“The last pain I may feel for the loss of my son may be on my death bed…I am happy that I will never see his killer’s face again.”
By Abena Rockcliffe
She laboured tirelessly as a single parent to put Vibert Mohan through school. But on his first day off to work, his life was taken in cold blood. Ursula Mohan will never get the image of her son’s lifeless body lying on the street out of her head. Vibert’s life was taken by Rockcliffe Ross, a drug addict, who relieved him of his jewellery.
Ross’s criminal spree came to an end when he was hanged on June 4, 1996.
What measure of justice would be enough for such a heinous crime? That’s a question that still boggles Ursula. Some might say that justice has been served but Ursula still feels shortchanged.
Ursula recalled yesterday how hard she fought to secure what she thought would have led to closure. But even the hanging of her son’s killer did not fill the space that was created when she lost her “baby boy.”
Vibert was the last of five children. He was described as a bright lad with a promising future.
Ursula became a widow 10 years before her son died. A woman who had never worked a day in her life was left with five children to take care of and while the others were older, Vibert was but a young lad. Ursula said she made the necessary sacrifices to ensure that Vibert got a good education.
The sacrifice paid off when the now dead teen graduated with five CXC passes, but he never got to repay his mother and she was deprived the joy of seeing her son shine brighter.
It was at around 7:30 am on September 18, 1989, when 16-year-old Vibert left his South Ruimveldt home and headed over into Perry Street, Tucville, to take his niece to school.
It was five days after his 16th birthday and Vibert was wearing a Seiko watch, a gold chain and a ring he got as gifts. After taking his niece to school, Vibert was supposed to head to work at Guyana Stores Limited, but his journey was cut short.
Yesterday, Ursula recalled that when she got the message about her son’s demise, she collapsed. Regaining her consciousness, she visited the murder scene where she fainted again. Vibert’s body was still on the roadway. She observed that his watch and jewellery were missing.
His hands were still clenched but the finger on which he had worn the ring was stretched out with a bite mark on it.
Vibert had also sustained multiple stab wounds.
Eyewitnesses at the scene recalled seeing another youth chase Vibert, stab him, and relieve the slain youth of his valuables before fleeing.
Ross used to be an inmate of the New Opportunity Corps (NOC). Coming out of that facility, he began making frequent visits to the Georgetown Prisons for various offences.
Ross had reportedly only recently left prison when he attacked and killed Vibert Mohan for his watch, chain, ring and $300.
He was charged with murder and on April 23, 1992, he was found guilty and sentenced to die by judicial hanging.
While Ursula fought for Ross to be hanged, Ross’ mother fought for his life to be spared. This was despite the fact that she told the court that on the very morning when Vibert was killed Ross had asked her for $20 and she told him to go look for a job.
Ross’ mother hired an Attorney to appeal his sentence, but he lost that appeal in 1994.
He appealed for clemency to the Advisory Council on the Prerogative of Mercy.
Meanwhile, as the years passed with her son’s killer still on death row, a frustrated Ursula Mohan turned to the press to appeal for justice.
She had met him (Ross) for the first time at the Ruimveldt Police Station. She saw him several more times as the case proceeded at snail’s pace through a Preliminary Hearing, then through two trials in the Supreme Court and finally, after a ‘guilty’ verdict, to the Appeal Court.
Finally, on May 30, 1995, the Advisory Council on the Prerogative of Mercy rejected Rockliffe Ross’ appeal.
His fate was sealed on May 30, 1996, when President Cheddi Jagan signed a death warrant stating that Rockliffe Ross be hanged. The hanging took place on June 4, 1996.
Ursula said that she expected to feel way better after her son’s assailant has been hanged. But that was not the case.
Asked, in light of similar killings now, if she feels that the death sentence should return, Ursula said, “I can’t really tell you to hang them. Maybe the public should decide.”
She said that it is sad that two lives went down for the sake of jewellry.
Nevertheless, Ursula said that she is comforted in knowing that she will never have to see the face of her son’s killer again. According to her, it was torture to see him at every court appearance.
Ursula said that she was terrified when her husband died but drew strength to live for her children. However, when her “baby” died, “I just did not know how to go on.”
“I lived through the death of my mom, dad and husband, but the death of my son was hard to take.”
Ursula said that it was downhill after that. “I started living at the hospital. Every two day was some other issue. I was never sickly before that.”
As gruesome as it sounds, Ursula said that she might have had closure if she had been able to see the hanging.
“Maybe if I de see I could have tell you my feeling. But right now all I feel is hurt for my son. I wish that he could come back. I still cannot come to grips with his death.”
She said that at the rate her son was going she thinks he would have made tremendous contributions to society.
“You imagine what he would have been today he was a brilliant child. He did not get to enjoy his life; his life was cut so short.”
With tears in her eyes, Ursula said that as long as she lives the pain would not go away, “the last pain I may feel for the loss of my son may be on my death bed.”
Ursula reminisced that her son used to pick flowers from the yard for her birthday and he was always polite. “I use to live for him, now he is nowhere to be found.”
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