'I want justice for my son': The life and times of Mario Deane
Adrian Frater, News Editor
When Mercia Frazer walked into the hospital room at the Cornwall Regional Hospital, she could not recognise the badly battered, bruised and swollen young man draped in bandages, unconscious and hooked up to a life-support machine.
Anxious but unsure, Frazer quickly circled the bed to examine a damaged toe she knew her son, 31-year-old construction worker Mario Deane, had.
She saw the telltale sign - it was Mario, the child she gave birth to on November 6, 1982 at Victoria Jubilee Hospital in Kingston.
"I wasn't sure it was him," a forlorn Frazer told The Sunday Gleaner last week.
"… I had to look at his feet where he had a damaged toe to make sure it was him. I saw my own son and could not recognise him because of what they did to him."
Earlier that day, Sunday, August 3, Frazer had got a call from her son that he was in custody at the Barnett Street Police Station, arrested and charged for possession of a ganja spliff. He asked his mother to ask one of his friends to come down and bail him.
Later that day, when Frazer got a call from her son's friend, Castel McKenzie, who had earlier been foiled by the police in his attempt to bail Mario, he said he was at the Cornwall Regional Hospital.
Fraser was perplexed.
McKenzie had seen Mario less than three hours earlier and he was fine.
As she spoke in a measured tone with Mario's father, Nicholas Deane, and younger sister, Sadiki Deane, looking on, almost in a state of bewilderment, Frazer told The Sunday Gleaner about the life, hopes and dreams of her son, who had previously had no brushes with the law, despite living in a sometimes volatile community.
"As a child, he liked quietness and order … . I was able to communicate better with him if I spoke to him in a calm tone (that is, not to shout or be aggressive)," said Frazer. "He mostly hung out with older individuals that he could learn from and talk to about things that interested him. His television time was mostly spent watching The History Channel, Discovery Channel, and National Geographic."
MOVED TO WESTERN JAMAICA
Mario, who was subsequently joined in the family home by three sisters and one brother, started his school life at St Richard's Primary School in Kingston in 1989. He graduated in 1994.
When his parents went their separate ways, Mario relocated to western Jamaica with his mother.
"He started Rusea's High School in 1994 and left in 2000," Frazer continued. "He was an average student, very quiet but spoke up when needed. Growing up, he liked to play football and video games. These were the things he would be doing when school was over in the evenings and in the summer time."
With no daddy in the household at his new home in western Jamaica, Mario took charge of ensuring that law and order reigned, especially when his mother was at work.
"He always tried to portray the role of father with me because our dad was not around," said sister Sadiki, who is currently reading for her PhD.
"He would love to tell me what I should and should not do, especially when my mom was at work. I found him very bossy, but when I got older, I realised that he was just doing that out of love and concern."
After Mario graduated from Rusea's, he completed a data entry course with HEART Trust and secured employment at Media Track at Freeport in Montego Bay. He subsequently did courses in waiting and catering, and at one time, worked in the hotel sector.
"His true passion was to be an architect," Frazer said.
"To accomplish this, he started working in construction, doing carpentry and masonry. He had signed up to take a carpentry course with HEART so that he could improve his skills. He was a bit of a perfectionist. He liked to have everything done perfectly. He was supposed to be starting the carpentry course with HEART in a few weeks.
"He was also hoping that after he had perfected his skills, he could move on to an overseas work programme and move on into architecture," added Frazer.
With her brother's dream now shattered as a result of landing at the Barnett Street Police Station on August 3 and then in the morgue at the Cornwall Regional Hospital three days later, Sadiki is now left feeling like a part of her has died.
"I remember there were times when my mom did not have enough lunch money for both of us to go to school and he would offer me his lunch money," said Sadiki.
"He did his best to play the role of father and he did not like disorder and uncleanliness in the house. When he started working, if he bought something for himself, he would get something for me too.
"We didn't always get along, mostly because I was always trying to play with him when he was not really interested in what I wanted to do because I was younger, but as we got older, we formed a close bond," continue Sadiki.
As the reality of what has happened to her brother continues to sink in, Sadiki has made it clear that she is not ready to bid him what she consider a premature goodbye.
She has thrown her full support behind organisations fighting for justice for Mario.
"I feel as though half of my heart has been removed and I am walking around half-empty," said Sadiki, reflecting on the days they would wash dishes together.
"He was the closest person to me, besides my mom, so it feels like I have lost my identity. I cannot bear the emotions that come upon me when I remember the three days he spent in the hospital. It's hard to try and remember him without having thoughts of him suffering and in agony … . Sometimes I wake up in the middle of the night and, immediately, my first thoughts are thoughts of having him back with us."
Like her daughter, Mario's grieving mother is now consumed by positive memories of her son who, despite no longer living in her household, would still visit her often as he felt the need for bonding.
"As an adult, he loved to work … . Whenever he was not working, he was also out looking for work," said Frazer.
"He loved to visit me when he was not working, and he would often help me with manly things that needed to be done around the house.
Frazer, who has publicly rejected the police's claim that her son was beaten by inmates, primarily on account of the conflicting stories the police have given, as well as their failure to grant him bail because the police took exception to a comment he had made to his friend who had come to post his bail.
"I want justice for my son … . In his 31 years, he had a crime-free record before he was arrested for that ganja spliff," said Frazer. "While it is now too late for Mario, I don't want to see the same thing happen to another person's child."
DAD HIT HARD BY TRAGEDY
Mario's dad, Nicholas Deane, is reportedly taking his son's death very hard. When he visited him in hospital prior to his death, he pleaded with the medical authorities to move him into the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) as he felt his son's wounds were too grave for him to be kept on the general ward.
"I want them to put him in the ICU right now because I do not want to sit around and watch my son die because of one ganja spliff, which would probably earn a mere $100 fine in the court," the then-anxious father had told The Gleaner.
Since Mario's death on Independence Day, many things have happened: there have been numerous protest demonstrations calling for justice, changes have been made surrounding the protocol of bail to persons arrested with small amounts of ganja, three of his former cellmates - all of questionable states of mind - have been charged with murder, and six police personnel have been interdicted for breaches related to his death.
However, for Sadiki, everything has changed and she is absolutely sure that life without her loving brother will never be the same.
"When we were growing up, we were always together, even on summer vacation when we would stay with relatives … . As adults, we communicated less because I lived overseas, … but when we talked or saw each other, it was always so special because of the love I have for him … . As I said, apart from my mom, he was the most important person in my life."