TWO YOUNG girls, Shaneka Shakes, nine, and her friend, Shauna-Kay Ledgister, eight, were found raped and murdered in a cane field in the Town Head district in Burnt Savannah, Westmoreland, yesterday.
The bodies were discovered by a combined search team of residents and police who had been combing the area since Wednesday evening for signs of the missing children.
Reports are that Shaneka and Shauna-Kay had gone to school on Wednesday morning but left during devotion to take a dress to Shauna-Kay's sister for the school's graduation that was set to take place the following day.
It is suspected that the girls had taken a short cut located directly behind the school to go to the sister's house, which was nearby. The girls reportedly left the dress at the house and headed back for school but never made it. When the girls did not return home after school that evening, Shauna-Kay's mother, Shernette Clarke, summoned the police. The first body was discovered several hours later at 5:00 a.m.
When The Gleaner news team arrived, the mother of little Shaneka, 'Cutie', collapsed at the scene, while Ms. Clarke held on to a glimmer of hope that her daughter was still alive. She stood wide-eyed and dazed, looking blankly at the vast cane field.
"My daughter is Shauna-Kay," she said weakly to no one in particular. "She is only eight years old." She then fainted as well.
At this time, scores of angry residents had gathered quickly at the scene of the crime. Most wept openly. Principal of Town Head Primary, Mrs. Bovell Ackbersingh, screamed at the sight of little Shaneka, who she described as "outspoken and smart".
However, as news spread that a recently-released sex offender and murderer had been in the cane field spraying at the time the girls went missing, the crowd became angry. The suspect, who was on the scene, managed to slip away as they started shouting: "A who name so?"
Scores of young men, wielding machetes, boards and knives, marched towards the suspect's house in search of him. The men threw stones at the windows, and chopped through the door but he was not there. Others fanned out in their efforts to find the other missing child, hoping that she might have survived the attack.
Remarkably, the man sauntered back to the scene and was set upon by the angry residents, who grabbed him, and tried to force him to tell them where the body of the other child. Others simply shouted 'kill him, kill him'.
While they tried to figure out what to do, a lone policeman intervened, firing several shots in the air in order to keep the fuming residents at bay. Despite the policeman's best efforts, the man was eventually chopped several times by the residents who greatly outnumbered the police at the scene. The angry mob even slashed the tyres of the police vehicle.
"The police dem nah do dem job," said one resident. "Before dem gi we de man mek we kill him and go look fi di other pickney, them a pet him." The man was eventually taken away in police custody in the damaged vehicle and admitted to hospital.
As the team from the coroner's office arrived, screams were heard from the other side of the cane field that the body of Shauna-Kay had been found. Her body was face down, naked from the waist down, and her hands were tied behind her back. She had bite marks and knife cuts on her legs and bruises to her head.
The graduation exercise of the Town Head Primary School was postponed. The Frome police now have two men in custody for questioning as another man, known only as 'Sketel' turned himself in to the cops because he heard that "his name was being called in connection with the murder".
"No one has been charged yet, but we will be collecting DNA evidence before we proceed with the matter," an officer at the Frome Police Station said.