The Kanaima and Charles George
By Michael Jordan
I have heard some strange stories in my time, but even I wasn’t prepared for the one that Laura George had to tell me.
I had thought that I was dealing with the ordinary unsolved murder when she asked me, via email, to write a story in her father’s honour. But all that changed when we spoke yesterday and she uttered a word that is dreaded by her people.
It was around 05:00 hrs on Friday, April 1, 2011, that her father, Charles George, aged 61, left home in Chinoweing, Upper Mazaruni, to go fishing. He assured his wife, Daphne, that he would be back by 14:00 hrs.
While at home baking cassava bread and making cassiri, Daphne George learnt that her husband’s relatives, who live on the river bank where he had gone fishing, were having a get-together. So, she wasn’t too worried when he didn’t return as promised. She knew that the relatives liked to offer him a drink or two and he would sometimes sleep overnight.
But then Saturday afternoon came and Charles George still hadn’t returned. His wife spent the night worrying and praying that he was fine.
Meanwhile, Charles George’s relatives from the riverside were wondering if he had ever reached home. He had borrowed their canoe as usual and would have returned it by Saturday midday. So, an aunt of Mr. George persuaded one of her sons-in-law to go into the village to see if Charles George had arrived safely.
On Sunday, April 3, the young man’s father stopped by Mr. George’s home. Daphne George felt her skin grow cold. She was now certain that some horrible fate had befallen her husband.
As word started to spread that Mr. George was missing, a feeling of unease spread through the village. Mr. George and his family were held in high esteem in the community.
Mrs. George was an appointed head teacher, while her husband, a God-fearing man, was among members of his tribe who had assisted in having the New Testament of the Bible translated to the Akawaio language. He was also the newly elected treasurer of the village’s youth football club.
No church was held on that day as search groups were dispatched to cover the area where Charles George often went fishing. Some searched both banks of the river. Others searched in canoes and two speedboats that some Brazilians, who knew and respected Mr. George, loaned the search party.
They knew that there was a chance of finding him alive, since the forests on the banks of the river were not dense.
They also surmised that if he was injured, Mr. George would try to attract someone by either shouting or firing his 12-gauge shotgun.
But night fell without the rescuers finding any sign of the missing man. Dejected, the search party headed home.
The following day, a couple who had started out before everyone else spotted a bag they knew belonged to Mr. George floating from a branch in the river.
A few metres away, they located a small wooden bench that the missing man would sit on when using the canoe. The couple was joined by other searchers, who then found the missing man’s boots floating among driftwood a few metres away from where they had located the bag. They were certain that someone had put the items there during the night.
Laura George, who works in Georgetown, received the news about her father’s disappearance on Monday, April 4.
She had spoken to her mother on the Friday via transmitter radio from Georgetown. She had enquired about her father and had cautioned them on going anywhere by themselves. She managed to catch a chartered flight to the interior.
On Tuesday, April 5, 2011, several young men who had been involved in the search decided to dive in the area where they had found Charles George’s belongings. After about twenty minutes, one of the divers surfaced and, with shock registered on his face, shouted that he had found the missing man.
Eventually, the men brought the body to shore, and what Laura George saw indicated that her father had been savagely beaten.
His mouth was bashed in, and his eyes, neck and abdominal area were swollen. The area behind one of his ears was matted with blood. His body was examined by a nurse in the presence of the Village Toshao and family members.
The police, via transmitter radio, had advised the relatives to keep Mr. George’s body overnight. However, the corpse was in the early stages of decomposition and the family decided to have the victim buried and give him “the dignity of his rest.”
No autopsy was ever done. Charles George’s boat was found submerged near his body. His shotgun was never found.
Laura George firmly believes that her father was beaten on the Friday he went missing. But she does not believe that he died immediately.
“I strongly believe he was kept on land overnight and then thrown into the river the next evening, as the killers did not know what to do. We know there was more than one or even two. As to what could have triggered such cruelty to my father is a question that can never be answered nor justified. My father was the most quiet of men. He was not expressive physically, but he loved and cared for us with all his heart. During the years of our childhood, Dad always made sure that we had food in the pot when other children many times did not have.”
Laura George told me that she has no clue about the identity of her father’s killers. But she is convinced that she knows what kind of individual committed the act.
Though the family grew up in the Christian faith, Laura George told me that she is certain that her father was killed by a ‘Kanaima’.
“People who are not indigenous people do not believe in Kanaima,” she told me. But we believe that Kanaima is involved in it.”
From the little research I have done, the word Kanaima has many meanings: A kind of assassin whose motive is often revenge; a tree in the Guyana savannahs that gives off a sap that, when rubbed into the flesh, turns one into a tiger. The late Dr. Desrey Fox had told me several years ago that the ‘Kanaima’ is a highly-trained, ninja-like assassin.
In Laura George’s case, she believes that the ‘Kanaima’ that killed her father is someone gifted in unique methods of assassination. One sign of a ‘Kanaima’ death is that the victim’s intestines are ‘knotted up’. Ms. George says she has seen ‘Kanaima’ victims before.
“In Kanaima murders you don’t see the physical evidence of death until after,” she said. She believes that her father’s injuries were visible because he fought back with his attacker.
“My father used to say that if any Kanaima attacks him he would fight back.”
Laura George told me that she expressed her suspicions to the police, who also believe that her father was murdered. She believes that the persons who killed her father are still using his shotgun.
I asked her if she wasn’t afraid for her own safety, if indeed a ‘Kanaima’ had killed her father
“I’m not afraid. I’m angry at this time,” she said. This murder can be solved. We are hoping that someone comes forward (with information). Most of what Dad will be remembered for was his unwavering trust and belief in God. He also made sure that he fulfilled his purpose in showing his children and leading us to know …so sometimes we question why – even though we may be wrong, why God allowed this to happen to such a wonderful man. Dad loved us dearly and he knew that he was loved in return and will be loved beyond death.
This remains our consolation that keeps us going and leaning on each other. We also strongly believe that justice must be served.”
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