– breaking bad news may be the hardest chore on the crime beat
By Michael Jordan
The woman sat in the back seat, intermittently weeping and praying. The angel of death sat in the front seat, and the angel of death was me.
Not that I was to blame for what had happened to her brother. I hadn’t squeezed the trigger. But it was I who had come to her house after midnight with this message of doom. I had done it before to many others, and I would do it again.
Some of my colleagues claim that disaster strikes when I hang around late in the office. They’re just teasing me, of course; but there’s some truth that a lot of things have happened late at night when I am there.
And that was the case about three Sundays ago, when the phone next to my desk rang just before midnight and a colleague informed me that a taxi driver had been shot dead in Perry Street, Tucville. His name was Charles Caesar and he lived in Garnett Street, Albouystown.
You don’t go into Albouystown in the dead of night and expect to get answers straight away about a killing. My taxi stopped near a group of men who were hanging out at the head of the street in which the victim was said to have resided.
Their initial response was to deny knowing any Charles Caesar. Luckily, one of the men recognised me and directed me to a house a short distance away where Caesar’s sister lives. So there I was, standing by the gate with two Albouystown residents, waiting, yet again, to deliver bad news to a family.
A pretty young woman, Carolyn Caesar-Murray, eventually emerged. I told her that I had heard that her brother had been shot and was at the hospital. I hadn’t the heart to tell her that he was dead.
She entered my taxi and we headed to the Georgetown Public Hospital Corporation.
During the journey, I could hear her weeping and praying, that her sibling was alright. We who cover the crime beat do so because violence and death intrigue us. But as I watched her enter the Accident and Emergency Ward treatment room in which her brother’s body was being kept, and as her screams of anguish erupted moments later, I wished that the shooting report had been a hoax, or that the victim was someone else.
You see, the worst part of doing this job is being the first to convey news of death to a family, and in my line of business, I have done it so many times that I have almost come to believe that I am some sort of angel of death.
There was the time when we regularly published the photographs of murder victims and sometimes identified them even before the police did.
Back in October, 2004, my colleague in crime, Dale Andrews took the photograph of an unidentified man whose mutilated body was found on the East Coast of Demerara.
Getting a tip that the man might be a taxi driver, I visited a West Bank Demerara house and showed it to a woman there. She looked at it and screamed, because the man in the photograph was her reputed husband.
During the devastating 2004 floods I had the unenviable task of informing a woman from West Ruimveldt that her son had died from leptospirosis. About a year later, another Kaieteur News reporter also visited the same woman.
She began to lament as soon as she heard that the reporter was from Kaieteur News, and with good reason.
The reporter informed her that another son had died in a mishap.
We were angels of death especially during the 2002 to 2008 crime wave when unidentified and bullet riddled bodies were turning up practically everywhere.
I went into Tiger Bay with a picture of one such corpse and helped identify a resident known as ‘Goat Man’—the apparent victim of a vigilante killing in Meadowbrook.
One of the few times that I turned up at a house with good news was around 1995, when I told former long-distance champion Morvine Parris that she was adjudged Sportswoman of the Year.
That last time at the GPHC, when I took Carolyn Caesar-Murray, I found myself asking, not for the first time: Is this all there is to this job?
And I guess that is what makes me go out of my way to dig up unsolved cases, (like the mystery surrounding the disappearance of Barbita Sarjou, and the bizarre murder of Sheema Mangar) and seek justice for the disadvantaged (like the victims of hit-and-run accidents).
I want this job to have some worthwhile meaning. I want to be more than a mere messenger of doom.
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