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'I jus wanted to die' - Tivoli resident says she watched as police took away the lifeless bodies of family members

Published:Wednesday | December 10, 2014 | 12:00 AM
Joan McCarthy during her testimony at the west Kingston commission of enquiry yesterday. - Ian Allen/Photographer

Livern Barrett, Gleaner Writer

Joan McCarthy fought back the tears as she recounted yesterday how, just minutes apart, she watched police personnel take away the lifeless bodies of two family members during the 2010 police-military operations in her west Kingston community.

McCarthy told the west Kingston commission of enquiry being held at the Jamaica Conference Centre in downtown Kingston that she first watched as several policemen carried the lifeless body of her 18-year-old son-in-law, Dwayne Edwards, from her Tivoli Gardens apartment wrapped in a sheet, with one leg sticking out.

According to her, that horrifying sight came minutes after Edwards was led back to the apartment by policemen who said they wanted to search it even though soldiers had already conducted a thorough search there.

"Is like someone say to me, 'Look up', and then I turned my head and look, and when I looked, I couldn't come to what a saw ... . I saw the police dem coming down with Dwayne's body wrapped in the sheet that was on the bed," she recalled.

"How do you know it was Dwayne's body?" asked Simone Mayhew, legal counsel to the commission, as she led McCarthy through her evidence.

"One of his feet was out. It wasn't wrapped in the sheet," she replied.

Not long after, McCarthy said she watched from a neighbour's apartment as another group of policemen carried what she believed was the lifeless body of her grandnephew, 26-year-old André Smith, also wrapped in a sheet.

'I CAN'T LIVE LIKE THIS'

The elderly woman recalled how she went back to her Seaga Boulevard apartment to retrieve a cell phone when she encountered a pool of blood she believed belonged to Edwards and said that's when she started to "bawl".

"I said a wouldn't mind if the soldiers dem shoot me. I just wanted to die, for I cannot live with this," she recalled saying at the time.

"Me turn fi come out through the door, for a say I feel like a would just go out in di yard and mek gunshot shoot me; a cannot live with this," she continued.

Responding to questions from attorney-at-law Valerie Neita-Robertson, who represents the Jamaica Constabulary Force, McCarthy conceded that she did not see any police personnel shoot Edwards or Smith, but she insisted that "if is not the police officer dem kill dem, the police officer dem can tell who kill dem".

Fifty-eight-year-old technician Paulton Edwards (no relation to the deceased), who resided in the same building as McCarthy, gave another account of the alleged killings.

He recalled that while the residents were huddled on the ground floor verandah, a policeman singled out Edwards and Smith and asked if they were employed. The Tivoli Gardens resident said the policeman laughed when Edwards revealed that he worked as a janitor and Smith indicated that "him do likkle work upstairs".

Moments later, the technician said, the policeman informed the two men he was going to search their apartment and indicated that they accompany him.

"Then in space of a couple seconds is a barrage a gunshot again," Edwards testified, noting that the shooting was coming from the apartments where the men had been taken.

"When dem come back down, dem say, 'Oonu think oonu can hide gunman from we? Oonu think we a fool'?" Edwards recalled.

Pausing several times to wipe away tears, McCarthy told the commission that since the May 24, 2010, incident, she had not seen her son-in-law and grandnephew, who she described as decent men who were not involved in wrongdoing.

The enquiry continues today.

livern.barrett@gleanerjm.com