KINGSTON — The Hanover police have taken into custody a 60-year-old man who is accused of hacking to death his two daughters and their mother — his estranged spouse — who was said to have been in an advanced state of pregnancy.
The deceased have been identified as 39-year-old Adanique Cunningham and her two daughters, seven-year-old Jayanna Coote and four-year-old Shanique Coote, of Dickson Wharf here in Green Island.
Residents claimed that about 7:00 yesterday morning, Cunningham, who lives with her mother in another section of Green Island, as is customary, went to prepare her daughters, who live with their father, to go to their respective schools in the community.
They alleged that the father, who was said to be without steady income since he was reportedly removed by the police some time ago from the beach in Negril where he “hustled”, got into a heated argument with his children’s mother.
It was not clear what the dispute was about, but the man allegedly brandished a machete which he used to inflict multiple chops to the woman before turning the weapon on his two daughters.
The uniform of one of the children, a school bag and a pair of slippers and a pool of thick blood in the yard were a sad reminder of the gruesome incident.
Merline Thompson, Cunningham’s distraught mother, said her daughter, who lived with her, went to visit her two daughters when the grisly incident unfolded.
“She wake up fi go fi di children dem to get them ready for school and I say to her, ‘Hurry up and come back.’ When I was there and not seeing her come back, I asked [myself] what she doing up there so long. Then I get a call after 7:00 say her babyfather murder her and the three children — the two children and the one inside (unborn child),” bemoaned Thompson.
“I can’t explain how I feel right now. She is the one who take care of me, because the other daughter run my business in Negril. She takes care of me by cooking my food and looking after me,” said Thompson.
Meanwhile, a young woman, who claimed to be the niece of the alleged machete wielder, said his behaviour has come as a shock to everyone who knows him as he has been caring for his two daughters.
She told the Jamaica Observer that recently her uncle had been frequently complaining that he was finding it very difficult to provide for his two daughters.
“I don’t know what happened this morning (yesterday). My uncle is a man who used to hustle on the beach in Negril, but the police keep running him off the beach where he hustled shell, fish and so on,” said the woman, who declined to give her name.
But she said that, despite the financial difficulties, he continued to do what he could for his two children. “Every evening him come home with dem a here dem sleep, a him wash fi dem, a him do everything fi dem from dem little.”
Education, youth and information minister senator Ruel Reid was among those who condemned the killings yesterday.
Reid, according to a release from the ministry of education, said the grisly killings have left him in shock and that “he is deeply troubled by the reports”.
Reid, according to the release, said: “Principal of Green Island Primary — where Jayanna was a grade two student — Vascianna Moseley says she was a very bright and polite child. He says, even though she was quiet, she was one of the top-performing students at the school, having graduated from the neighbouring Green Island Basic School.
“He (principal) says Jayanna’s classmates were heartbroken and the scene in the classroom was devastating as staff members have also been visibly shaken by the news. He says she will be remembered for her sweet personality and warm smile.”
According to Reid, the younger sister, Shanique, was a student at Green Island Basic School. The principal of the early childhood institution, Andrea Myrie, says the child was also brilliant, noting that she had a zeal for learning.
“Miss Myrie says their mother was actively involved in her children’s lives,” Reid said in the release.
Reid said the ministry sent its trauma teams to both schools.
Meanwhile, Moseley, who advised the Observer that he had got support from the ministry, remembered Jayanna for her “broad smile”. The school population, he said, was deeply traumatised.
“It was unbelievable. I came to school this morning (yesterday) hearing the news and thought I could have dealt with it because I have been through quite a few situations like these. But when I went to the class and saw how the kids were crying and their response [it was tough]. The fact is that they lost a classmate and a friend. It was so contagious. I had to leave the classroom and spend some time in my office dealing with it in my own little way,” Moseley said.
“It, it tragic, very, very tragic. Young minds. Bright future. It is unbelievable. Teachers wept openly,” added Moseley, who noted that the school also received support from counsellors within nearby schools.
“It (counselling) worked. Because it wasn’t long after that we got control of the situation based on the support that we got. However,
we still have that small outburst where you have students still crying. This is not something that is going to go away overnight just like that.”
In the meantime, police say charges could be laid against the accused today.