Lo­cal au­thor­i­ties left puz­zled by tor­ture video

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

Once by ac­ci­dent I watched a video of a man be­ing hacked to death by a chain sawwield­ing fiend. I had not ex­pected it, to say the least, yet some­how that day as I sat in a dusty road­side restau­rant, my friend’s com­pan­ion thought it would be en­ter­tain­ing to shock me with a grotesque dose of ter­ror. I was shaken. I mean, what kind of sicko walked around with a video of some­one’s head be­ing chopped off on their phone, let alone shared it with oth­ers?

This was a real per­son, not a scene from a low bud­get Hol­ly­wood movie. He had a fam­ily, and pos­si­bly friends who would miss him. I couldn’t get it out of my head for days. I later found that his death was drug re­lated, and that it was the sort of re­venge not un­com­mon to the un­der­world. It didn’t make it any less trau­matic how­ever, par­tic­u­larly con­sid­er­ing there had been two other men sit­ting gagged and bound up next to him who wit­nessed his death first­hand. I am doubt­ful whether either of them made it out alive.

Imag­ine the col­lec­tive dis­may, mine and that of most other lo­cal cit­i­zens, to see a video of that na­ture cir­cu­lat­ing last week, with a young man, pre­sum­ably Saint Lu­cian, beg­ging for his life. The ap­par­ent tor­ture video has been mak­ing the rounds for the last week or so, with friends and fam­ily iden­ti­fy­ing the per­son in the video as Scott Atkins. In the video he is seen wear­ing a shirt that ap­pears to be stained with blood, while call­ing out to his mother and beg­ging some­one by the name of Shawn to quit play­ing around and pay up.

The im­me­di­ate re­ac­tion of many was that the video had to be staged. Then, sev­eral other videos sur­faced and peo­ple seemed slowly to change their minds about its gen­uine­ness, one viewer point­ing out that there had once been a sim­i­lar case in a nearby is­land which peo­ple had ini­tially dis­missed, which was found to be au­then­tic. The videos con­tin­ued to go vi­ral, and first thing on Mon­day morn­ing lo­cal po­lice ac­knowl­edged re­ceipt.

“What we can say is that a re­port was made by two fe­male in­di­vid­u­als who said that this is their brother, and that he is not in Saint Lu­cia,” Act­ing Com­mis­sioner Mil­ton De­sir told the me­dia.

De­sir said usu­ally in cases of that na­ture, the Min­istry of Ex­ter­nal Af­fairs would get in­volved. As the in­ci­dent ap­peared to have oc­curred out­side Saint Lu­cia, it was out­side the ju­ris­dic­tion of lo­cal po­lice.

“If it is in Saint Lu­cia then it prob­a­bly makes it a lot eas­ier but since it’s not in our ju­ris­dic­tion, and we’re not even sure if this thing is in Venezuela or wher­ever, but that is the re­port we re­ceived,” he said.

The vi­ral video had not gone over the head of govern­ment of­fi­cials. Act­ing Prime Min­is­ter in the ab­sence of Allen Chas­tanet, Min­is­ter for Equity, So­cial Jus­tice, and Em­pow­er­ment Le­nard Montoute, was par­tic­u­larly con­cerned about the num­ber of young peo­ple who had over the years been in­jured or killed as a re­sult of traf­fick­ing il­licit com­modi­ties.

“So many young peo­ple have lost their lives through en­gage­ment in that kind of ac­tiv­ity,” Montoute said. “It fur­ther ex­ac­er­bates the crime sit­u­a­tion in our coun­try be­cause of course, as you’re aware, dis­putes in that kind of busi­ness are set­tled very of­ten with mur­der and so, I’m just say­ing that I think it’s very un­for­tu­nate that this could be go­ing around. Peo­ple have said that they rec­og­nize the young man as a Saint Lu­cian, and I am hop­ing that the po­lice will look into the mat­ter, and hope­fully, as I said, that we can have the best pos­si­ble out­come in that un­for­tu­nate sit­u­a­tion.”

This week even the Venezue­lan Em­bassy in Saint Lu­cia was speak­ing out about the in­ci­dent. Am­bas­sador Leiff Escalona took the op­por­tu­nity to as­sure all that her govern­ment re­mained com­mit­ted to the war on drugs.

“We sym­pa­thize with this young man’s fam­ily and hope that this sit­u­a­tion is re­solved,” she said. “The au­thor­i­ties can­not [act] based on ru­mours. We don’t know if this sit­u­a­tion re­ally hap­pened in Venezuela. How­ever, this em­bassy has sent the lit­tle and very in­ex­act in­for­ma­tion that has been re­ceived to the au­thor­i­ties in Venezuela. The govern­ment of the Bo­li­var­ian Repub­lic of Venezuela is avail­able to help Saint Lu­cia, as well as other coun­tries in the re­gion, in putting a stop to the il­le­gal drug trade.”

As pro­duc­tion in­creases, so too does con­sump­tion of drugs in de­vel­oped na­tions like the United States. As noted by Am­bas­sador Escalona: “All coun­tries which find them­selves in the mid­dle of this drug traf­fick­ing route must unite to com­bat this ter­ri­ble evil that af­fects us all, es­pe­cially the most vul­ner­a­ble fam­i­lies.”

Fam­ily mem­bers of the young man in the videos have only spo­ken out to say that he has been out of Saint Lu­cia since last year. The last unan­swered mes­sage on Scott Atkin’s Face­book page reads: “Hey bro, you good? Like [this post] if yes, ig­nore if not . . .”

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