Jungle justice results in deadly errorThursday, October 21, 2021
BY ROMARDO LYONS
Family and friends of the two girls who were abducted last week now fear that real chances of getting justice have slipped through their fingers after the now eight-day hunt for Davian Bryan — the man police named as the suspect in the abductions — took a morbid turn yesterday morning when residents of Llandewey, St Thomas, killed an innocent man who they believed to be Bryan.
According to the police, about 7:30 am residents saw the unidentified man in a section of the community, attacked, and beat him. The police were summoned to the scene and upon arrival, the man was taken to hospital where he was pronounced dead.
“The search is on same way. The police and soldiers are searching all over the place, but because an innocent man was killed, dem a try send in the residents now so dem alone can do the work. The people dem did a do real work out inna the bushes,” Donnovan Donnal, cousin of nine-year-old Phylisa Prussia — one of the girls who was abducted — told the Jamaica Observer yesterday.
On Thursday, October 14 about 6:00 pm, Phylisa was abducted from her home in Bath, St Thomas. She was found alive nearly two days later in bushes in Arcadia.
But shortly after she was found, the country learnt that 13-year-old Winshae Barrett was also taken from her home in Bath.
Donnal added that, as long as Bryan remains free, the community will be forced to live in fear.
“I don't think him gone nowhere. Mi feel like him inna the community same way. And the place tense same way and the people dem traumatised same way because the man still on the run and we don't know what is next,” he said.
He told the Observer that, after learning that a man was killed in Llandewey, he knew immediately that he was innocent.
“Mi know seh a never him [Bryan]. Mi know seh a never the right man, because mi a seh him [Bryan] couldn't reach so far. I just waited on a picture fi really see if a him,” Donnal said, noting that pictures circulating on social media afterwards confirmed his doubts.
Commanding officer for the St Thomas Police Division, Superintendent Allison Byfield, told the Observer that, based on the reports received, the man who was killed was mistaken for Bryan.
“We have not yet established the motive for the killing. We have nothing on record to say why he was killed, but we are hearing from persons out on the street that he was mistaken for Davian Bryan. My information is that a man was attacked by residents and injured. I think wounds were inflicted to him using a knife. Residents are saying that he is the suspect that they were looking for, however, it is not the suspect,” Byfield said in a sombre tone.
“So, we want to say an innocent man's life would've been taken out by the residents of the area,” she continued.
Byfield urged residents to desist from carrying out a “mob killing” because it is a criminal offence for which they can be arrested and charged.
“If and when you see the suspect, contact the police. It serves no one's interest for persons to take justice in their own hands,” she said.
The hunt for Bryan, who police say is before the court on rape and illegal possession of firearm charges in neighbouring parish, Portland, intensified when Winshae was abducted.
Winshae was reported missing some time after 4:00 pm on Saturday after accompanying her older sister Tiara Cook to feed pigs in their backyard. She was found Monday morning in heavy foliage outside Spring Bank, a neighbouring community to Bath.
Both girls were rushed and admitted to Princess Margaret Hospital for medical treatment.
A resident, who requested anonymity, told the Observer that, like Donnal, she is now concerned about the pace of the search for the suspect.
“The aim a fi ketch di culprit and deal wid him. The man probably get weh now, because now the police nah go too endorse we being out on the road and searching. When we coulda out and a roll with them before, dat haffi go stop. Dem know seh wi nuh want dem fi ketch him before we. Dem know seh wi really want him fi pay fi weh him do, but a innocent man dead, so dat put everything pon a different level,” she said.
A family friend of Winshae added: “The biggest setback right now is that, because of this, people nah go waan come out and search again. And the less man out inna the fields, a more chance that fi [the suspect] continue a go round wi. Dat cyaan happen. Wi cyaan afford fi dat happen. Wi regret seh a innocent man drop out like that, but wi haffi continue wid the search.”
Last Saturday, Commissioner of Police Major Antony Anderson urged the residents of St Thomas not to partake in jungle justice if they see the accused.
“Let the police know. We want to capture him and get him back into custody… we really want to get him so we can find out what he has been up to,” Anderson said.
Also, The Jamaica Constabulary Force has offered a $200,000 reward, through Crime Stop Jamaica, for information leading to Bryan's arrest.