Features — 08 June 2019
Ghastly and gruesome murders

“Man’s sensitivity to the little things and insensitivity to the greatest are the signs of a strange disorder” — Blaise Pascal

It must be a strange national and social disorder indeed that our country is experiencing when I review in my mind the spate of crimes, the nature of these, the players, and all the collateral matters that flow.  I have written before that I have stopped looking at the evening news because I found myself with tears rolling down my eyes for the death of “strangers,” who, yet, are brothers and sisters, that in the sense of humanity, I know.

I don’t want to become insensitive to the continuous murderous deaths because I feel that if I do I will lose my humanity and ability to empathize with those in pain and enduring hardship. I don’t want to become cold and callous to the death of others because that will be the example I will pass down to my children and those who look up to me.  I don’t think it is weakness to feel for others, to care for others and to want good for others, as much as you want for yourself.

No it is not weakness to wish others, happiness and a fulfilled life. It is this sensitivity that makes me able to empathize with a killer whose life destined him or her to crime and still feel the pain of a victim and to demand justice for him or her. In the social spectrum of society to me both are victims, and both are dead or die anytime a homicide is committed.  The only difference is that one is physically dead, while the other’s humanity was always dead, thus he/she is able to commit a premeditated murder!

It is best to analyze how we are so insensitive to crimes and it’s easier to shout “hang them” but not to stop and think what could be done to prevent the increase in number of people who can so callously commit a crime, which merits you joining the chorus of the mob and shouting “hang them”. To me each killing only begets more killing, and the solution is not promoting more violence and death, but involves stepping back and reviewing our role, our notion of, and our contribution to humanity. What have “I” personally done to make the life of another better so that they do not have to turn to a life of crime?

Belize, we have become cold, callous, and some sick bastards are no longer afraid to kill, and find entertainment in the death of others!

Gruesome photos circulate

There is a deadly trend in our society too now, wherein people take the most gruesome photos of a person’s dying moments and make it go viral as if it is a movie trailer, exciting everyone to view the whole movie. After the photos, or sometimes videos, are circulated, then the masses sit around the television set in the sanctity of their living room, where they gather like vultures with their loved ones and wait to devour the 6:00 p.m. or 6:30 p.m.  nightly news. It’s like this is a form of entertainment! It is so disgusting how we feed off such negativity and such images that degrade our humanity, and honestly it’s like so many see nothing wrong with delighting their eyes with these gruesome images!

I have stayed a bit silent about this because I just can’t wrap my mind around how you can actually want to see photos or videos of people laid out dead on the street, vehicle or home.  Why would you want to remember the appearance of people who are all shot up, bruised up, mangled up, all bloody or burnt up? Why not remember them as they lived their life… “mein” we are one sick-minded society when we actually find pleasure in looking at these gruesome images and wait to get the next high when the next set of images will come out!

I have lamented about this insensitivity for a long time, and wish I can reach more people to become sensitized and help stop this violation of others. It has hit close to home again when the images of my friend Alarice Adele Andrewin was plastered all over WhatsApp in chat groups and forwarded to so many. While I refuse to look at the image, I am told it is a photo of her and her tenant tied up and shot in the head as they are laid out on the bed while the other female laid equally tied up and shot on the floor.

Why would you want the average person in the public to see those images? I know as an attorney in criminal matters that I have had to see some of the most ghastly crime scene photos and autopsy photos, and some have never left my mind; even as I write I see them. I have had to see them for work purposes, but it would have never occurred to me to take a picture of these and send it out. On the contrary I guarded those photos with such privacy because they were the last real moments of a victim of a crime.

All of this reminds me of a recent post I read by colleague Karla Heusner who wrote about how she found out about the death of her cousin Jessica Heusner. She writes

“But now? All of a sudden? This lovely young woman [Jessica Heusner] is no more? And why on earth are they showing her burning to death in her car? Is there no decency left?

“This was just like the recent death of Zinnia Ayala from St. John’s College Junior College. She was a passenger on a motorcycle which crashed. As she was taking her last breaths, the scene was circulating all over social media. That night, and for days to come— even as her family, classmates and instructors mourned her loss and tried to come to terms with her loss.

“Each time that video, and the one of Jess’ burning car are viewed, these young women are killed again. Over and over and over. Each time the videos are shared, more spectators gather, like John Crow, to poke at their bodies, tearing their dignity away from them, piece by piece.

“I realize we may not be able to stop those who have become so desensitized to violent death by films and television and video games from sharing those images or help them to find the sense of the compassion they seem to have lost along the way.”

Police to answer

Now, while I do not agree that we should take such gruesome and ghastly images and share them around and post them on Facebook and plaster them all over social media, I could reason that we have stupid civilians who do not stop to think about how this affects the family and how it may also impact on the investigation. These crimes occur in public, and so many pull out their phone and start recording or taking pictures.

These may be useful to police sometimes, but that is seldom the reason why spectators capture these images. However, there are those instances that it is only police who have access to certain crime scenes and as such only they could have taken some of those photos.  This, to me, and I may be wrong, seems to have been the case of Miss Andrewin, since it was the police who first arrived at the scene and had to secure it and call backup.

 Thereafter, the father was there and he surely was not going to take photos of his daughter on a deathbed and send them around. So I am surprised that the police took the photos, as they should have, and that their scenes of crime personnel either leaked it out or a police officer with not much sensitivity sent it out — and once it goes to one person it goes to the whole country. I say the police because I could not imagine any of the police at the crime scene allowing any Tom, Dick, and Harry to go into that bedroom and take pictures with their cellphone and not stop them, as they would contaminate the scene.If I am wrong I apologize, but based on the distribution of their photos and how well they were taken, it seems that it is the images that were captured as part of the investigation that have been making the rounds. So cold hearted, my people, to want to see these and share these with others.

Why do you want to see a person tied up and shot? Isn’t the mere sound of it already causing you much pain and empathy for the family whose loved one is being violated and re-murdered each time that image of her is passed around?

Would you like to see photos/videos of your mom, dad, siblings, spouse or children, bound up and shot? Do you want their gruesome death to be sent out and plastered and even published so the whole world could see the brutality in which they met their last second?  Stop and think if you want to be stripped over and over of your dignity. It’s like not even in death your privacy is sacred!

If the images were taken by police personnel or their support crew or scene of crime team, I know that image can be traced and the leaker can be unmasked. There is need for public trust in the authorities… this kind of callousness only engenders further distrust in the police!

Call to respect

I call on all Belizeans to please exercise restraint. Please don’t share those kind of images,.  Please think how you would feel if it were your loved one and think how your family would feel if it was your images that were being spread like wild fire.  Pause… you thought of it? … It is painful, right?!

“I have been writing in spurts, bit by bit. It is incredibly difficult. Everything is corroded, broken, dismantled; everything is covered with hardened layers of accumulated insensitivity, deafness, entrenched routine. It is disgusting.”  —Boris Pasternak

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Deshawn Swasey

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