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Spiking murder rate leaving victims' relatives in despair

Published:Tuesday | June 30, 2015 | 12:00 AMGary Spaulding

Nation in trauma

The image of Kerry Ann Stewart's dead beau's face continues to haunt her memory two months after Worrel Terrelonge was gunned down by thugs in Port Morant, St Thomas.

"Oh, Jesus, I can't explain, I just don't know how to explain that feeling," declared Stewart, who lost the love of her life on the fateful evening of April 14.

"It was the first time that I was experiencing something like that. It was really horrible and unbearable," said the 35-year-old woman. "For day's I kept seeing Worrel's face in my dream," said Stewart.

"I will never have another man because I could never bear this traumatic experience again. Him just dead and bury, and that's it. I really don't have any faith in the ability of the police to solve the murder," she said.

Even as Stewart grieved the loss of her loved one, she said her anguish was compounded when she was reportedly caught in the web of the investigation, although she said she was not even near the crime scene.

"They (the police) asked me to come into the station for questioning, and when I went, they asked me why I set up man to kill the man I love. How callous and heartless is that?" she said. "I really have no faith in the justice system."

With the wounds still fresh, Stewart expressed the view that the nation is traumatised by meaningless killings with no end in sight.

Terrelonge's murder is just one of 572 which have been recorded since the start of 2015, compared with 486 for the similar period, last year.

Murders, which were down 16 per cent at the end of 2014, have risen by 18 per cent, or 86 more, in the first six months of this year.

To complicate matters, Ealan Powell, assistant commissioner of police in charge of the Criminal Investigations Branch (CIB), told The Gleaner that there are indications that the barking guns have crept from the gangs into the domestic sphere.

"Part of what we have seen different from last year is that the Corporate Area is seeing a significant reduction in murder, but an increase in the rural areas," said Powell.

He said that while most of

the murders committed last

year and before by gang

members continued to be so, too, many were involved in domestic troubles.

"We are seeing an increasing number of domestic disputes being resolved by the gun, rather than sticks and stones ... . It is troubling but there is greater use of the gun in domestic disputes," he asserted.

Reiterating that the launch of the 'Get the Gun' campaign is "to ameliorate the situation", Powell said that additional analyses are being undertaken at this time.

"We are closely examining and analysing gun involvement, as well as the areas, so that we can pay closer attention to these guns," said Powell. "We are working out the finer details and a press conference will be held to share these with the public."

Powell stressed that special attention is being paid to

St James, where 90 per cent of murders are committed by the gun, which is higher than the national average.

Opposition Spokesman on National Security Derrick Smith has declared that the situation warrants an urgent statement by National Security Minister Peter Bunting.

"The pattern of increase in murders since the start of the year is extremely alarming and a serious cause for concern," said Smith. "What is particularly distressing is the heightened anxiety and fear it is creating across the country, while there is no indication that the authorities are on top of the situation."

Added Smith: "The rapid escalation in murders since the start of the year warrants an urgent statement from [National Security Minister Peter Bunting] as to what is causing the

problem, the authorities' assessment of the situation, but most importantly, the police commissioner's report as to what is being done about it."

Smith said nothing short of effective crime-management strategies need to be employed and communicated at this time, if there is any hope of reducing the murder rate, and in so doing, easing the fear and anxiety now gripping the citizenry.

gary.spaulding@gleanerjm.com