Fri | Nov 15, 2019

Beaten, stripped naked, shaved from head to toe - 75-y-o recounts ordeal after extortion resisted

Published:Wednesday | November 6, 2019 | 12:28 AMJanet Silvera/Senior Gleaner Writer
The Qahal Yahweh Church in Norwood, St James.
The Qahal Yahweh Church in Norwood, St James.

WESTERN BUREAU:

Seven months ago, 75-year-old Clifford Preston, a one-time member of Qahal Yahweh, was thrice the victim of a brutal assault meted out by a group of ultra-radicals loyal to the religious sect.

In the first attack, he said he was beaten mercilessly by the men, and in the second, which followed almost immediately, he was forced to strip naked and shaved from head to toe as a mark of disgrace. In the last strike, his home was invaded and most of his prized possessions destroyed.

Police and soldiers who stormed the church compound yesterday to take minors into custody were challenged by boisterous congregants who threatened them with violence, arming themselves with sticks and stones in thorny defiance, actions that were testament to Preston’s claim of cultic aggression.

Preston said that the assault stemmed from his refusal to hand over his property title, home, and inheritance to leaders of Qahal Yahweh, located at Lot 144 in Norwood, Montego Bay.

The men, who declared themselves leaders of the organisation after its original head died in 2017, have ruled the congregation with an iron fist, reportedly singling out older members for abuse and exploitation.

“After I refused to hand over my possessions, they gave me a hand-beating one Sabbath, slap me up very hard. I am a very physical person, a strong individual, carry a strong body. I am also a warrior, and I don’t put out to make war,” he told The Gleaner.

“So they slapped me up properly and put me into a room with seven young men – six o’ dem could be mi grandchildren, and the biggest one about 60-odd. So it was seven against one, and they said I must undress myself. So mi teck off every piece a mi clothes and I was shaved from head down to my ankle. The only part a mi hair was left was my eyelash,” he said, revealing that his attackers included twins and a Navi, or prophet.

Preston, who was a member of the sect for eight years, said that the men targeted his home two weeks later, leaving a trail of destruction as they smashed furniture and heirlooms.

“When they step inside my house, them stand up at the door and a look inna mi house. Dem say to me now: ‘Bredda Preston, bwoy, you place nice, you know. You comfortable yah so, Bredda Preston. You house nice, man. But di house full a demon,” he said, recounting how the men tore down pictures, upended his dining table, and ripped sheets off his bed.

The septuagenarian said that he was forced to burn his possessions under duress.

“Dem stand up over mi and watch mi. Dem go inna mi cabinet an teck out all mi glass dem, all mi plate dem, and just look pon dem and just bad mind and mash dem up. All some a mi enamel pot dem, dem destroy,” Preston said, admitting that he had been too fearful to report the matter to the police.

“Police can’t do dem nuttn. Dem gwine use scripture and block you from even writing this story,” he warned The Gleaner.

janet.silvera@gleanerjm.com