BELMOPAN, Sat. Oct. 10, 2015–Most older Belizeans will remember the June 5, 1963 execution of 36-year-old Nora Parham, convicted of the murder of her common-law husband, Letchel Trapp, a police constable. Parham is the only woman to have been executed in Belize’s history.
On Saturday, Amandala travelled to the Cayo District along with the office manager of the Belize Ex-Services League, Valerie Richardson, on her rounds to deliver stipends and food supplies to two World War II veterans.
Belmopan resident Eustace Pandy, 97, apart from sharing some of his interesting stories of those eras, told Amandala that he was the prison officer who walked Nora Parham to the gallows.
Pandy said that he never actually hanged anyone, but he was a witness to many hangings, including that of Parham.
“The last person I saw hanged in the prison was Nora Parham,” Pandy revealed.
“I escorted Nora Parham from the female area to the gallows,” Pandy explained.
“What was her demeanor like; how did she act when you were escorting her to the gallows?” asked Amandala.
“She was brave. She believed that she was great. She was not sorrowful nor nothing. She was dressed, from the female quarters and we marched her to the gallows room and she was hanged,” said Pandy.
Did she say anything before she was hanged?
“No, she did not say anything. She just smiled,” Pandy recalled.
Pandy said that after Parham was hanged, “I told the men a woman is completely different from a man. Every man that hanged did the same thing, but Nora Parham was different. She was brave.”
Pandy mentioned that during his time there were many hangings at the prison.
The colonial judicial system had sentenced Nora Parham to death by hanging after she was found guilty of the murder of her common-law husband, Letchel Trapp, who was a police constable, and whom Nora Parham had reported to the police as being physically abusive to her.
Appeals to the colonial governor to pardon the 36-year-old Nora Parham, who was a mother of eight sons, four of whom Trapp had fathered, fell on deaf ears.
In her testimony at the trial, Nora Parham admitted to throwing gasoline on Trapp, but testified that she did not light the fire that killed him. He went to the latrine and he lit a cigarette and that ignited the fire that caused his death, she told the court.
An excerpt from Nora Parham’s testimony that is available online revealed that she told the court, “While he came back in the bedroom, I had a gasoline iron [in] my hand with a pan of gasoline.
“He came in the bedroom with a stick in his hand and hit me on my head. When he was going to hit me another hit, I threw the gasoline on him and he grabbed away the pan from me, and I went through the backdoor and he stoned me with the said pan.
“After he stoned [me], I ran around the house and he never saw where I got to. I went in the house through the front door then I took the gasoline iron from where I left it and put it in the box.
“While I was inside I heard a noise, and I run to see what it was. When I went I saw Letchel Trapp come out of the latrine under fire. I then run up to help him, but I saw I could not, then I continued running towards the Hospital …”
It seems that Parham had become something of a celebrity before her hanging. In 1963, crime was not as rampant as it is today, in 2015. A person on trial for murder, especially a woman, was sure to be the talk of the town.
Pandy said that at the time, Her Majesty’s Prison was located on Goal Lane in Belize City.
“I had just returned from Trinidad when I heard about this lady they said was pregnant or something like that. Well, they called me and Tucker to take this lady to the hospital. We took this lady to the hospital, and all the doctors that were there said this lady was not pregnant,” Pandy said.
Pandy continued, “A big crowd was outside the prison to see Nora Parham. So we took Nora Parham through the back. She was an Indian woman [who was 36].”
Most of the men who served in the British Honduras Volunteer Guard during World War II are dead. Only a handful of the old soldiers are still alive, scattered across the country, and they continue to receive their much-needed support from the Belize Ex-Services League.
The majority of the soldiers from the British Honduras Volunteer Guard were either deployed to Panama or to Jamaica, where they received training in the skills of soldiering.
Pandy recalled that he was 19 years old when he joined the British Honduras Volunteer Guard and was deployed to Jamaica as a member of the British Honduras North Caribbean Force, where he received further military training. Pandy explained that for the entire duration of the time he spent in Jamaica, he was the drill instructor, before his honorable discharge as a Company Sergeant Major.
Upon his return home, jobs were not easy to come by. But Pandy, a well-known and respected man, was able to land a job as a prison officer at Her Majesty’s Prison, where he served for 25 years before retiring as the Deputy Chief Prison Officer.
“I was in charge of Gracie Rock Prison for 13 years. Within those 13 years they took me before Mr. Price (who was then First Minister, before self-government in 1964) many times.”
Pandy said that on one occasion he was taken before Mr. Price because he used to give the men Johnny cakes. He explained that when the bread used to go bad, he had a sack of flour and he made Johnny cakes for his men. Apparently, the men were to have had bread.
“They didn’t reprimand me. Mr. Price said he could understand,” Pandy said.
“I was there 13 years and I didn’t charge a man. We planted cassava and all kinds of greens,” Pandy recalled.
“I had a tractor and I bring the dirt from Sibun and I plant my plants,” he said.
“In the morning, we had a gang of 7 prisoners go out to clean Courthouse Wharf; from there we would go to Government House, and the prisoners who were sentenced to hard labor were used to clean the town,” said Pandy.