KEW, Hanover — Nordia Edwards is convinced someone must have heard her nine-year-old daughter Nikita Noel screaming as she was being murdered on Wednesday. Her only daughter was "very loud", she said, so she is holding onto hope that someone heard or saw something that will lead to her killer being caught and convicted.
The child's vicious murder dominated national discussions for much of Thursday and has been roundly condemned by many including Prime Minister Andrew Holness, Education Minister Fayval Williams, House Speaker Marisa Dalrymple-Philibert, and other members of the Parliament.
"Nikita's horrifying murder is a shock to our collective conscience and sense of community and can only be described as evil," Prime Minister Holness said.
"My heart goes out to Nikita's family and loved ones and I am sure the entire Jamaica is praying for the family at this very sad time," he said.
"Our society must never become numb to the increasing barbarity of violent acts. The society must clearly define and defend the moral line by speaking out against and unequivocally condemning these violent acts and supporting measures that will bring the perpetrators to justice. For this reason, the Government is urgently amending the Offences Against the Person Act to provide stiffer penalties for those who terrorise and prey upon our people, particularly vulnerable and innocent children. Such barbaric criminals must be in no doubt that the country wants them separated from the society," he said.
Nikita, who was fondly called Joanna, would have celebrated her 10th birthday on March 1. It is believed that she was raped. Her body was found discarded in bushes by a search party launched after she went missing. She was wearing her entire Esher Primary School uniform, her backpack still on her back. She was not far from home.
"Joanna nuh deserve this! One daughter, one daughter and them do her like that," the distraught mother screamed in agony on Thursday.
She first had an inkling that something was wrong Wednesday evening, when there was no sign of her daughter even though her driver said he had dropped her off. She sounded an alarm and the search began. It ended badly.
Edwards is appealing to anyone with information to come forward.
"If anybody in the community know something, speak up! Speak up if anybody know anything because people always on the road, somebody must see something!" she begged.
A man has been taken into police custody, for his own safety, after tempers flared in the community when word spread of Nikita's death. Up to press time he had not been charged so his name is being withheld.
"Investigators are comfortable to say that the person that is in custody is of prime interest to the investigation and are confident that a particular course will be taken soonest," Assistant commissioner of police in charge of Area One Clifford Chambers said Thursday evening. "We know that the mother's intimate partner, they had an issue between them and that is one of the lines of inquiry which is being followed."
He added that investigators will speak with three children who walked home from school with Nikita, in the presence of their parents and representatives from the Child Protection and Family Services Agency.
Those left shattered by Nikita's death include schoolmates at Esher Primary. Grief counsellors were at the school on Thursday providing support. As they sang inspirational songs, one girl rested her head on her desk, tears streaming down her cheeks. A counsellor quickly went to her side. The children were encouraged to express their feelings and one of their more touching notes to Nikita read, "I hope you are having a nice day in [heaven]".
Principal Anthonette Wright told the Observer that Nikita had an award-winning personality.
"Nikita is a lover of life, and quite polite. She was a team player and a leader," she said of the fourth-grader who started attending the school three years ago.
"This situation has changed a lot of the emotions that we would normally have. We are deeply hurt," Wright added.
Acting senior education officer for the Primary Unit at the Ministry of Education's Region 4 Jacqueline Brown used the opportunity to encourage parents to be vigilant and keep in touch with children after school is dismissed.
"I'd want to speak to our parents that when students leave school and are going home that we don't assume that they get home safely," she cautioned.
She described the death of young Nikita as "heart rendering".
Member of Parliament for Western Hanover Tamika Davis, who visited the grieving family on Thursday, condemned violence against children and women.
"We must bring an end to this as a parish. I remember not too long ago, Hanover was considered one of the safest parishes in the island, and look at us now," she bemoaned.
"We have to work together to ensure that we stamp out, nip now, that demon that is rearing its ugly head in this usually quiet parish," she pleaded.
- We welcome reader comments on the top stories of the day. Some comments may be republished on the website or in the newspaper; email addresses will not be published.
- Please understand that comments are moderated and it is not always possible to publish all that have been submitted. We will, however, try to publish comments that are representative of all received.
- We ask that comments are civil and free of libellous or hateful material. Also please stick to the topic under discussion.
- Please do not write in block capitals since this makes your comment hard to read.
- Please don't use the comments to advertise. However, our advertising department can be more than accommodating if emailed: firstname.lastname@example.org.
- If readers wish to report offensive comments, suggest a correction or share a story then please email: email@example.com.