Fri | Jan 19, 2018

Michael Abrahams | No respect for Nevalesia

Published:Monday | July 18, 2016 | 12:33 AMMichael Abrahams

The brutal murder of three-year-old Nevalesia Campbell in Orange Hill, St Ann, has sent ripples of shock, anger and disgust across Jamaica. Murder is a heinous act, and the killing of a child would rattle any rational person. But the slaying and circumstances surrounding the death of this child were particularly disturbing.

On the night of July 9, Nevalesia’s mother, Mahalia Poyser, reported to the Brown’s Town police that her daughter was missing. She claimed that she put the little girl to bed, along with her twin brother, about 10:30 p.m., but that her daughter woke up half an hour later and requested a drink of water. She reported that following this, the child went to lie on the bed to watch television with her, but, upon waking up around 1:30 a.m., she realised that her daughter was missing and that the front door, which was not locked with a key, was open.

After searching unsuccessfully for her offspring, a report was made to the police.

Some members of the community reported hearing a child crying during the night but did not suspect foul play. One said that “people hear the cry and think a duppy a cry”. Some residents did not buy the mother’s story, and suggested that she was not home at the time of the abduction, but was at a party in the community, and that it was someone from the area who was responsible for the crime. As one woman said, “Something inna something.”

A search resulted in the gruesome discovery of the child’s body in a gully at approximately 9 a.m. She had been chopped multiple times across her head, torso and other areas of her little body. Residents also claimed that the child appeared to have been sexually assaulted, as her genitalia appeared to have been distorted.

By the following day, a suspect, 19-year-old Alexus Newland, otherwise called ‘Dal Dal’, of Milford, St Ann, was named and asked to report to the nearest police station by 5 p.m. He was captured by citizens later that afternoon in the community of Tabernacle, St Ann, and handed over to the police. It was revealed that a bag containing a pair of pants soaked in blood was recovered from a pit latrine in his backyard. A shoe believed to be belonging to him was also found in the vicinity of the crime scene.

The narrative became even more convoluted when a media report claimed that Newland was a part of the search party looking for Nevalesia. An in-law of his said that he ran to her house and informed her that a child was missing. It was reported that he joined the search party and at some point went under a barbed wire fence and down a deep slope before announcing that he had found the child’s body, only to depart the scene when the police arrived.

So Newland was arrested and charged with the murder of Nevalesia Campbell.

But the story does not end there. The suspicions of some of the residents were validated when it was confirmed that Nevalesia’s mother was not at home at the time of her disappearance, but was at a community dance with her common-law husband, Roy Downs, partying while her daughter was being mercilessly butchered. The couple was later arrested and charged for negligence under the Child Care and Protection Act, and bail denied, as the authorities fear for their safety.

The horrendous slaughter has drawn widespread condemnation, not only from regular Jamaican citizens, but also from Prime Minister Andrew Holness and Opposition Leader Portia Simpson Miller. Holness said, "The Government is clear and adamant that we will do whatever we can to deal with these gruesome and indecent acts, especially against our women and children," while Simpson Miller stated, "All well-thinking Jamaicans must deplore and speak out against these gruesome acts of brutality against Jamaica's children.”

As if this litany of woe was not horrendous enough, during the public’s reaction to the unfolding events, graphic photographs of the child’s mutilated body have been uploaded to social media platforms and shared, potentially causing even more grief and distress to relatives of the deceased.

The Igbo and Yoruba proverb from Nigeria, ‘It takes a whole village to raise a child’, is well known and often quoted. But in this tragic tale, the village forsook the child, even in death. Not only the murderer, but Nevalesia’s mother and her common-law husband, community members who heard the child’s screams and did nothing, persons who took photographs of her mutilated body and uploaded them to social media, and those who saw the photos and shared them have all failed and disrespected this child.

May her precious little soul rest in peace, and may we all look into ourselves and ask the question, are we really serious about protecting our children?
Michael Abrahams is a gynaecologist and obstetrician, comedian and poet.

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