Mon | Dec 11, 2017

Accident or murder? - Victims found after fire might have been killed elsewhere

Published:Sunday | November 26, 2017 | 12:00 AMCorey Robinson

Police and firefighters in Westmoreland believe that they may be investigating another multiple murder, following a fire that razed a house in New Brighton yesterday, leaving behind the bodies of four persons and a community burning with fear.

Firefighters said they found the bodies after carrying out cooling-down operations at the unfinished house located at a remote section of the community. They were responding to residents who saw smoke coming from the house at about 6:47 p.m. on Friday evening.

"Based on early investigations, it appears that the persons may have been killed elsewhere and taken to the house, which was set on fire. That is how it appears based on early investigation," said Assistant Superintendent George Wainwright, acting head of the Westmoreland Fire Division.

"Based on how the bodies were, it didn't appear as if they were trying to escape. Usually in that kind of situation you would find bodies near a window or door to suggest that the person was trying to leave, but that was not the case," said the senior fireman, noting that most of the unfinished building was gutted before firefighters arrived.

Police would not confirm, but residents said they believed that they could identify at least three of the individuals, including a resident of the community and his wife.

Assistant Commissioner of Police Donovan Graham, who heads Area One, which includes Westmoreland, declined to speak definitively on the incident but said that investigations had started.

"We can't say anything for certain. We know that something serious occurred there, but the investigations are ongoing," he said, noting that New Brighton is not known for gang activity.

"We just want anybody who might have seen or heard something to pass it on to the police," he said late yesterday evening.

In the meantime, one of the firefighters who helped douse the blaze said that the discovery of the bodies shocked not only the residents, but members of his team.

"Persons were really shocked by the incident. It was the first time they were seeing anything like it in their community," offered one of the shaken firemen who helped to quell the blaze.

"Even though we are trained for things like this, no amount of training can take away the human side of it. It was really a very horrible sight," said the fireman, recounting how two of the corpses were found on their hands and knees, kneeling face down, one slumped behind a door, and the other lying on its back with its feet crossed.

corey.robinson@gleanerjm.com