Not a Word from Police on Des Barras Child Molestation Allegations!
Only last week Rick Wayne warned the police about being too forthcoming with the press on matters under investigation, for several reasons to do with justice. But it seems they have taken Mr. Wayne’s advice carte blanche. By reliable account, last Sunday a man was arrested at Hewanorra International Airport and charged with child molestation. But when information was sought from the police they refused to confirm or deny the story, save to say that generally they don’t comment on matters involving child molestation.
On Wednesday, motivated largely by hearsay, I journeyed to Des Barras, the address of the man allegedly arrested on Sunday. It seemed everyone I talked with had a tale to tell about his relationship with young boys. Most of them said: “He was very nice and was so kind to everyone in the community. He would buy snacks and things for the children and invite them to his house all the time.” Some said he taught the kids to paint, helped with their homework and various school assignments. He even rewarded them with cell phones and other expensive gifts when they did well with their Common Entrance exams.
Pointing to a nearby bus stop, one man told me: “He did all these things over.” By “these things” he referred to a roadside wall painted with bright, vivid landscapes. He said he remembered the man coming to Des Barras around 2002 and almost right away became involved with the very young children of the community— until a few weeks ago when he disappeared. By reliable account, he had moved to Soufriere. Earlier, according to informed sources, the mother of a 9-year-old boy and a hospital representative had alerted the police, based on what they had learned from the child about his relationship with the painter.
For whatever reasons the man was never arrested, until Sunday, as he prepared to board a flight to Canada, ostensibly on an assignment for the tourism authority. Sources there have denied that story. Nevertheless, the man’s ticket indicated that from Canada he planned to go via the UK to Sweden, where he had friends. There was no indication he intended to return any time soon to Saint Lucia.
A Des Barras resident said: “This is so hard to believe, that someone who came here with such a good spirit would do something like that.” As to whether she actually believed all she’d heard about the case, she said: “I don’t know, I’m waiting for what the news has to say about it, but I don’t think a child so young would lie about such a thing. He said he was in pain and all of that.”
Especially worrying to community members I spoke with were the revelations that indicate there may be several other victims whose parents are too embarrassed or scared to come forward, having permitted their young boys to visit the suspect’s home at all hours unsupervised. Many believed the kids were receiving free tuition.
Some said they had suspicions that the man had devious motives for practically adopting so many young boys from very poor families. One woman blamed the parents: “I say that some of them too soutiwèz [complicit]. He was living alone, he had no woman in the house and you still sending your children to his house and taking things from him? And it’s not the first time that I heard that kind of story. People used to say he was doing things, and he was on a side, and what not. You know you don’t always take what people say as truth. But now look what’s being said.”
Another woman recalled feeling uneasy whenever the man encountered her with her young daughter: “He would see her and say, ‘What a pretty, pretty girl, so nice and cute,’ and he would reach out to touch her. But I would go home and tell my daughter he can think she’s pretty but don’t take anything from him and don’t go near him without telling me.”
Just before press time we took a call from a representative of the tourism authority. He said the man arrested on Sunday was on his way to paint a mural at a Saint Lucia-owned restaurant in Canada. He had a complimentary airline ticket from WestJet. He should’ve travelled in October but postponed his trip to November, which would give him enough time to get a visa. When he did not show up on schedule the restaurateur learned he had been arrested by the local police at Hewanorra.
Meanwhile no related word from the education minister or the cops!
Paintings used to uplift the Des Barras community now serve as a reminder that things are not always as they seem.