Braeton haunts - Premises notorious for being the site of a controversial police shooting remains unused

Published: Thursday | November 19, 2009

Mark Beckford, Staff Reporter

Sections of the house in Braeton, which was the scene of a police shooting. - Peta-Gaye Clachar/Photographer

One THOUSAND and eighty-eight Fifth Seal Way in Braeton, St Catherine, will forever be etched in the minds of Jamaicans the length and breadth of the country.

It is the place where, on March 14, 2001, seven Jamaicans were shot and killed by members of the Jamaica Constabulary Force in what was described as a police operation to apprehend criminals.

The shootings were controversial, as claims of lawful defence by the police force were countered by shouts of murder from others.

Six police officers, including Reneto Adams, who was a senior superintendent of police at the time (now retired), were acquitted of murder charges stemming from the incident.

Eight years later, a child of the same age would not know that the premises was the scene of one of the highest body counts after an alleged shoot-out involving police.

Signs of normality

The Gleaner visited the area this week to find a community with friendly neighbours milling around on a sunny afternoon.

The house which, according to neighbours, was recently repainted, has the look of a house being prepared for occupation. No one lives there now.

The yard was freshly cut, garbage was neatly packed and placed in one corner, a new white door was installed and complemented the bright peach coating it now has. Music played inside, not those of a ghost, but of the person who is now the caretaker.

Several bullet holes still exist, but some neighbours say that a caretaker who has been visiting the house daily has been replacing them with fresh concrete.

A month ago, however, it was in a state of disrepair.

"Yeah, man, yuh have a man weh come and a fix up di place, dem clean out the house 'cause it not even did have a door and in deh did stay bad," said a burly neighbour, who did not want to be identified because of the sensitivity of the events which occurred in the past.

That first neighbour set a pattern for others who did not want to give their names, perhaps afraid of rehashing the past which brought their seemingly innocuous pathway littered with modest houses under the national spotlight.

Since then, they say people have not paid much attention to the house.

Jerome (not his real name) said people occasionally asked him about it, more out of curiosity and not because they understood the significance of the place.

Reaping fruits

Another neighbour said people rarely looked into the yard. One brave soul said some not only looked into the yard but made use of the plum and ackee trees which still bear fruit there.

"Mi guh ova deh guh eat plum, mi guh eat ackee, nutten nuh wrong. Me even guh ova deh alone, nutten nuh wrong," another said.

As would be expected, the neighbours say people often surmise that the house is haunted. Neighbours insist this is not so and say the only haunts come from the events that unfolded eight years ago.

A neighbour, who was present on the morning of the shootings, said his mind was sometimes filled with horrifying flashbacks. As a result, there is no confidence in the police and the justice system.

"It was a traumatising experience. Everything is normal now, but at times, you have memories some time," he said.

A memorial, which was not kept this year, is normally held with candles lit along the pathway. The neighbour says despite the refurbishing, the makeover can never hide what the house represents and the memories which will echo forever.

"Those memories nah guh guh weh. Paint nah guh tek weh those memories. Memories like that don't go away easy."

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