The death hour that continues to haunt two moms

At 1:30 every morni ng Agatha Harvey and her niece Anita Harvey are jolted from their sleep. The involuntary action is sparked by the haunting memory of gunshots that shattered the late night silence of their Planters Hill community in Old Harbour, St Catherine, on December 11, 2020, killing one of Agatha’s eight children and two of Anita’s sons.

Six gunmen had invaded the two houses where the women and their sons lived. At the end of the criminals’ brutal rampage, 49-year-old Lester Harvey, Agatha’s son; and Anita’s two boys 31-year-old Richard “Richie” Wright and 27-year-old Omar “Buss Head” Wright were among four people killed.

Richard’s pregnant girlfriend, identified as Nordia of a Chapelton, Clarendon address, was the other victim.

Seven months on and the wounds are obviously still raw as both women broke down in tears repeatedly during an interview with the Jamaica Observer last Thursday.

“Him did live right across from me,” Agatha said of her slain son.

“Seven months later, but it still sting. The scar still deh deh. It is not a easy thing. A night-time, mi wake the same hours! As it reach 1:30, mi always wake! Mi ever wake! It come like mi hear every shot same way. Once it touch that time, nuh matter how me a sleep, mi must wake. It’s a must,” she said, crying.

The pain is even more severe for Anita as she had been raising her sons on her own since their father died when they were younger.

“It was my two sons. Two one time. A me alone and God. Not a soul nuh come help me,” she told the Sunday Observer.

“The same thing happen to me. Any time certain hours come, mi wake. And mi sit up in the bed or mi lay down and look up inna the ceiling. I heard the gunshots. The amount of shot! And then I heard the chain pull on my gate and then I hear more gunshots,” Anita related.

“When everything finish, I run out and shake mi son. That time we have a vehicle, and me a seh we can carry him go hospital. But mi si seh him dead. And when I go across the road, mi si seh mi other son dead too.”

Her younger son, Omar, was in a house across the road with his girlfriend Nordia and cousin Lester.

The police report of the quadruple murder had stated that residents described hearing multiple explosions followed by shrill screams for “Help!” and “Mercy!”

The residents called the police and upon the arrival of the lawmen, all four victims were discovered with multiple gunshot wounds. They were taken to hospital where they were all pronounced dead.

At the time, Deputy Commissioner of Police Clifford Blake, head of the Operations Branch, had said that Omar had committed a criminal offence and was reporting to the police daily as a condition of his bail.

Burdened by the loss of their sons, Agatha and Anita underwent therapy. But the sessions, they suggested, were just droplets in their ocean of pain.

“We have been through that already. We have been through that. And the whole truth of it is that mi nuh really want to go back through it again. When mi a talk ’bout it, it always bring back everything,” Agatha told the Sunday Observer.

“I buried my son in March and mi nuh hear where the case reach. I don’t know anything about the case. I have seven children and I raised a little girl, so mi grow eight pickney, and one dead,” she said.

Anita also said that transparency regarding the investigation would bring her much greater comfort.

“… But because we are poor, nobody nuh memba we. That’s how me look pon it. Any time certain things happen involving poor people, it nuh tek up inna hand,” she lamented.

Psychologist Dr Leahcim Semaj agreed.

He told the Sunday Observer that the open-ended nature of the situation will prolong the grieving process.

“The grief continues for a much longer period than it would if all the pieces had been dealt with and closure achieved. You will not get the child back, but having been party to all these things, those are steps towards closure,” he explained.

Semaj argued that if there are suspects who aren’t held and prosecuted that delay of justice could also take a mental toll on the parents.

“When you have the loss of a child, especially a grown child, it causes extra grief to an individual, especially to a parent. One of the main reasons for this is that we are not supposed to bury our children. We are not designed for that purpose. It’s our children who are supposed to bury us,” he said.

Eleven days after the gun attack, police assigned to the Major Investigations Division had charged two men with four counts of murder and illegal possession of firearm and ammunition. They were identified as 19-year-old Kevroy Bailey, otherwise called “Fatta”, and 18-year-old Joshua Lynch, otherwise called “Jah”, both from Planters Hill. But the police said they were still searching for other suspects.

On Friday, Superintendent Paul Thomas, head of the Jamaica Constabulary Force’s Investigation Division, told the Sunday Observer that no other suspects have been held.

“As it relates to the investigation which is ongoing, we are still searching for persons and we are still seeking additional information from the public. The matter is before the court, but there is not much I can say in respect to the court issue,” he said.

But Agatha told the Sunday Observer that this was not communicated by the police.

“Nobody nuh turn up and seh how the case a go or what’s happening. I just have to keep up. Mi already know seh him dead and mi nah get him back. Mi know seh him dead and mi know seh mi nah get back mi pickney. I just tell God that I serve Him and Him know who and who do those things towards my son, so I leave it in His hands.”

Meanwhile, Anita recalled the very last encounter she had with her son, mere hours before his death.

“The evening, I sat on a bucket around the back and him ask mi if mi nah go cook. Him call mi ‘old lady’. Mi tell him mi cyaan manage fi cook and him tell mi fi go bathe and lay down. After that, him go down the road go buy piece a chicken and bread and come put on the table and seh ‘Eat something and go a yuh bed.’ And that a the last mi get from mi pickney,” she lamented.

“If the gas done and him come een two evening and nuh get him dinner, mi a get mi gas the next day. He gave me anything! The night before dem kill him, a me and him deh yah a wash two line a clothes the morning. Dem father dead 27 years now. A me and dem alone. And now a me alone,” Anita said.

She shared that June 22 this year, when Richard would have celebrated his 32nd birthday, had he lived, was an extremely difficult day.

“That day, mi get up and mi seh ‘a Ritchie birthday’. Normally, wi buy rum and liquor and wi cook special pot. This year, nothing! Not even mi own dinner mi nuh cook. Because mi know him woulda come een glad and excited. So me nuh do nothing. And the younger one birthday coming up in October and it’s the same thing going to happen,” she lamented.



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