Crippled by fear, young woman spends a week indoors

A Kingston resident has admitted that she spent almost seven days cooped up inside her house as she was crippled by fear due to recent cases of women being kidnapped and killed.

“I haven’t opened my door in almost a week. It’s like saying who’s next?” 24-year-old Catherine Jean Harris told the Jamaica Observer.

“I repeatedly saw on various social media females gone missing day by day until I literally woke up checking who was missing for the day – that’s when I saw the teacher, Nattallie Dawkins. The Khanice Jackson case, I knew, brought a lot of attention to what’s happening out there but the thing is, it’s not someone she didn’t know that hurt her. It’s someone she knew,” said Harris.

Dawkins, a 44-year-old teacher, was kidnapped from her home in Clarendon. On April 8 police said the badly decomposing remains of a female found in a shallow grave in Sandy Bay, Clarendon, that day were those of the teacher. Two men have been arrested in relation to that murder.

Also in March, Jackson was abducted and murdered by a man who, according to the police, has confessed to the killing. He is now before the courts.

These cases, according to Harris, are the most frightening, and her only way to have coped with them was just to lock herself away.

“It felt right and I felt safe,” Harris stated.

Harris said that even though she isn’t working now, she still needs to go outside to places like the supermarket but she feels extremely afraid when doing so.

“To get around doing what I have to, I’d call someone to pick me up. I occasionally use a taxi service company,” Harris stated.

She said the cases of women being kidnapped and murdered makes her feel targeted.

“It’s as if someone is going to kidnap me. For this reason I do not go out alone. So I call a friend, usually a guy, because I feel safer. If no one is available I reschedule,” she said.

According to Harris, she is also fearful for her relatives.

“I have sisters and nieces, some of whom I still don’t think are taking this as seriously as they should. I’ve always been cautious and wasn’t overly trusting [of people] for years prior. I’m even more so now than ever,” said Harris.

Communications strategist for the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JFC), Denis Brooks, told the Sunday Observer that the police act within 24 hours after receiving a missing person’s report and people should become more aware of their environment to limit the risk of them becoming targets.

“One of the first things I would say is to have greater spatial awareness. The easiest target is someone who is not aware of their surroundings. Why? Because they are buried in their phones. If you are paying attention in the moment you are just that less likely to be a target because you don’t seem as vulnerable to an attack,” said Brooks.

He also said that with the advancement in technology the police are more equipped to investigate missing persons’ cases.

“Technology has greatly helped investigations of this nature. In recent years we have invested considerably in a range of technology, many of which we do not speak about publicly. The important thing is, they form a part of the modernisation of the JCF, which aims to be more vigilant, to be more targeted in how we keep people safe. So with that in mind what we do is immediately, when the investigations begin, there is a range of technological solutions that are employed,” said Brooks.

He cited the Jasmine Dean and Nattallie Dawkins cases as examples of how the technology has assisted the police in their investigation.

“For instance, in the case of Jasmine Dean we were able very quickly to establish where she had been and what time before she went blank. We were able to establish who had her devices and her debit card, et cetera. In the case of Ms Dawkins, the teacher, we were able to establish similar things,” he said.

Jasmine Dean is a visually impaired student from The University of the West Indies, Mona who went missing last year February after leaving school. She has not been found.

Currently, a person can serve 10 to 12 years for kidnapping with intent.

Between January and December last year a total of 1,066 children went missing. Of that number, 217 are still missing. Six of the children who were reported missing were found dead.

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