Re­vis­it­ing “La Mai­son” – home of the dead?

The Star (St. Lucia) - - LOCAL - By

Antonia Paul

Death un­doubt­edly leaves its mark on every­thing it touches in­clud­ing the hu­man heart and the nat­u­ral land­scape. A visit to La Mai­son Bridge in Babon­neau will prove just that. No mat­ter how hard we try, we will never wash away the colour of vi­o­lent death, its st­ing or its stench. It is for­ever etched in the mem­ory of those who were there for the af­ter­math of death.

A re­cent Face­book post which spoke of the un­be­liev­able hor­ror which oc­curred more than a decade ago in Babon­neau sparked my in­ter­est and hence I write about life, vi­o­lence, death and our ten­dency to for­get.

Dur­ing the holi­est of weeks in 1979 and on the day held in re­mem­brance of The Last Sup­per, an unimag­in­able crime would be re­vealed. A young preg­nant woman (de­scribed as beautiful by all who knew her) who had been miss­ing would be dis­cov­ered stuffed un­der La Mai­son Bridge with two new­borns. The crime was bru­tal, the grief un­bear­able and the iden­tity of the per­pe­tra­tors in­con­ceiv­able. At nine months preg­nant, she had been vi­o­lently raped (in an area not very far from the bridge) by two men - one of whom was closely tied to the fam­ily (the step­fa­ther). In the midst of her vi­o­la­tion, labour would be trig­gered and she would birth twins. Did she hear them cry be­fore her death? We will never know.

Wit­nesses at the re­cov­ery ef­fort re­call the mother and her chil­dren on the river sand ap­pear­ing like an­gels who were asleep. Their faces were so serene that the vi­o­lence they suf­fered did not ap­pear ap­par­ent. But the hor­ror was real.

In the time which fol­lowed, peo­ple would mourn, pray­ing would be in­ten­si­fied and a fam­ily would strug­gle with grief. A fu­neral would even­tu­ally be held and the three pre­cious ones would be housed to­gether in one cof­fin as they were bound to­gether by the vi­o­lence which sev­ered their con­nec­tion with life. The per­pe­tra­tors in­clud­ing Joseph Solomon Vi­talis were even­tu­ally caught and sen­tenced. Vi­talis was sen­tenced to death.

The famed Joseph Solomon Vi­talis would later be par­doned and freed. But he would strike again - com­mit­ting an­other bru­tal mur­der. This time, he would not es­cape the death that he had sent others to. He would be ex­e­cuted - hanged by a fel­low pris­oner on Oc­to­ber 17th, 1995.

The man who had been loved by a fam­ily had be­trayed their trust when he par­tic­i­pated in the un­timely death of their loved ones. He would be­come renowned in his mis­chief.

Since his death, no pris­oner has been ex­e­cuted in Saint Lucia.

But many have died bru­tally af­ter 1979 and many more have been raped.

In mem­ory of those such as Va­lerie Lords, Giselle Georges, Tri­cia Dennis, Ver­linda Joseph, and the silent rape vic­tims, we must unite in keep­ing their mem­o­ries alive. We for­get and bury bru­tal­ity too quickly. We at­tempt too of­ten to stitch wounds which can­not be healed with sur­gi­cal thread or tape. We have seen much vi­o­lence and suf­fered much lost but we are yet to un­der­stand that si­lence does not erase his­tory. We should now seek to build homes of joy and bridges lead­ing to pros­per­ity and not to death and doom!

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Saint Lucia

© PressReader. All rights reserved.