KINGSTON –– The quiet and scantily populated community of Crossroads, near Keith district in St Ann, is in mourning.
Two sisters, 59-year-old Janet James, who was deaf, and 57-year-old Paulette James perished early Sunday morning in a fire that engulfed their home in which they lived alone.
The fire, said by residents to have been started by attackers who were hunting a man from the community who they accused of stealing $2 million, started after 4 a.m., and trapped the women inside even as fearful residents heard their cries for help.
“We grew up together, we were like family. Whenever they’re not at their home, they would be here,” said neighbour and friend, Eulalee Irving, who could hardly hold back the tears as she recounted the tragedy.
“People heard the crying and they later said they thought it was my house,” she stated.
According to her, news had spread earlier that two masked men were seen in the community, so when the fire started, residents were initially fearful. By the time they climbed the rocky path to reach the house, it was too late.
“I am really devastated; the way I’m feeling right now, I don’t think I can cope with the situation,” Irving confessed.
“It’s shocking to us and we don’t know what time we are going to come back around; we don’t know what is going to happen.
“The community is really devastated. A teacher at school today had to go to the doctor. Even passing the house is not easy for us; it’s a real loss for the community.”
She described the sisters as quiet and well loved by residents of the community.
Another resident, Maureen, who lives nearby, said she woke up to popping sounds made by the fire. When she went outside, the house was already engulfed.
“Nobody could help. When the fire brigade come, ahh jus’ fi cool down.”
A man who lives on the same premises, and claims to be related to the man accused of stealing money, said, before the fire, a man forced himself into their house armed with a machete, asking for “the money”.
“Mi tell him mi nuh have no money,” he said.
The men, according to one resident, then went to the house where the sisters lived and threw a Molotov cocktail inside.
Residents spoke openly of the man accused of stealing money, blaming him for the gruesome outcome. According to them, he works with a man who races frequently at Dover racetrack in the parish.