Tue | Oct 23, 2018

Ten years of pain

Published:Sunday | November 9, 2014 | 12:00 AM
Pansy Henry and her daughter, Yasheba, whose hands were burnt in the 2004 fire.-File

Mother still mourns her children burnt to death after arsonists torched their house

Barbara Gayle, Justice Coordinator

It is now 10 years since Pansy Henry lost her five-year-old twin sons and her three-year-old stepdaughter, Moesha Lee, in a fire which gutted her house in Portmore, St Catherine, but the pain has not diminished.

"Every morning at 1:15 I wake up and relive the incident," Henry told The Sunday Gleaner as she cried uncontrollably.

Arsonists threw gasolene around the three-bedroom dwelling house where Henry and seven children were sleeping on the early morning of September 14, 2004 and set it ablaze.

She and four of the children managed to escape the inferno but the flames engulfed the house so quickly that the three small children could not be rescued.

According to Henry, minutes before the fire she heard movements around her house. She looked through a window and saw when a bottle torch was thrown on to the building.

She said the day before the incident she had a dispute with some men who wanted to cut a trench in her yard, and when she objected, threats were issued to burn down her house. "Since they really wanted to burn down my house, why couldn't they wait until nobody was at home," wailed Henry.

Despite the tragedy, Henry is trying to put her life together for the sake of her other children but it has been an uphill battle for her. Since the death of her twin sons, Henry has given birth to identical twin girls who are now seven years old, and a son who is five years old.

"Right now I don't even have a permanent place of residence, and this is very frustrating for me and the children."


After the fire, Henry and her children were placed in the Witness Protection Programme and relocated from St Catherine.

She said as soon as the trial of the two men who were charged with murder arising from the death of the children ended in 2010, she was informed that she had to leave the safe house where she was staying.

"What kind of a programme is this? I believe those who are in charge of it don't really care about the welfare and security of those who are placed in that programme," said Henry.

She alleged that after she was told to leave the premises, she was given $130,000, and when she made queries as to what was going to happen to her, one of the coordinators told her that she was no better than the ladies on the street.

"The impression I got was that I was being told to go out and prostitute myself, and to tell the truth, I would not wish my worst enemy to be placed in that programme," declared Henry.

"I was an independent woman before my life was disrupted by the fire. My life was okay because I was at my home doing chicken rearing to support my family, " she explained.

According to Henry, her children have received no counselling since the tragic incident which left three of their siblings dead.

"The deaths have severely affected us and I really hope that we can get someone professional to counsel us."

Henry's 17-year-old daughter, who was seven at the time of the fire and suffered burns, is also struggling to cope with the loss. She attends a traditional high school and is getting very good grades but some of the children are very unkind to her.

"They call me bun up," said the schoolgirl, while showing our news team her scarred hands.


Henry is expecting great things from the teenager but the financial burden facing the unemployed mother could impact her daughter's schooling.

"She is a very good mathematics student, getting 100 per cent in her tests and does well in all the other subjects," boasted Henry, as her daughter indicated that she wants to be a bank manager or a lawyer.

"I do miss my boys Tyrique and Tyrone, but I am not giving up and I know that God is going to come through one day for me and my children," said the 45-year-old mother.

The names of the three children who died in the fire are among those engraved on the monument for slain children at Secret Gardens in downtown Kingston, and Henry visits the area whenever she can.

According to Henry, her real talent is singing, and she is heading in that direction to try and make a living.

She said she has already written 28 gospel songs, with one titled September 14 getting some airplay on local radio stations. The song recounts the death of her children on September 14, 2004.