Tue | Jul 23, 2019

Heart-wrenching! - Funeral director says ‘special kind of grief’ reserved for Shantae Skyers

Published:Monday | May 20, 2019 | 12:24 AMPaul Clarke/Gleaner Writer
Pastor Leslie Pinnock, national youth director of the New Testament Church of God, comforts Shantae Skyers' mother, Crystal Service, at the coffin during Skyers' funeral at Meadowvale Seventh-day Adventist Church, Chancery Street, Kingston, yesterday.
Pastor Leslie Pinnock assists Member of Parliament Juliet Cuthbert Flynn at Shantae Skyers funeral yesterday.
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Tears, anguish and overwhelming grief permeated the Meadowvale Seventh-day Adventist Church on Chancery Street, St Andrew, which hosted the thanksgiving service for murdered eight-year-old Shantae Skyers yesterday, leading the funeral director at Roberts Funeral Home, Kymani Wright, to admit that he, too, was moved by the outpouring of emotions.

“I take no pleasure whatsoever in driving the remains of this little girl to her place of burial today (yesterday). I would feel better if she was alive and I was tasked with taking her to school, were it possible,” he said.

Having done more than 20 funerals for children, Wright said that none left him feeling so much hurt as this one, which he described as “heart-wrenching”.

“I have done smaller children before, but when you have cases such as this, with the complications because she was murdered in a most dreadful fashion, it’s kind of different from a death due to natural causes.

“It is a terrible situation. I have driven the remains of over 20 children to church services, but this one grabs me the most because of what happened to this little girl,” Wright said.

He said that all funerals, in spite of the age of the deceased, are hard on those who come to pay their respects, but said that a special kind of grief is usually reserved for children.

“This one is really sad. These kinds of funeral services take a toll on me, and this one especially because of how she was brought in and how she died. It is heart-wrenching to see the grief on people’s faces and to hear the cries,” the funeral director said, adding that he was not inoculated from feeling the grief of others.

Juliet Cuthbert-Flynn, member of parliament for the St Andrew West Rural constituency where Skyers lived, said that she was devastated by the senseless crime, telling the packed church that she was moved to find solutions to the issues that were traumatising society.

“So far this year, as of last week, 17 children have been murdered, 83 raped and one committed suicide. There are outbursts when another child is taken from us, but silence when we see the root cause every day around us.

“We are too quiet in communities that know of murderers and say nothing; we are too quiet when we know a man is molesting a boy or girl and say nothing. We are too quiet when a child is abused, beaten and attacked daily by parents, and we hear the cries, yet we stay silent.”

Cuthbert-Flynn broke down in tears, while urging communities to help protect children from harm. Gathering herself, she said that the Government recognised that it, too, needed to do more to protect children, making a case for more social workers to be directly stationed inside communities.

“I want to make sure that if a child runs away, a social worker is deployed immediately to that home. When a child doesn’t go home, we must find out why. We must become more vigilant in the protection of our children.

She said that it would be useful to allocate more funds to the Centre for the Investigation of Sexual Offences and Child Abuse to carry out its mandate.

Skyers’ body was found in Blue Hole, Sterling Castle Heights, on April 16. It is theorised that she was sexually molested before she was killed and her body dumped.

A man who residents accused of committing the heinous crime, or withholding crucial information, was beaten, killed, and then set alight. But up to now, the police have not charged anyone, as the three men they held in custody were released. Investigations are continuing.

paul.clarke@gleanerjm.com