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Gleaner Editors' Forum | Deadly silence! - Killers of schoolgirls in Arnett still free because witnesses not talking

Published:Friday | September 28, 2018 | 12:00 AMCorey Robinson
Lionel Francis and Latoya Riley broke down during a memorial service for their daughter, Yetanya Francis, on September 7.

More than a month after 14-year-old Yetanya Francis was raped and murdered in Trench Town, the detectives assigned to the case are yet to make a breakthrough, and the silence of persons who might have witnessed the dastardly act is worrying for Prudence Gentles, manager for Crime Stop.

"Do you think nobody knows who killed Yetanya? Nobody? Do you think that Yetanya is going to be the last person? There is another Yetanya around the corner," warned Gentles during a Gleaner Editors' Forum last Thursday, as she delivered a message to residents of the south St Andrew community.

"It could be my child. It could be your child," said Gentles of Yetanya, who is set to be buried today.

"Whose daughter is it going to be that is going to be next? Wasn't there another one before that who was shot and killed in her bed?

"Who is going to be the last one to get killed before they decide it is time we have to stop," added Gentles, as she pointed to the still unsolved murder of Mickolle Moulton, who was shot and killed in her bed in a nearby community, just over one year ago.

Gentles argued that Jamaicans need to realise that they have a part to play in crime-fighting and getting the criminals off the streets as the police alone cannot do it.

"People, on the ground, will say things and then they wonder why the police can't make an arrest. The police can't just arrest because people say so. They need people to come forward, and stand up and say 'enough is enough'," said Gentles.

"For every crime committed in Jamaica somebody, somewhere, knows about it, no matter what. To me it is a very sad situation that so many of these crimes are committed in the inner cities by people living in the inner cities, and it is very sad that we can't get people to understand that they have the method by which to stop that, just by picking up the phone and calling Crime Stop," added Gentles.

Head of the police Criminal Investigations Branch (CIB), Acting Assistant Commissioner McArthur Sutherland, told the forum that detectives are finding it difficult to turn information received about the killing of Yetanya into evidence.

"We are yet to have a breakthrough in the matter. All the investigative leads that we have had were pursued. Some resulted in the arrest of at least two persons but we could not prefer any charges because of the lack of good evidence in support of the investigation," said Sutherland, who also seemed disappointed by the lack of solid information from residents in the usually vigilant community.

"I think that the matter would have incensed the community and the wider Jamaica sufficiently, and I am very confident that over time we will see a breakthrough in it," added Sutherland.

He rejected criticisms of the detectives probing the killing of Yetanya and other unsolved murder cases.

"At the end of the day, we have to work with what we have and it is evidence-based. A lot of times there is a misunderstanding between evidence-based and the intelligence-driven concepts. Even if the intelligence gets in we have to develop it sufficiently and move it into evidence," Sutherland told Gleaner editors and reporters.

He argued that the investigations of the two killings of the young girls in south St Andrew, and other murder cases, could be easier if persons come forward with information.

Yetanya was allegedly lured behind a church a few metres from her home about 9 p.m. on August 23.

Her charred remains were found the next morning half-naked and with what appeared to be a chop wound to her head.

Mickolle, 17 years old, was shot dead at her home in Arnett Gardens on August 6, 2017, while she slept.

While the police are yet to identify her killer, spent shells from the firearm used to shoot her were found at another murder scene in the St Andrew South Police Division.