PORT OF SPAIN –– The two bodies found in a forested area in St Augustine on Tuesday evening were identified yesterday as teenage schoolboys Stephan Singh and Daniel Halls.
In a week in which the national conversation was on troublesome students, particularly teenaged boys and their links to school violence and gangs, how the two came to be target of killers yesterday once again drove home just how real a concern it is.
At least one of the victim’s relatives expressed little shock at their untimely demise so early in their lives. According to police reports, around 4:40 p.m. Tuesday, residents of St John’s Road heard gunshots and alerted the police.
Officers responded and found the bodies of Singh, 17 and Halls, 16. Police said they were told the teens were seen as part of a group of five entering the bushes and after the shooting only the two deceased were found. Singh, a student of Trinity East College, had an empty revolver on him.
Police said they had not ruled out the possibility that the other three people who entered the bush with them were suspects, but they were still searching the area yesterday for them as possible victims
of a crime.
But police said they believed the teens had gone to either purchase drugs or to steal from someone’s marijuana garden when they were ambushed and killed. Police also speculated that the two boys may have been set up to be killed by the other three missing people.
In speaking about her son yesterday, Halls’ mother Joy referred to the Old Testament admonition handed down to the Jews by God for children to obey their parents lest their lives be shortened.
Halls quoted from the scripture: “Honour your father and your mother so that you may live long in the land the Lord your God is giving you”, taken from the Book Of Exodus, as she spoke to the media yesterday at her home at Bamboo Trace, Upper Fairly Street, Tunapuna.
“There is a penalty for disobedience and scripture tells when you disobey your parents you will not live long. I did the best I could do and this is the way God chose for him to go,” Halls said, adding that the only advice she could offer was for parents and children alike to walk in obedience.
Halls said her son, who wanted to be a police officer, recently began associating himself with “bad influences” and was not listening to her whenever she told him to stay away from them. Halls said when she learned her second son was killed, she was not surprised at all because of the life she saw he was living.
“I was not surprised at all because he was a disobedient child. Being around in the neighbourhood you will hear stuff and then he was not coming home. He was not rude but he was disobedient,” Halls said, adding that her son, a fourth former at Aranguez North, never spoke much.
About a half-an-hour drive away at Ramgoolie Street, Curepe, Singh’s godmother Shalimar Gibson said her godchild was like her son.
Saying she last saw him the day before he was murdered, Gibson said Singh was nicknamed “Puppy” by relatives because his father was nicknamed “Doggy”. She said the last time she saw him she heard his friends call him “Monster”, but said she rebuked them from doing so in her presence.
Gibson said the Fourth Form student wanted to be a footballer and was a very good striker. Another relative said the teen also once played for local football club San Juan Jabloteh.
“He was just jolly, always laughing and giggling. I don’t know what he used to do with friends. I’m not with him 24/7 but when he in this house it was a level of respect he showed,” Gibson said. Gibson added that
on Tuesday she dreamt of her godchild and when she heard of two people being killed she instinctively knew it was him but hoped it wasn’t.
“This was a shock because I dreamt him last night and I kinda knew he was gonna go but didn’t know he was gonna go that time. The dream was a funny one from what I remember,” Gibson said.
She said Singh lived in Cunupia with his mother but would regularly visit her, and was due to visit his school this week after he was suspended for having his cellphone in class.
“Don’t let negative people follow you and don’t follow negative people. Have your own head and don’t let other people think for you. The same bad man who putting gun in allyuh hand and have allyuh killing each other while them old bad man home rock back,” Gibson advised youths who may be inclined to follow bad company.
Gibson said Singh had also recently joined the Muslim faith and believed his killing may have been gang-related. Halls’ mother also confirmed he had recently joined the Muslim faith.
In a telephone interview with the T&T Guardian yesterday, Derek West, principal at Trinity East, described Singh as an average student. West added that there was counselling provided for the students who knew him yesterday and they had also sought assistance from the Ministry of Education for guidance officers.
“We are working on the healing process for our boys now,” West said. Attempts to contact teachers at Aranguez North were unsuccessful.