'They took my baby from me' - Slain JUTC driver's widow in grief as New Year gets underway
The Barneses had a wonderful Christmas and were looking forward to a prosperous New Year. But two gunmen in August Town, St Andrew, had different plans and, just days before the start of 2016, ripped apart the family's loving home with a single bullet.
New Year's Day was not the same for Elaine, wife of Albert Collin Barnes, 51, the Jamaica Urban Transit Company (JUTC) bus driver who was murdered in August Town about 9 p.m. on December 29.
It was missing her "baby", her jack of all trades, the father of her teenage boys and a husband she had loved for more than 21 years.
"I woke up this morning and somebody said 'Happy New Year, Mrs Barnes', and I smiled and just said 'Happy New Year'. But this New Year is not happy. It's not happy for me at all," she moaned, gingerly flipping the pages of her wedding album as she spoke with The Sunday Gleaner at her home in Greater Portmore, St Catherine, on Friday.
She was facing day three of her misery: of going without her loving husband's flirtatious text messages, living without his laughter, and having to cry herself to sleep as her sister, Peaches Burke, hugs and comforts her from her husband's side of the bed.
"It's not the same. They took my baby from me. They left a family devastated. His sister is just floating, and I'm like a shadow of myself, a zombie," said the vice-principal of Clarion Basic School in Maverley, St Andrew, tears filling her eyes.
She recounted the devastating phone call about her husband's injury last Tuesday, her desperate prayers, and the subsequent sight of his motionless body at the University Hospital of the West Indies in St Andrew.
He was baptised in 1994, she said.
"I am trying to eat something because I lose weight very fast and this is not easy for me. It's heart-wrenching," said Barnes, who explained that her husband buried his mother on December 19, and so his death in such a short time came as a particular shock to relatives.
"He was jovial, a jack of all trades. He would sit down and figure out how to fix things in his mind. If you call him to put up a water tank, he can do it. If you call him to fix the phone, he can," said Barnes.
"If you call him to bake, he can bake. Sew ... oh God! I had a skirt and I said 'Collin, the waist is too big'. And him just, him say, 'put it on'. And him measure it up and then say 'take it off', and in no time the skirt waist fix," she recalled, behind a short-lived bout of laughter.
"He was a very good and loving husband. Everything Collin did, he did it with me and his children in mind. Everything! He is very loving to his mother-in-law, he does everything for her. Even the neighbours can't believe that this happen," she said.
JUTC Managing Director Colin Campbell said last week that closed-circuit cameras inside the number 72 bus Barnes was driving showed two men entering the vehicle before engaging him in a discussion.
"We don't know what was said because it's not a system that records sound. Then we saw the shooter back off and fire one single shot and get off the bus," said Campbell, noting that the attack, which traumatised Barnes' colleagues at the JUTC, took no more than 13 seconds.
Barnes had been working with the JUTC for four years.
The killers were staunchly condemned by residents of August Town, some of whom last week gathered in protest, and along with political representatives, marched through the community, distancing themselves from the attackers.
Police confirmed on Friday that a suspect has been held in connection with the murder and that they are still seeking the other.
But while the police continue to probe the case, his sister-in-law took issue with reports that have been surfacing in the media and on Internet.
"I see reports that Collin has five children when nothing is like that. This man is a happily married man with him two children," said Burke. "He is my brother-in-law but he is like a brother to me. We are a very close-knit family, both sides of the family. This death affects everybody, even the neighbours next door."
Sixteen-year-old Nevard Barnes, Barnes' younger son, is reportedly taking his father's death the hardest. He slept through most of New Year's morning and declined to speak about his loss.
His older brother Novack, however, has been acting as the 'man of the house', comforting his mother and sibling.
"I just have to try to be the big brother and be there for Mommy," the 19-year-old said. "I heard so many false stories about what happened, but whatever they killed my father for, it wasn't worth it. If I should believe those stories, it would be like my father died for nothing."