(Jamaica Observer) – “WHY, why?” was the question on the lips of Temple Hall residents who had gathered on Stony Hill main road yesterday afternoon, just metres away from the scene where the body of 11-year-old Mark Leslie was found, face down in a riverbed in the community.
“He was literally on a stone in the middle of the river, with a sweater ova him head,” said one woman who asked not to be named.
The woman was part of a group of concerned parents who had congregated yesterday morning at Mannings Hill Primary School, where Leslie was a student, to hold devotion and pray that their search for the grade-six student would not be in vain, since the boy had already been missing for two days.
“All we could say is ‘God, please help us to locate him’. Mi nah say ‘God cover him’ because mi just feel inna miself say something wrong. I said ‘God, help us to locate him now’, and den when we walk go round there so, and police find him,” said the woman.
A resident of Temple Hall, who spoke with the Jamaica Observer, said they had been searching the community, looking for the little boy, but saw no signs of him until yesterday afternoon when police made the frightening discovery.
“About after 10:00 am wi come out here wid di plan fi demonstrate and search fi him,” said the female resident. “We out here wid wi placard until mi hear a scream and when mi guh look mi see di likkle boy inna di river with a blue sweater over him head.
“When mi hear di police dem call out and mi guh look, mi see him body,” added the woman, whose scream had alerted the rest of the group.
“Him deh pon di stone and mi see blood pon di stone. Di blood a run, it nuh clot,” said the woman.
“Wi see him bag put dung neat beside a him and him body deh pon di stone,” she added.
Carl Boothe, a parent whose daughter was a friend of Leslie’s and who was also in the riverbed when police made the frightening discovery, described the frantic search for the little boy leading up to the discovery of his body hours later.
“Mi get up this morning to go to work but when I reach at the school gate I joined in the devotion and after that some of the parents tek it up on dem head say them coming down to Temple Hall to search because we cannot sit back and wait on the authorities. We are all parents so we have to really put out the effort,” said Boothe.
“When we came down here, I was on the right hand side down in the riverbed searching. That is di time I heard some screaming and by the time I come up from the river and go around on the other side, that is when mi see him.
“He was lying face down on a stone with his sweater wrapped around his head and his bag was beside him. We couldn’t determine what happen to him so we are waiting on the authorities to tell what really happen,” said Boothe, who went on to describe Leslie as “a top student”.
“That little boy is very quiet, very humble, and based on what I understand, he is the top student in the class and for the entire school. He is my daughter’s classmate. They sit together and they study together.”
According to Boothe, most of the taxi drivers on that route know the boy and are traumatised by his death as they had noticed that he was not among their passengers Wednesday morning.
“That is how they withdraw their service and come and help to search,” said Boothe.
Residents of Temple Hall who had gone in search of the boy the day before said they had searched the same spot where his body was found but did not find him there.
“Mankind heart desperately wicked,” was the cry of one woman.
“Four o’clock inna di evening yesterday we search di whole area and we never see him. What could an 11-year-old do fi deserve dis?” she asked.
Another parent, whose eyes brimmed with tears, told the Observer that Leslie was also her son’s friend at school. “Him nuh know yet,” said the woman. “When we find him he was in school so when mi go home mi tell him,” she said.
Councillor John Myers (Jamaica Labour Party, Lawrence Tavern Division) said he knew the boy as a quiet and bright student who was being cared for by foster parents.
Myers said he would sometimes give the boy a lift to school in the mornings.
“He was a brilliant boy, but him reserved and very mannerable. If you pick him up, him say ‘good morning’ and when him coming off, him say ‘thank you’,” said Myers.
Gary Griffiths, assistant commissioner of police in charge of the Police Area Five Division, told reporters on the scene that the boy was reported missing at 10:30 pm on Wednesday and that a search for him began the following day.
“Yesterday, a search was launched, not of a large nature, but a few policemen and some citizens started a search which revealed nothing. But this morning about 11:20, following a more intense search, the body of the child was found in a riverbed with what appeared to be his school bag and an item of clothing over his head.
“The scene is being processed as we speak so I can’t say anything else,” said the assistant commissioner.
He said a motive had not yet been established for the boy’s killing, but appealed to parents and guardians to be more proactive in reporting missing children to the police.
“We appeal to parents and responsible citizens that when you see children on the street, be proactive, ask questions. The truth is that parents need to exercise a greater level of guardianship because, for this child, the first report was made to us 10:30 on Wednesday night, which is way past the hour you would expect a child to be home,” said Griffiths.
Meanwhile, Juliet Cuthbert-Flynn, JLP Member of Parliament for the St Andrew West Rural constituency, was in a daze when she spoke with the Observer at the scene of the gruesome find.
“It’s a sad moment for everyone in this community and, I dare say, in Jamaica, because we are hearing of too many of our children being taken [away] and when we do find them, they are not alive, they are murdered.”
“Last week I was away and heard of an eight-year-old being murdered, and now this week an 11-year-old. It is too much when we read these things. We don’t know why. This little boy left to go to school, did not reach school, and then for us two days later to find his body,” said Cuthbert-Flynn.
“I think it’s happening too often. We have unsolved murder cases and, when people know that things are possibly not going to be solved, you have a continuation of that. I hope for Mark Leslie and the others that have been murdered, that we still can find the person who murdered them,” she added.