BELIZE CITY, Thurs. Nov. 22, 2018– A Stella Maris teacher of eleven years, Ruth Ferguson, 35, who is a mother of one, died Tuesday evening after she was rushed to the Karl Heusner Memorial Hospital from the National Health Insurance (NHI) clinic on Regent Street. Ferguson reportedly developed breathing problems when she was arrested on her job site by a pair of police officers who had gone to serve a committal warrant from the Magistrate’s Court.
The committal warrant was, for her to be imprisoned for a period of six weeks, for a debt she owed a loan shark, and which she had agreed to pay when the matter was taken to court. For some reason, Ferguson defaulted on her court payment, resulting in the committal warrant being issued.
The pair of police officers who went to serve Ferguson with the warrant went to her workplace on a motorcycle, with the intention of taking her back to the Magistrate’s Court #8, located on North Front Street.
Once at court, Ferguson would have been taken before a Magistrate, and if she was unable to come up with some of the money to meet her debt, she would have been doubly punished. She would have been taken to the Belize Central Prison, where she would have been kept for 6 weeks. After serving the 6 weeks, she still would have been liable to pay the entire balance to the loan shark.
The two process-serving police officers, however, had no means of transport for taking Ferguson to the court, so the male police officer who was driving the motorcycle left Ferguson with the woman police constable, who was tasked with taking her to court.
The woman police officer and Ferguson were forced to take the public bus that travels along Central American Boulevard into Caesar Ridge Road and along Regent Street.
While she was on her school compound, however, Ferguson indicated to the police officers that she was having a panic attack and that she needed medical attention.
The male police officer did not help to mitigate the situation when he told Ferguson that she was going to go to jail, “because you are not honoring your court commitment.” That frightening bit of information apparently triggered more anxiety in Ferguson, and by the time the bus on which she and the female police officer were traveling, reached Regent Street she was struggling to breathe and so she and the woman police officer got off the bus and went to the NHI clinic.
Dana Staine, a teacher at Stella Maris with whom Ferguson works, told us that when the two police officers — identified as “PC Woodye and WPC Wade” — came to the school, they went to the office and asked the principal for Ferguson.
When they saw Ferguson they showed her the warrant and told her that they were from the court and that she needed to pay a little over $2,000 to the loan shark (they told her the name of the loan shark). “You need to pay this today, otherwise you will be taken to prison for 6 weeks,” Ferguson was reportedly told.
Staine said that Ferguson remarked, “Take me to prison for something like this?”
According to Staine, Woodye replied: “Yes, because you are not being faithful to your commitment.”
Staine said that Ferguson told the police officers, “I am having a panic attack,” and she began to fan herself with both hands, as if she was feeling overheated.
Ferguson then told the cops, “Let me go and get my bag,” said Staine.
After she got her bag from her classroom, both officers exited the principal’s office with her, Staine said.
The male police officer got on his motorcycle and the female officer and Ferguson walked across the other side of the street to catch a city bus.
Staine said that the woman police told her that when they were on the bus, Ferguson was breathing hard. It appears that her airways were becoming constricted as a result ofher panic attack. According to reports, Ferguson, when she could no longer bear the anxiety attack— a medical condition that her family reportedly said she had suffered with previously— she hurriedly exited the bus when it was on Regent Street and went to the National Health Insurance clinic, but it appears that by that time she had reportedly suffered a massive heart attack.
“When I called the officer and told her that Ferguson had passed away, she was in shock,” Staine said.
It has been reported that when Ferguson had indicated to the police officers, when they delivered the warrant, that she needed medical attention, the officers had not been responsive to her plea. Reports have indicated that Assistant Commissioner of Police, Chester Williams, has said that the Professional Standards Branch of the police department will be investigating the circumstances surrounding her death.