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Tuesday, 15 January 2013
8 arrested over British girl’s murder in Jamaica
Eight suspects were last night being ‘intensively interrogated’ by police over the murder of British schoolgirl Imani Green in Jamaica.
The island’s authorities said they are confident of solving the killing of the eight-year-old, who is believed to have been an innocent victim of gangsters fighting a turf war over an illegal lottery scam.
Imani, who suffered from the debilitating blood disorder sickle cell anaemia, was in the Caribbean for an extended holiday to help alleviate the symptoms of her condition.
The youngster, from Balham, south London, was shot in the head and shoulder when a masked gunman opened fire in the roadside shop and bar run by her cousin.
Police said the suspects, all men under 35, were being ‘intensely interrogated’ at three separate jails following raids on properties close to the shooting in Duncans, a town on the island’s north-west coast, following tip-offs from the public.
A police spokesman said: ‘Over the last 24 hours eight people have been taken into custody and we’re confident we will make a breakthrough soon.’
Imani’s grandmother Sandra Fisher welcomed the arrests.
Mrs Fisher, 54, said: ‘I’m pleased with our community for giving over the information, I think it’s because it’s the death of a child.’
Deputy Superintendent Steve Brown, from the Jamaica Constabulary Force, said the eight suspects were being questioned but dismissed suggestions linking the shooting to gang warfare.
He told the BBC: ‘Over the last 24 hours there have been some developments where the police have taken eight persons into custody and we’re confident we will make a breakthrough on this one very soon.
‘We’ve heard about gang warfare but we find it a bit difficult to believe because where the incident took place it is a sleepy community, nothing happens there.
‘This is just an isolated incident but it could well link to a number of things and we are looking at all possibilities and following all the leads that we are getting.’
Imani was attending a local primary school while on the island and had been due to return to the UK on January 25.
Meanwhile, a man has been shot dead half a mile away from the cafe where Imani died.
Yesterday’s killing is believed to be related to Imani’s death.
One local, who would not be named, said:
‘People are whispering that he knew too much – he knew who killed the little girl. That’s why he got shot.’
Tragic death: Imani Green (pictured left by herself and right with her mother Donna, both in 2009) was at her cousin’s small shop on the island’s north coast, when violence broke out during an argument
Three of Imani’s relatives were taken to hospital after they were wounded in the hail of bullets.
It has been claimed they were gunned down in a reprisal for a shooting which happened several months ago and is connected to a telemarketing scam.
The racket involves tricking people in America into thinking they’ve scooped the lottery and getting them to wire an ‘advance fee’ to collect their winnings.
Around £30million was sent to Jamaica last year alone and the sums involved have led to disputes among the criminals who collect it.
The scam has been linked to 500 murders in the past five years and is responsible for half of violent crime in the area where Imani was killed.
The little girl was hit in the head by a bullet from the shooter’s 9mm pistol, before being struck in the shoulder by a second bullet.
Grandmother Mrs Fisher said she found Imani lying in a ‘pool of blood’ after she asked to visit the grocery shop in the quiet Red Dirt district of Duncans in Trelawny parish.
Her sister Jamila Palmer, 19,said; ‘We heard gunshots. We ran outside and shouted “Imani, Imani, Imani”. I picked her up off the ground and realised she was still breathing.
‘I picked her up off the ground and realised she was still breathing. I flagged down a car and they drove us to hospital. The rest is history.’
Neighbours in Britain have spoken of their sorrow following the killing.
Relatives were said to have left their home at Old Hospital Close for a flight to Jamaica early yesterday morning to be with Imani’s mother.
Imani had been enrolled in a Jamaican school to keep her education ticking over.
Her brother Dean Palmer, 27, described her as ‘an extremely brave girl’ who visited the island twice a year to help with the energy-sapping illness.
Family: The girl was visiting relatives in the small town of Duncans, a rural area on the north coast of the Caribbean islandHeadteacher of Fircroft school, Anne Wilson, yesterday confirmed she had given Imani time off to seek respite for her condition, adding: ‘Imani was a happy, playful child who was popular with staff and pupils alike.
‘She dealt with her illness very bravely and coped well with the special arrangements we had to have in place to support her.’
A relative in London said: ‘Imani was playing out with some other little children. Her mother came back from shopping and told her to come indoors.
‘But Imani begged to stay out. She said “OK, five more minutes and then come inside”. After that they heard gunshots.
‘When she ran out Imani was on the floor in a pool of blood.’
It has been claimed that innocent bystanders, including Imani, were deliberately shot by the gunman.
Home: The three-storey, semi-detached property in Balham, south-west London, where Imani Green, eight, was said to have livedA source said; ‘The killer shot the little girl in the head with his first bullet. The second bullet hit her in the shoulder.
‘He then turned the gun on to the other three – two women and a man all related to Imani.’
SICKLE CELL ANAEMIA IN PROFILE
Sickle cell anaemia is an inherited genetic blood condition.
People with the condition have sickle haemoglobin (HbS), rather than regular haemoglobin (HbA) – the protein in red blood cells which carries oxygen.
Regular red blood cells can easily bend and travel around blood vessels without any problems – but sickle haemoglobin sticks together when giving oxygen to tissues.
This makes red blood cells sickle-shaped and less able to move. They can easily block small blood vessels and this prevents oxygen from getting through and can damage organs.
Sufferers should avoid wearing tight clothing, dehydration and cold temperatures – as well as maintaining a good diet.
It was suggested that the reason for this was because gunmen in Jamaica will target the innocent if they cannot find their intended victim.
A neighbour of the family in South London, who is Jamaican and whose cousin was murdered three years ago, said: ‘This is the way they take revenge.
‘There is a saying out there “If I can’t catch you, I will catch someone for you”.’
But the girl’s uncle, Mitchum Brown, claimed the shooting was a revenge attack after a row with the owner of the store, who is Imani’s cousin.
Mr Brown added Imani was a ‘quiet, lovely, friendly girl’ who had only just begun to grow in confidence.
Her father Richard Green, 38, a decorator, was in Britain when he learned of his daughter’s death and was taken to hospital after collapsing in shock. Imani was said to be ‘his life’.
Yesterday, he left the family’s four-bedroom semi-detached home with other family members to fly out to the Caribbean.
The Foreign Office is providing consular assistance and is liaising with the Jamaican authorities.
MP for Tooting and Labour justice spokesman Sadiq Khan said he was ‘devastated’ to hear the news of the shooting.