A disappointing verdict!
That’s how one angry relative of the late Shemar Weekes today described the recent decision of the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) Charles Leacock, QC, that no criminal charges be brought against the boy’s mother, or anyone else at this stage, in relation to his unnatural death more than a year ago.
Having examined the police file and recommendations from Coroner Manila Renee, Leacock reported to Barbados TODAY early last month that he had found “insufficient evidence” to recommend prosecution.
“There is insufficient evidence in the police file and in the Coroner’s recommendations to recommend that criminal charges be brought against anyone,” the DPP had said at the time, while stating that he had advised the police to keep the file open, and in the event any new evidence surfaces, the file would be returned to him.
However, a very upset Clarista Daniel, who is Shemar’s great aunt, telephoned Barbados TODAY this morning after reading online about Leacock’s decision. Saying it amounted to a dereliction at the highest level, she vowed to continue her fight to get justice for her beloved Shemar for whom she still grieves every day.
“I cannot believe my eyes as I just read the DPP report. Although it does not surprise me,” she said, while suggesting that the Coroner’s time, as well as her own and that of the 15 other witnesses — including the police, neighbours, relatives and officials of the Child Care Board, who took part in the official inquest into the boy’s death — had been wasted.
Daniel, who continues to point an accusing finger at her niece Julieanne Weekes, who is Shemar’s mother, argued that while Weekes may not have physically placed a noose around the 12-year-old’s neck, she was still partly to blame for his death.
“Julieanne may not have killed him, but she contributed to his death,” Daniel maintained on Thursday.
Shemar’s case has thrust the issue of child abuse here into the limelight after the former Coleridge & Parry student was found hanging at his Fryer’s Well, Checker Hall, St Lucy home on May 14, 2015. His death, just over a month before that of six-year-old Jahan King, was later ruled a suicide by a pathologist, who had also said that the 15 injuries found on Shemar’s body could have been caused through the normal course of play, although he did not rule out abuse.
Daniel, who had earlier told the inquest that she had experienced first-hand, the mother’s abuse of the 12-year-old boy, Thursday recalled many instances of the alleged bad treatment. She sought to make it clear though that contrary to public opinion, Shemar was not a “welfare case” or a “social outcast” even if he suffered from an unquenched desire for his mother to show him love.
“Shemar was a loving and respectful child and he was well loved by everyone who knew him,” the boy’s great aunt reported.
“All he wanted was his mother’s love, but she treated that boy badly and there came a time after he entered secondary school when he no longer tolerated the abuse and started to retaliate,” she added.
However, Daniel’s grief has been made worse by the guilt which comes with knowing that mere weeks before his death, Shemar had appealed to her directly for help stating, “auntie you need to get me from around my mommy”.
Daniel, who has an autistic 39-year-old son, said she had been in discussions with a neighbour about the possibility of getting a school transfer for him so he could spend more time with her.
“For the rest of my life I will carry the guilt that I did not foresee what happened,” she told Barbados TODAY.
“I took him out of the situation as much as I could, but that was not enough,” she added.
During last year’s inquest, fingers were also pointed at the Child Care Board, which admitted that it had acted inappropriately after receiving complaints that the child was being abused.
The Coroner had in August referred the case back to the Commissioner of Police for further investigation, ruling that there was sufficient evidence to suggest that a crime had taken place and that it was better suited to be handled by a criminal jurisdiction.
Though pleased with the Coroner’s ruling, Daniel vented her frustration over the operation of this country’s child protection agencies as a whole, saying they had failed the 12-year-old boy.
“I feel like I have wasted my time testifying at the inquest and they have wasted the time of the Coroner and the other witnesses,” Daniel said in taking a direct swipe at the DPP’s decision.
However, she said, “The Coroner did a fantastic job and she along with the witnesses have done justice to Shemar’s memory. She [the Coroner] was thorough and even though she did not give a final decision I felt that she has done justice to Shemar”.
As for the boy’s mother, Daniel said she did not hate her, but she issued an open warning to her.
“Julieanne there is a higher justice and you will pay,” she said.
“I will now try to release Shemar in God’s hands and hope he gives me the strength to forgive Julieanne before I die,” Daniel added.
During the hearing, the police officer who had recorded the mother’s statement three days after the incident told the inquest that Weekes had said she and her son had had a good relationship until he entered secondary school, after which he began to give her “back chat”. She said she had beaten him with her hand but was never “excessive in my mode of punishment”.
Weekes, who was the only one present when the boy died, had also said that on the day he died Shemar had appeared normal and not depressed.
In wrapping up the case, the coroner had dismissed the pathologist’s ruling of suicide as a “fallacy”, and had pointed to inconsistencies and contradictions in the evidence given by the boy’s mother and stepfather Shawn Greaves.
Weekes, who was in court at the time, broke down in tears when the coroner was describing the noose by which the boy is alleged to have used to kill himself.