ESTHER Cunningham says she has been complaining to the police for over eight years about what she strongly believes is a murder that took place on her sister’s property in Spanish Town, St Catherine, but her reports have fallen on deaf ears.
The 70 year-old told the JamaicaObserver in lucid detail about the activities she observed one Thursday on the property which is owned by her sister and which she shares with other people. Cunningham says she did not see an actual killing, but all day she watched the movements of the men she thinks are involved, and afterwards witnessed a man she knows well, covered in blood and cement, at a communal standpipe trying to wash himself clean.
“I was there all morning and I saw some happenings that were kind of strange. I saw young men running and dodging… I closed the front window and opened the side one to the door. I saw two young men run down to the shop and another two young men in the yard. I felt as if something was going to happen because of the suspicious behaviour,” the senior citizen remembered.
She said that despite her apprehension, she ventured out of the house and went to collect her pension payment at the post office.
“When I was coming back in, at the side of the church, I saw two barebacked young men going into the yard – one tall, one short. When I reached the gate, I saw one of the men coming from up the road with an empty wheelbarrow and he went through the gate,” Cunningham said.
She said the men negotiated with each other whether they would carry on with their activities in her presence, but she pretended to be oblivious to their movements.
“In that environment you see and you don’t see,” she remarked.
Cunningham said suspicious activities continued throughout the afternoon with the men going back and forth with bags of cement. At one point she said she heard knocking and what sounded like digging and concrete being broken. She explained that because of how close together the buildings are, she could clearly hear anything taking place inside a neighbour’s house.
“You can stretch through your window and taken something from a neighbour through their window. It is very near,” she said.
She said after the sounds had quieted down and she was certain the men had left the premises, she went outside, but did not go to the apartment where she had heard digging sounds coming from, but observed that the door to a tenant’s apartment was partially open, although the man was not expected to be home.
Cunningham claims that later in the evening she heard some of her neighbours discussing what she already suspected was a murder, and by later that night those suspicions were confirmed when she saw the tenant, whose door she had seen open, washing at a tub in the yard.
“I went out and I look into the washtub and see that it was bloody water. I saw cement pebble on his face; his clothes and hands and hair were covered with cement,” Cunningham said.
But her fears go even deeper because she suspects that the alleged victim was a relative who had been visiting from overseas. She has surmised from those conversations and others that she said she overheard in the ensuing months that the killing had been done elsewhere, and the body brought to the property and buried.
According to Cunningham, who told her story in a steady, sequential manner, she has been going to the police from 2007, including to the Police Commissioner’s Office and the National Intelligence Bureau, but a statement is yet to be taken from her. She alleged that at one point she was told by a female officer that she would not be taking a statement because she “don’t want to get any gunshot”.
“I’m not mad, I’m not foolish, [and] I’m not afraid because I trust my God,” she said. “I want to find out the truth about the person who was brought there. I can’t have any peace of mind until I find out if it’s my brother.”
In the meantime, officers from the Spanish Town Police Station say they are familiar with the case, but that Cunningham may be in need of psychiatric evaluation. They stated that a team has gone as far as to excavate a site at the premises, but no evidence of a murder was found. The police say they are still willing to visit the area with a special team to carry out further checks.