What began as a normal, quiet Saturday morning quickly turned to tragedy for the residents of Monroe Road, Haggatt Hall, St Michael today.
Seventy-four-year-old Verona Gibson, a retired nurse of the Sir Winston Scott Polyclinic, was mauled to death by five pit bulls around 5:30 this morning, on her way to clean the St Barnabas Anglican Church.
Three of the dogs were owned by a resident in the neighbourhood. However, it was not immediately clear who owned the other two.
Gibson was attacked a mere stone’s throw from her home. She received multiple bites to her body and succumbed to her injuries on the scene.
Fellow resident, 30-year-old Damien McCollin came to her rescue after hearing a ruckus outside. He was also attacked by the dogs and subsequently rushed to the Queen Elizabeth Hospital for treatment of several bites, including a severed piece of his toe.
When Barbados TODAY arrived at the scene after 8 a.m. a crowd of neighbours and other onlookers had gathered at the scene. Gibson’s body was lying at the roadside, covered with a white sheet and surrounded by three police vehicles.
Her family members were huddled together at a neighbouring house, praying and sobbing.
A distraught Judy Gibson was overwhelmed by news of the death of her beloved aunt. She told Barbados TODAY she usually accompanied Gibson to clean the church where they were active parishioners. The duo would walk from their Haggatt Hall homes to the nearby house of worship.
“We were very close . . . . We clean the place for people that belong to the church, do everything.
“When they have fairs, she gets the vegetables, we weigh them out,” said Judy, adding that “this year is going to be a sad year for our fair and the old people’s home we helped out”.
This morning, the 64-year-old niece was faced with the gruesome task of informing other family members of Gibson’s tragic passing.
“I broke down and cried,” she said. “You imagine a pit bull destroying a woman’s life, so early in the morning?”
Overcome with anger and grief, Judy maintained that something had to be done with the dogs involved.
“It doesn’t matter what anybody say, because they are out to kill somebody. They are killing sheep, goat, anything that they find. They are looking for blood, so they need to get rid of them.
“Look how a person going to clean a church this morning and a dog destroyed their whole life. Do you know what is a human life? You cannot bring back a life. They need to do something . . . something has to be done,” she insisted.
Judy revealed that Gibson had only returned to the island on Sunday after visiting her daughter in Florida.
“She is a very nice woman, anybody can tell you,” she said, adding, “all the church members calling at my house crying and crying.”
Also struck by the elderly woman’s death was Reverend Mark Harewood of the St Barnabas Church, who remembered Gibson as a faithful member.
“She decided . . . to come straight back out on Saturday and do what she was accustomed doing on Saturday, which is preparing the church and getting it ready for service tomorrow morning,” he said, adding that Gibson’s death was “a great loss to our church”.
“The pain itself of that kind of attack, it very distressing to me personally and the church as a whole,” he said.
Meanwhile police spokesman Inspector Roland Cobbler said one of the owners of the five dogs was assisting lawmen with their investigations.
He also reminded dog owners that they were responsible for ensuring that their animals were properly secured.
“Strict liability is outlined in the Dogs (Licensing and Control Act) Chapter 177. Section 12, subsection (1) clearly states that an owner of a dog shall not: (a) permit that dog to be in any public place unless it is kept on a lead or leash,” Cobbler reminded in a statement issued this afternoon.