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Dead men tell no tales

BBC Report

140 people are killed by Jamaican police each year

There is a virtual state of emergency in Jamaica, where an average of 140 people are shot dead by police every year. Correspondent investigates recent controversial cases.


In April this year, 13 year old Janice Allen was shot dead in the back as she went out to buy a bag of rice, near her home in Trenchtown. She was in the wrong place at the wrong time, but she was just one of an average of 140 people killed by police every year in Jamaica, which has the worst record of police killings in the world.

Chewie's daughter holds his photo

Correspondent arrived on the scene in a Kingston neighbourhood just hours after one young man, Chewie, had been tortured and killed by police, to find his mother still crying in shock. She said they'd been looking for someone else.


1400 killed in eight years

Carolyn Gomes, of human rights organisation, Jamaicans for Justice, says about 1400 people have been killed in the past eight years:

Carolyn Gomes, Jamaicans for Justice

"In that eight years you can count on maybe both my hands the number of policemen that have been accountable. It is an emergency."


The roots of the problem can be traced back to the early 1970s when Jamaica was pulled apart by pro and anti- Western political factions in the shadow of the Cold war.

Politicians encouraged this dangerous polarisation, rustling up votes by arming different groups of young men in the inner city neighbourhoods. Thousands of people died in shoot outs and reprisal killings, culminating in nearly 1000 dead in the 1980 elections.

Unable to control the gangs, the police very openly operated outside the law, and most Jamaicans saw no way out of this impasse.

The case of the Braeton 7

Braeton 7
The scene of the killing


But last March, in Braeton, a quiet middle class suburb of Kingston, six young men were shot dead by police as they played dominoes along with a seventh, a friend passing by on a bike, and their case has sparked a nationwide revolt against the status quo.

Witnesses told Correspondent how they heard the police - there were 60 of them - arriving in cars and vans at the house, and heard the terrified young men's pleas for mercy.

The head of the elite crime unit, Superintendent Reneto Adams, told local TV crews it was a shoot out:

Spt Reneto Adams

"Many of you will have heard the gunshots that came from the house. We told them that we are the policemen, they were told to come out, gunshots come from the windows. The police took evasive action."


Conflicting evidence

But an independent pathologist who examined the evidence is not convinced:

"All seven had received multiple head wounds. Out of 37 gunshot lesions there were 15 to the heads. It seems not possible that this pattern of lesions could have occurred by just random shooting."

And whilst Reneto Adams claimed the young men were "gangsters", no evidence against any of the boys has yet emerged.

The parents of the Braeton 7 are resolved to fight for justice for their sons until the end, but the past record of prosecutions against the police in Jamaica suggests they could be in for a long struggle.


Dead men tell no tales: Saturday 15th September at 1850 on BBC 2.

Reporter: Janine di Giovanni
Producer: Ewa Ewart
Editor: Fiona Murch



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Jamaica Constabulary Force Crime Statistics

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