-old Davian Bryan of Norwich district, Portland, who was named as the parish’s most wanted, was charged with rape, forcible abduction and grievous sexual assault on Monday, April 11, after being hunted for five months by the police, and those who would want to take the law into their own hands.
Bryan rose to notoriety in October 2021 when two girls — ages nine and 13 — were abducted from their homes in Bath, St Thomas. The same night the first girl disappeared, CCTV footage recorded in the community showed Bryan leaving with the girl. The Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) then listed him as a suspect and a manhunt followed.
In an exclusive interview with the Jamaica Observer, Christine expressed frustration and lamented that her life was in grave danger because people have attached her son’s alleged actions to the family.
“We get threats from people that them a come burn down our house — even from police in St Thomas, also, people from this area. A neighbour come and say our house must burn down, and police have to go over there and talk to them. The people dem don’t talk to we here suh. We don’t have nuh friend here suh. A just the family of us cling together,” the woman said.
She said she is glad her grandson, Bryan’s child, isn’t around to face the backlash.
“Him have a young child about four years old. Since everything, I don’t see him mother. I don’t know which part of the earth him and him mother deh. The son used to be around us when he was a baby, but she took him back when he was young… good while now.”
However, psychiatrist Dr Aggrey Irons told the Sunday Observer that sooner or later, the boy will learn what transpired.
“He may not be aware now, but somewhere along the line, somebody is going to make him aware. And Jamaica has a history where the children of people who have committed or [who are] accused of committing crimes always bear some sort of scar — especially when other people go out of their way to victimise them,” said Irons.
He said in these instances, people either migrate or sometimes change their names in response to anticipated backlash.
“If, for example, you’re in a family where your mother or father is accused of a crime, you are literally backlisted in terms of other people whispering behind your back and discouraging their children from playing with you, and that has happened so many times because people are unforgiving in that regard. And bearing the last name of a famous breaker of the law is not such a popular thing, especially in our society.”
Meanwhile, Christine strongly refuted claims being made that she and her family had been sheltering Bryan following the kidnappings and the accusations.
“We don’t know about that. Honestly, we never know. Me hear say him deh Durham, me hear say him deh Fairy Hill, me hear say him deh here under banking, me hear say him reach St Mary. But I didn’t even know he was alive. I couldn’t sleep. Police terrorise we day and night and we don’t know nothing about it,” the told the Sunday Observer.
Shellyann Bryan, the accused man’s younger sister, also told the Sunday Observer that the family was just as clueless as the rest of the country.
“The judge ordered him to leave here [after a prior incident.] He went to St Thomas, and we have never seen him or visit him because it’s too far. The only time him come Portland is when him have to go to court, and when that is finished he has to go up back. We hardly see him,” she said.
“When I was here and heard the news about the children and him being a suspect, I nearly drop down. I don’t know him as that person.”
Responding to the death threats being thrown at her family, Shellyann said: “If God say me nuh fi dead, all when 10 million people come fi kill me, none a dem can’t kill me. So, I don’t listen what people say. If you follow people, you won’t make it. Nobody cannot put death on me unless God put death on me — God alone. I didn’t do any crime and I didn’t trouble anybody.”
Christine, discombobulated, stated that Jamaica should understand that the family neither protected, nor communicated with Bryan in any form since the incidents.
She recalled being in the community on the night of Wednesday, March 23, when surprisingly, her other daughter who requested anonymity, received a call from Bryan.
“All of us was sitting out here. My daughter jump up frighten and said ‘Mummy, Jesus Christ! Davian call me!’ That night when him call, I feel like I wet up myself same place,” she told the Sunday Observer.
“A my daughter and the police them go for him. My son call his sister on the phone and tell her to get two police and come for him in Durham. My daughter called two police and gave them the phone and him [Davian] talked to them, and they went for him. When they went for him, they couldn’t face him. Him stink, stink, stink like a mad man!” she exclaimed.
She continued: “That was the first time he contacted us since everything. We never know he was alive. Me think him did dead long time! Mi bawl day, mi bawl night. And then me start feel good, because the best thing him could do now, was turn in himself.”
On that note, Dr Irons indicated that the family should seek therapy.
“There is no doubt about that. In fact, we have a system in the public health sector where there are the services of psychologists and psychiatrists who will spearhead this kind of intervention, but it has to be put in train by the people who manage [it]. It is the only way to help these people to heal. There’s no shortage of persons to do that.”
The hunt for Bryan began on October 14, 2021 when the first girl, nine, was abducted from her veranda some time after 6:00 pm. Two days after, she was rescued, and the other girl, 13, was snatched from the same community sometime after 4:00 pm, after accompanying her older sister to feed pigs in their backyard. The 13-year-old was also found a day later.
Then on March 10 it was alleged that Bryan abducted a student of the College of Agriculture, Science and Education (CASE), while she was walking along a roadway, and pulled her into bushes where he assaulted and raped her. He was pointed out by the woman and both girls during an identification parade last month.
Prior to these incidents, police said Bryan was also before the court on rape and illegal possession of firearm charges in Portland.
Christine said since the abductions, neighbours and friends in Norwich have kept their distance.
“When it comes to friend, everybody draw weh. The last time, we understand that a[aman came from St Thomas and was in the area a spot we out, and people feel a way about what was happening here. We have to sleep at nighttime and fret. Dem say the family of us will go missing one by one. We have to know which car or vehicle we take. I’m not hiding anything now because if anybody missing, it don’t make any sense we talk at that time,” she said.
A few residents who spoke to the Sunday Observer detailed shame, anger and even resentment for the Bryan family.
One man shared: “I don’t know anything, and police come and pull me out of my house saying I know where Davian hiding, and I must give him up. An old man like me! I don’t do anything, and I don’t know anything. I just happen to live in the same community with the family.”
A woman said: “Me shame fi live here. I don’t even want to hear anything about that family. Norwich disgraced… is just the other day I start coming back outside and walk freely. Me just want all of this fi clear up fast. Me can’t take no more of this.”
Another said: “All sorts of vloggers and people with camera come around here and a record the place. When you look on social media, you are seeing pictures and videos with your house… them things deh embarrassing. The entire community come under serious embarrassment with everything.”
But psychologist Dr Leahcim Semaj told the Sunday Observer that it is an issue of identity. He said identity has at least three components: I, me and we.
“This is how you see yourself, how others see you and the collective that you’re a part of — the we. Societies basically also divide themselves into two components — us and them. Us, people who we are alike, and them, the other group,” he explained.
“So, when something happens in a community, when a crime has been committed — a well-publicised crime — it is natural that people make a distinction between ‘us and them’, so that the family of the accused to a large extent [will] be ostracised by other members of the community who do not wish to be identified with them. This is how society establishes mores and norms, so people clearly know those behaviours are not acceptable.
“You may have a few individuals who were very good friends before, maintain that, and say ‘Yes, he may have done something wrong but he’s still my friend. I still have to stick with him.’ That may happen.”
But largely, he said societies maintain their standards.
“Once someone violates the norm of the group, the norm of the society, they are ostracised. And others who are associated with them are also ostracised,” he said.
Semaj further pointed to several proverbs that allude to these situations.
“Show me your company and I’ll show you who you are’. ‘Birds of a feather flock together’. So, it is not without merit. The same problem also exists with people who go to prison and pay their dues and come back out. Many times, they are still seen as what they were before. They are not given a second chance. This is a part of the reality how behaviour is identified and maintained in social groups.”