Wed | Sep 20, 2017

Unsolved crime is a murderer’s best friend

Published:Wednesday | March 23, 2016 | 3:00 AM

It was eerily quiet and well after midnight that fateful day three years ago as Fred shook his wife awake and told her he was leaving.

A self-employed welder, he augmented his income by doing guard duty at a huge house high on a hill about a mile from his house where the absentee landlord employed two men for that duty. Fred was on the graveyard shift.

On reaching, he phoned his wife to tell her he had reached. His two young school-age sons would be long fast asleep. At about eight that same morning, his body was discovered by the other guard. The arms and the legs were crudely tied up with telephone wire and the back of his head showed obvious signs of blunt-force trauma. It also appeared that the body was being dragged towards the edge of a cliff.

I was devastated when I heard the news because Fred, 50-something, was easily likable and was never without a smile on his face. His main vice were cigarettes, and he admitted to me a few years before that he had a coke habit.

As far as many residents in the semi-rural St Andrew district knew Fred was not mixed up in any sort of badness but, a few weeks before, he was openly threatened by a man, Tony, whom he had accused of interfering with his job.

Two days after Fred's wife and his two sons were left without a breadwinner, Tony was in a shop where he had gone to collect funds for work done on a small bushing contract. A community resident whispered to him that he knew that he had killed Fred. It was the general consensus that Tony, who lived in a shanty in bushes near to the house, must have had at least one accomplice in committing the murder.

Tony promptly left the area. About a week after, I went to the police to report what I knew, and, what I knew was what I had heard. Very little was known about Tony, except that he was a latecomer to the community.

 

THE BEST TOOL

 

A year later, he revisited the community and at least one resident tried to call the police station dealing with the case. The number rang endlessly. As quick as Tony came, he left again.

In that very area, about seven murders have taken place since 2009, and not one has been solved.

It disgusts me that I am walking and driving by murderers who are now so secure because they know that the police are under-resourced and overwhelmed, and maybe just a little bit too lazy to solve the murders of community members who, while they were alive, did not have 'brand names' that would immediately provoke the police into action.

Seven murders in a small community in seven years, and the perpetrators have thumbed their noses at the rest of us and are even more empowered because they know that 95 per cent of the time the community will shut its collective mouth.

Bobby Montague, the new national security minister, is expected to be one step ahead of the rest of us. One part of that understanding is the state of community policing and the quality of detective work in solving crime.

Community policing ensures that the police know the residents, the hotspots, the troublemakers and new arrivals with darkened-out antecedents.

"The best tool in the arsenal of a good detective is imagination," said a deputy commissioner to me many years ago. "He has to be bright. Period."

As violent crimes like murders remain unsolved, newly minted members of the criminal community become emboldened to the point that even police stations are shot up. One can imagine when those criminals get together, how they laugh at the police and add up the 'duppies' they have made as they plan to chalk up even more.

I have not seen clear signs that residents in communities right across the island have fully bought into the idea that solving murders is everyone's business. Although I believe the police are more trusted than they were in the previous three decades, the level of trust is not yet at the stage that five or six residents will visit a police station to tell what they know about one murder.

Minister Montague may need to play nanny more than minister in getting our people to that needed level of partnership. Until that is done, the murderers will continue to thumb their noses at law-abiding citizens.

N.B. Names mentioned above have been changed.

- Mark Wignall is an analyst. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com and bservemark@gmail.com.