Violent crime spilled over from 2016 into 2017, again dominating local headlines and even that of the international and regional media.
One such crime was the week-long disappearance and subsequent discovery of the body of British national Steven Weare.
The car salesman, from Kirkham, Lancashire in the north west of England, was reported missing on August 23, grabbing the attention of the media in the United Kingdom.
His body was found nine days later on September 1 in a remote area at Melverton, St George.
Five men, 35-year-old Sunil Decourcey Brome of #7, Alamanda Drive, West Terrace, St James; 30-year-old Keino Nakito Griffith of Pounders Gap, Westbury Road, St Michael; 26-year-old Christopher Darnley Michael Clarke of Oughterson, St Philip; 26-year-old Torio Akiro Watson of Block 6D, Field Road, Wildey, St Michael and 27-year-old Basil Alphonso Branch of Morris Gap, Westbury Road, St Michael, were charged with the Brit’s death.
Two months before, in July, a double murder also got the attention of the media in the neighbouring Caribbean country of Guyana.
Vincent Robinson, 80, the owner of Prerogative House in Prerogative, St George, along with his caretaker, Guyanese Tony Singh, 49, were slashed to death at the property.
Robinson’s body was found at the front door of the guesthouse in a pool of blood, while Singh’s body was discovered upstairs in a bedroom.
The gruesome discovery resulted in calls from Member of Parliament for the constituency, Dwight Sutherland, for the killer or killers to hang.
“I think that people ought to pay for these murders. You can’t just feel comfortable to sit down at Dodds Her Majesty Prison for 17 years and then return to society after a crime such as this one,” an upset Sutherland said.
“I think stiffer penalties must be enforced on persons who are found guilty of these acts of murder and if it takes bringing back hanging to restore our society, then I am all for it.”
Those three homicides came months after the country recorded its first murder, on January 19, when gunshots shattered the tranquil community of Highland, Foursquare, St Philip in the wee morning hours, claiming the life of 20-year-old Romario Lewis, of Frere View, Christ Church.
By August, Attorney General Adriel Brathwaite was issuing a vow to introduce legislation to give the Royal Barbados Police Force (RBPF) additional powers to arrest the worrying wave of gun violence, after another 20-year-old man was gunned down during the country’s premier festival.
Taried Junior Rock lost his life on August 7 and 23 other people were injured during the climax of Crop Over on Spring Garden, St Michael.
Seven men, between the ages of 17 and 29, have so far been charged and remanded to Dodds for that shooting.
“We do still have too many firearms in the hands of young gang members and we will provide more resources to remove these guns from our streets . . . . . This will not happen immediately and will require all hands on deck,” an under-pressure Brathwaite said.
Up until the end of November this year, 28 murders had been recorded, 22 of those gun related. Like in 2016, the gun would again be recorded as the weapon of choice, in the commission of offences such as murder, aggravated burglary, endangering life, robbery and assault with intent to rob.
The Acting Assistant Commissioner of Police responsible for Crime, Colvin Bishop, reported that for the year 91 firearms were seized, along with 2,721 rounds of ammunition, and firearms were used to commit 318 crimes, leading to a 57 per cent increase in gun crimes.
He also revealed that the rapid rise in gun offences had contributed to a five per cent increase in crimes overall, with 7,882 up to the end of November as compared to 7,492 for the corresponding period in 2016.
“These firearms and ammunition have been seized in a range of circumstances that include police-led investigations and special operations,”Bishop told reporters.
“This year, our policing strategy to combat the use and possession of illegal firearms has been built on four planks: namely interdiction, enforcement, prosecution and education.
“Our efforts to prosecute persons for firearms has resulted, thus far, with 153 firearms related offences being placed before the law courts compared with 133 for the year 2016,” the acting ACP added.
Among those facing the law courts was the RBPF’s very own Acting Senior Superintendent of Police John Mark Annel, who is currently on $150,000 bail on allegations that he committed six offences under the Firearms Act.
The 56-year-old officer, of Kenrick Hutson Drive, Lucas Street, St Philip, faced the law courts in October on charges which included, among other things, engaging in willful misconduct which amounted to a breach of public trust by joining the Barbados Rifle and Pistol Federation Inc under the status of a police officer, purchasing ammunition to be expended at the federation’s range at Waterford, and removing the ammunition from the range.
However, quick legal action in the High Court by Annel’s attorneys, Sir Richard Cheltenham and Shellyann Seecharan, prevented him from spending a single day of the automatic 28-day remand time at HMP Dodds.