By: Tony Best
As crime and deadly violence continue to take a heavy toll on New Yorkers, a somewhat similar tragedy is occurring across the Caribbean.
From Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago, the Bahamas and St. Vincent to St. Lucia and Barbados the story is the same: a spate of killings in the region.
Five people were murdered in St. Lucia in less than a week, four of the killings occurred during the recent weekend while three people in St. Vincent & the Grenadines were killed over a four day period. In the Bahamas, a teenager became the country’s latest murder victim after he was shot in the face while sitting in a car in front of his home. It was fifth homicide in five days, taking the country’s death toll to 84 so far this year. In Jamaica armed thugs allegedly killed a woman in the quiet district of Ranch Hill in Portland where five people were murdered so far this year. In Barbados an elderly former truck driver was found in a pool of blood.
The heaviest toll was recorded in St. Lucia where five killings were being investigated by the police in as many days. One of the victims was a special police officer, 42 year old Vernon Francois, who was shot in the head with his own gun. Homicide detectives indicate his wife is assisting in the investigation. Lookan Lesmond was killed during what is being described as a case of domestic violence. Investigators are also looking into may have led to the deadly shooting of Miguel Augustine who was killed on Monday while waiting for a bus. They are looking for a connection between that incident and the murder of Lester Francis several days before when he was murdered while sitting in a vehicle in Boise D’ Orange. Another victim was Evantius Francis who was slain during what may have been a drug deal turned sour. In yet another case, Patrick Stephen died when the vehicle he was driving went over a precipice in what is being called suspicious circumstances.
So far this year, St. Lucia police recorded 27 murders, down from 32 for the corresponding period last year.
Detective in neighboring St. Vincent are investigating three murders, including that of “Layaby” Robinson, 24, who was killed a few hours after he was released from police custody. He had given evidence in a case in which two men were convicted for a 2007 murder. He had told the court that he was present when two men plotted the murder. The killers were later convicted and sentenced to life in prison. On Saturday, Evan Lynch, 38, was also shot and killed as a result of a long-standing feud that had already cost the life of his brother several years ago. Police officers are also probing the circumstances of the death of a taxi-driver, Calvert Patterson, 48, whose body was found in an abandoned building.
St. Vincent’s top cop, Keith Miller has complained about the “blatant disrespect for the law” in the country, asserting that people should turn to the courts to settle disputes rather than take the law into their own hands.
“We have the law court that can deal with disputes and if you have disputes and you do not think you want to get to the court, you can meet with some respectable persons in the community or come to the police and ask the police to speak with the persons who you are aggrieved with,” said the Police Commissioner.
In Trinidad and Tobago, Jack Warner, the Minister of National Security, has offered nationals of the 50 year old independent republic something of a consolation by insisting that although 262 murders were committed between January and July this year, the picture wasn’t as a bad as it appeared. As he saw it, serious crimes and homicides have fallen since 2010. The number of murders fell by three per cent in 2012, compared with the number for the corresponding period in 2011.
“It is no comfort that there were eight less murders this year … the point I am making is that it is not as bad as it seems,” Warner declared.
• Figures released by the Jamaica Constabulary Forces showed that 643 murders were reported to the police between January and July this year, 13 more than the 630 cases in the first seven months of 2011. There were 120 murders in May, the bloodiest month for the year; 108 in January; 96 in February, 88; March 73; and April 71. The latest murder occurred in Portland where Philbert McDonald, 44, was found dead by his common-law wife, Adina Senior Jamaica recorded 1,133 murders in 2011. Ironically, the spot where the incident took place was close to the scene where former World Heavyweight champion, Trevor Berbick was killed six years ago. There were 10 murders in Portland last year.
• A 19 year old Bahamian youth, Elijah Roberts got into a heated argument with another man in Yellow Elder Garden last Friday and paid the ultimate price with his life. He was shot in the head and died instantly. The youth’s killing took place less than 24 hours after a father of seven children was gunned down off Soldier Road.
• In Barbados, the police are investigating the circumstances of the death of 81 year old Winston Waterman, a former truck driver who was found in a pool of blood in his son’s home on Friday morning. Less than 30 people have been killed in Barbados so far this year.