Bitter pill to swallow
Man killed with wife at their St Thomas vacation home rejected talk of Jamaica being world's murder capitalSunday, October 24, 2021
BY ALICIA DUNKLEY-WILLIS
Melbourne Flake, the 81-year-old Jamaican-Canadian who was murdered with his wife Etta in 2018, loved Jamaica and defended it every chance he got, rejecting any notion of it being “the murder capital” of the world.
That he and his 70-year-old wife ended up being slaughtered in his St Thomas retirement home, which he took 17 years to build to share with her while on vacation, is the bitter pill his children and grandchildren have been left to swallow. Worse, the couple, children, and grandchildren — 19 altogether who had been visiting the island at the same time — had separated days earlier, leaving the two to continue their vacation.
The couple was found dead at their vacation home on January 9, 2018. Melbourne Flake was observed to have sustained head wounds, while his wife was said to have been suffocated. Following investigations, Fabian Skervin — a farmer of Tulip Road and Soho district, both in the town of Seaforth — and his female companion were picked up at a house in the Seaforth Housing Scheme in St Thomas on Wednesday, February 7, 2018 and subsequently charged with two counts of murder and robbery with aggravation each.
Last Thursday Skervin was slapped with two life sentences by Supreme Court Judge, Lorna Shelly Williams.
The 29-year-old farmer, who was charged with two counts of murder, was sentenced to life imprisonment for both. The sentences are to run concurrently so that he will serve 32 years and four months before being eligible for parole
Earlier last week, the Flakes's six children, in victim impact statements, placed into the court's records, recalled the depth of his loyalty to the country that he left in 1964 with his wife and two babies.
“My dad loved Jamaica more than life itself. I recall a conversation we had a few years back... I had been lamenting over the fact that Jamaica had seemingly become the murder capital of the universe,” one daughter said.
“Do people in Winnipeg get murdered?” was the question she said her father asked. When she replied “Well, yeah they do,” his response was “Then why yuh a go seh dat Jamaica is full a murder? come on, yuh nuh fi talk like dat pan Jamaica”.
“My dad was fiercely loyal to his beloved Jamaica. he defended her, and his most fervent desire was to spend the last and best years of his life in his beloved country of birth... The world is watching... do not turn my father into a liar. He defended Jamaica to his last breath. Please do not defend the ones responsible for bashing in his head. Ever see a pool of coagulated blood where someone bled out? I did, and I cannot ever pretend that I did not,” she stated.
The daughter noted that while her mother did not share her husband's dream to retire in Jamaica, she did not stand in his way and had in fact settled on an even longer vacation at the time of their death.
“Her husband, my dad, spent every single dime he owned to provide her with every comfort. She came around to the idea of spending the colder winter months in Jamaica. He wanted to share all of his hard work with his wife and that year she decided she would spend more time than she ever had together with my dad, and he was thrilled,” she said further.
Describing the “shock of identifying [her] parents' corpses, she said, “Imagine what it must be like to see who had been in life a beautiful senior, who looked more like my sister than my mom, lying in front of you, a face black and blue, hair looking as if she had been electrocuted... Sadly, I am haunted every day by the memory of that hideous apparition. Why? What did she ever do to you?”
The daughter said despite Jamaica's culture of holding open-casket funerals, the family decided against it because of the “disturbing image”.
Another of the Flakes's daughters recalled that her mother video-called her for what was the final time — unbeknownst to them — a day before the murders to wish her happy birthday.
“She was so proud of herself for having made a video call — something she had not mastered until that moment. I was equally proud of her and happy I could talk to and see her on my birthday. We talked for a while, then parted with the usual, 'I love you' and 'talk to you soon.' The following day they were murdered,” she told the court.
“Celebrating my birthday is forever changed. My life is forever changed. I no longer have a sense of what should be. I will no longer have the opportunity to know what could be. There is no normal for me. As positive as I try to be, it's challenging to live without wondering when the next horrible thing may happen. I feel like I constantly have to look over my shoulder,” the daughter said.
One sibling, who said she had looked forward to spending more time with her father during that vacation, lamented that the knowledge that it would never happen “haunts” her even now.
“My hurt is deep because that closure that I always longed for I will never, ever get; that was taken from me. and my father wasn't ill — he was murdered,” she said.
Yet another sibling, in describing the horror the untimely death of her parents had unleashed on her family, said, “I have a fear of coming back to St Thomas. I am fearful of the people in the St Thomas area because the accused are well known in St Thomas, and I have no idea what they look like or who their friends are.
“I am desperately seeking to make sense out of this senseless murder. I want to be able to trust again. I want to be able to think about my parents without having to fight back tears,” she stated.
The Flakes's youngest, in her statement, said the emotional impact of the crime left her fearful all the time.
“When my children leave the house I wonder if this will be the last time I see them. When someone is running late I automatically go to the worst-case scenario and think something terrible has happened to them,” she said adding, “I place more restrictions on my children [ages 18, 16 and 12] than ever before, hoping that by keeping them near me, they will be safe.”