gspottt•t&t's triggersite for sogi passion & advocacy

20 September, 2009

Kolen Salandy, 16 & Rondell Thomas, 15 found dead in French Ft., Scarborough. Sexual or bias violence in play?

Filed under: Orville London,violence — caiso @ 23:54

Under the headline “Double murder in Tobago: Teen boys found battered, half naked”, Elizabeth Allard in the Express Tobago Bureau reported Sunday 20 September that:

Homicide detectives in Tobago are investigating the killing of two teenage boys whose bodies were discovered shortly before midday yesterday [Saturday] in the French Fort, Scarborough, area.

….

Both bodies, found not far from each other, were battered and bore marks of violence to the neck and throat, and both were found with their underpants and trousers pulled down to their knees.

But in an echo of the John Terry murder in Jamaica, in the following Tuesday’s Express, Allard reported:

One police source, who was on the scene of the murders of the teenagers on Saturday, condemned the information from the Ministry of National Security, which said the boys were found with their underpants and trousers pulled to their knees. This was erroneous and far from the truth, as the boys were fully clothed in their shirts and trousers, he said.

Tobago News later reported, from an exclusive interview with the leader of the prayer group that initially stumbled on Salandy’s body at the Fort:

Contrary to other media reports, the leader said that when they discovered the body of the teen boy, he was fully clothed. “We did not see any pants down to his knees,” insisted the leader.

Carl E Cupid in Newsday‘s Tobago Bureau reported September 20 that:

Police have identified one of the bodies as that of Kelon [Ed.: both the Express and Guardian have been reporting his name as KOLEN, which appears to be correct] Salandy, 16, of Piggott Street, uptown Scarborough….

Salandy is reported to be the son of Kurt Salandy, a TSTT employee and Pinky Mac Farlane-Salandy, his wife, who is a sister of NIB head Jeffrey Mac Farlane. Salandy was a past student of Bishop’s High School, Tobago who had reportedly just started studies at the UWI School of Continuing Studies at Signal Hill, Tobago.

Tobago Channel 5 said that Salandy “was identified by his mother Cheryl who avoided the media” after his “parents received a phone call about their son’s body being discovered.” TV6’s evening newscast that same evening September 19 identified Salandy’s mother as an employee of the THA Division of Tourism.

On Monday September 21, the Express’s Allard reported that:

the second teenager found at French Fort, Tobago, has been identified as 15-year-old Rondell Thomas of Signal Hill.

….

His mother, Ann Thomas, was outraged over the murder of her son, and is calling for the death penalty to resume in the country.

Rondell Thomas was a footballer with the St Clair Coaching School in Tobago and a Third Form pupil at the Signal Hill Secondary Comprehensive School.

“My son and him were friends, they get killed together. All I would like though is that they bring this to justice.”

The following day’s Express published pictures of Thomas and Salandy

n7and on Youtube there is a tribute to Salandy by fellow Bishop’s High School alumni.

Newsday on September 20 also reported:

The bodies, both dressed in long jeans and jerseys, were reportedly discovered sometime after midday in a bushy area at the top of French Fort where a bank of radio and television transmitters is located.

….

There were visible marks of violence on both bodies — one body bore multiple stab wounds while the other had lacerations to the head, according to medical sources.

and the church group who led police to the bodies told the Tobago News “When we arrived, we noticed fresh blood in the area;

although the Express said:

District Medical Officer of Health Dr Mentor Melville said there were no clear-cut wounds on the victims that could indicate a cause of death.

As news reports indicated, autopsies were conducted September 23 by Trinidad-bsed Government pathologist Dr. Valery Alexandrov “at the Scarborough Mortuary…where family members and relatives gathered to receive the results”. In the following day’s Express, Elizabeth Allard reported the autopsies revealed that the teenagers “died as a result of broken necks”. In a story headlined “Autopsy Reveals Painful Death for Murdered Teens”, Tobago Channel 5 provided further details:

several factors led to the death of Kolen Salandy. The autopsy revealed that he suffered chop wounds; a fractured neck; brain contusion possibly caused by a hammer; blunt force trauma; and cervical trauma which we understand may have been caused by his body being forced into positions similar to those of a contortionist.Cause of death for Rondell Thomas was revealed to be blunt force cervical trauma and multiple neck fractures. Chop wounds were also visible. We understand that it would have been a painful death for the young lads.

On the Sunday after the discovery of the bodies, the Guardian ran a story, very similar to the Express’s, by Shastri Boodan, which cited as a source “a release from the Ministry of National Security”. The release said Salandy attended a party at the Esplanade in Scarborough on Friday night [“the popular Radio Tambrin ‘Touch d Road’ caravan weekly fete at the Atlantic Bar along the Milford Road Esplanade”, Tobago News reported on September 26, at Wilson St., according to TV6], and was last seen getting into a car to go home “at the corner of Carrington Street and Wilson Road”. When his parents discovered he had not returned home, they filed a report at the Scarborough Police Station. Newsday on September 26 reported that Thomas also attended the fete.

Early news reports said authorities “believe the boys were killed elsewhere and their bodies dumped in the forested French Fort area overlooking the eastern outskirts of Scarborough” and “both victims may have been killed by the same perpetrator/s”.

In the Express story the Monday after the discovery:

THA Chief Secretary Orville London yesterday expressed outrage, condemning the murders of the teenagers.

London called the act barbaric, and said the Tobago House of Assembly was working towards ensuring that criminals were brought to justice.

In further reporting on London’s Sunday comments, the Guardian published the following day that:

He said: “Any violent crime has to be condemned, but when you have crimes against the very young, that is barbarous, and it should be condemned in the strongest manner.” London said crimes of this manner “cannot be tolerated” by Tobagonians. The THA Chief Secretary said the murders of Salandy and Thomas shocked Tobago, and had affected the sister island in a way that very few things had affected the island in a long time. London said now was the time for introspection by all nationals to look at ways they could act to prevent such crimes from recurring.

London said the THA would take a pro-active approach to deal with the situation. The THA planned to work with the police and offer counselling through its Division of Education, Youth Affairs and Sport, to the relatives and friends of the deceased. London said the crime had personally shocked him, and noted that no parent should have to bury their child under such circumstances.

And in a subsequent article headlined “No tolerance, says Chief Secretary”, the Tobago News added:

London said this was no time to sit on our hands or finger point.

“All of us have to do some introspection as to what we can do to alleviate the situation. This is something that has shocked all of us,” he said.

London said there were lessons to be learnt, some evaluation needed to be made.

London said: “Upon condemning the act there must be a strong signal by the way in which we investigate and by the way in which we ensure those barbarians are brought to justice.

“We have to send a strong signal that this cannot and will not be tolerated in Tobago, and in Trinidad and Tobago,” he added.

On Wednesday 23, the Express‘s Allard reported that:

President of the Hotel and Tourism Association in Tobago, Carol Ann Birchwood James, said the four murders over the weekend on the island were awful and unbecoming of what Tobago represents.

“I knew all murder victims personally and was upset over their murders. I am calling for swift justice to ensure the safety of residents and tourists in Tobago,” she said.

Based on the initial reporting of the story, one Express reader posted the following comment on the paper’s website:

this seems to be a clear cut case of a sex crime committed- it seems quite obvious that there is a sex predator on the run- time is of essence now to find their killers- making use of DNA and good old time investigation skills ( most of it common sense, is needed)

and a Guardian reader had this to say the day after:

As reported in this article it would seem that these two teenagers were brutually attacked by a violent, sick and deranged paedophile/bu**erman! This was abosolutely disgusting and upsetting and I hope the perpetrator/s are brought to justice soon before he/they can strike again.

Some television news stories over the first weekend used the term “sexual violence” when reporting the crime. Tobago residents say French Fort is used by some as a cruising area.

However, as the story developed, the September 22 Express reported:

police sources said yesterday the teenage boys may have been killed following a fracas in the Signal Hill area on Friday night, which continued into Scarborough, and might have been a revenge killing.

Tobago News also noted

sketchy reports that the boys may have gotten themselves involved in an altercation with others in the vicinity of a vendors’ mall in the area.

The Youtube tribute to Salandy offers “condolences also to the families of everyone lost on that day”.

Under the headline “Hunt for Tobago killers”, on Wednesday September 24, Newsday reported several details of the investigation:

Images captured by a security surveillance camera may hold the key to solving the murders….

Police have impounded a Mazda 626 car which they say, the surveillance camera shows Salandy getting into….

According to police, Salandy had attended the popular Friday fete “Touch D Road” in Scarborough and at about 3 am on Saturday, a security camera recorded images of Salandy in the company of two men walking to the Signal Hill taxi stand in downtown Scarborough.

Police said the two men went their separate ways while Salandy boarded a vehicle and sat in the back passenger seat. The footage showed a woman seated in the front.

Police said a man dressed in a stripe jersey later approached the vehicle and spoke to Salandy before walking away. The vehicle drove off before stopping a short distance away.

Salandy got out the vehicle walked towards two men whom he spoke to. Salandy’s cell phone rang and he answered it. The two men then grabbed Salandy and dragged him into a nearby alley where they remained for about 15 minutes.

One of the men left the alley and returned minutes later in a Mazda 626 car in which Salandy was forced into before the car sped off. Thomas was not seen at anytime in the security camera images.

Tobago News also confirmed that “Police sources said the security cameras outside the Scarborough Port picked up images and other vital information which was assisting them in their investigations.”

Newsday identified that a Scarborough CID team “headed by Inspector William Nurse” had visited the scene. The press later reported that three senior Homicide Investigations Bureau officers from Trinidad had been sent to Tobago to take charge of investigations into this and another double homicide that took place over the holiday weekend. C News reported on the first evening of the story that “4 men have since been detained and a motorcar has been seized”, the gold Almera Salandy was seen entering Friday night, according to Tobago Channel 5; and on September 21, Newsday’s Cupid reported that “Police confirmed that several persons have since been detained for questioning in connection with the boys’ killing”. The next day the paper reported further:

Police sources in Tobago yesterday said they are making “positive headway” in investigations into the murders of two teenaged boys whose bodies were discovered at French Fort on Saturday. Newsday was told late yesterday that “significant progress” had been made after a number of persons were interviewed and an arrest is imminent.

Acting Assistant Commissioner of Police (Tobago), Allan Crooks told the media on September 21 that he was “confident that persons responsible for their murders would be brought to justice soon”. On Wednesday 23, he was reported to have said that:

several persons were interviewed in connection with the two murders and allowed to leave. Those persons were not suspects in the murders. “We are nearing our investigations, a lot of work has already been done, and arrests are imminent…”

Tobago News also reported that “Police enquiries have led to the detention of three young men who were up to press time on Wednesday being questioned in connection with the brutal murder” and “a fourth man was being sought for questioning”.

News reports Thursday 24 reiterated that Crooks was indicating that statements had been taken from witnesses, “police were nearing an arrest” and “the perpetrators would be brought to justice in the shortest possible time”.

Saturday 26 in Newsday, Cecily Asson reported on new developments in the case:

Soldiers  joined police officers in a massive manhunt of the forests in Mason Hall, Tobago during the Thursday public holiday as they continued the search for three men wanted in connection with the murders….

Police said one of the suspects is of African descent while the other two are of East Indian descent. On Wednesday, a gardener in Mason Hall telephoned police after three men asked him to use his electrical outlet to charge their cellular phones. A taxi was also seen dropping off food to someone in the forests. Officials at Scarborough Airport and Sea Port have already been alerted to the fact that the three men may be trying to flee the island.

Police also reported that on Wednesday, acting on information, they arrested a man who they said was wearing a striped jersey the night Salandy was killed. The suspect was taken in for questioning but released the following day.

and that

Police sources have indicated that the file on the murders of the teens will be sent to acting DPP Roger Gaspard next week for certain instructions.

On Thursday October 1, both the Express and Newsday reported on a police release issued Wednesday “by communication specialist in the office of the Commissioner of Police, Ann Marie Grant”. Dave Persad and Carolyn Kissoon of the Express’s South Bureau reported that:

the two suspects in the murders…are believed to be hiding somewhere in south Trinidad.

A manhunt has been launched, as the men were spotted in the Princes Town area. And investigators believe the men are seeking help to leave the island by sea.

The search involved officers from the Crime Suppression Unit and Southern Division Task Force.

and in Newsday under the headline “Tobago killers seen in P/Town”, Laurel V Williams added:

Cedros, Moruga and Mayaro police with assistance from the TT Coast Guard have stepped up patrols in these areas. Newsday learnt that from as early as midnight on Tuesday, officers of the Eastern Division Task Force have been combing several areas from Guayaguayare to Ortoire Village.

The release sought “to advise the national community that it is an offence to harbour or aid any person wanted in connection with any serious crime” and “police are pleading with citizens, especially those in South Trinidad, to be vigilant and report any person who is a stranger to their community and who is acting suspiciously”.

spacerOn September 19 Crooks

appealed to persons who might have information about the…murders to contact his office at 639-3739, Scarborough CID at 639-2515 or 635-0075.

Tobago Channel 5 reported September 23 that:

Families are making funeral arrangements for the boys and we understand they will be held sometime next week.

Tobago News reported on October 1 that Salandy “was laid to rest on Tuesday” September 29, “mere days” after his

class at Bishop’s High School graduated in a ceremony at Rovanel’s Resort…

The former 5A1 student had recently written the CSEC examinations and would have graduated if he was alive. In fact, Salandy’s name was printed on the list of students graduating from the last academic year.

Rondell Thomas, the other teenager killed was buried on Monday after a service at the Calvary Road Deliverance Temple.

On Sunday October 11, under the headline “Wanted man shot and killed by police”, Cecily Asson reported in Newsday:2009-10-11-4-1_A_gary_mohammed_1-10.10.09

One of two men wanted in connection with the murder of Tobago teenagers Kelon Salandy and Rondell Thomas was shot and killed in Moruga on Friday night.

Mohammed was shot several times about the body during a shootout with police in a house in St Mary’s Village, Moruga.

Mohammed, operated a mini mart on the Signal Hill taxi stand, downtown Scarborough, police said.

The second suspect, a 32- year-old man of African descent of Mason Hall, Tobago escaped.

He has been identified as Trinidadian Gary Mohammed, 29, of Sangster Hill, Tobago

….

Mohammed and his accomplice have been in hiding since the incident and allegedly fled Tobago two weeks ago using a fishing pirogue which investigators believe they boarded at a beach in Back Bay, Mt Irvine, Tobago.

Relatives confirmed that Mohammed was facing a charge of robbery and kidnapping and was out on $50,000 bail. On Tuesday, his matter came up for hearing in the San Fernando Assizes Court.

Police reported that at about 10.15 pm on Friday they went to a house in Moruga where they were fired upon by the occupants. Police returned fire wounding the men — one escaped and Mohammed was rushed to the Princes Town District Health Facility and later transferred to the San Fernando General Hospital where he was pronounced dead on arrival.

A photograph by Theron Boodan accompanied the article.

Two days later Asson reported that “Murder suspect surrenders in Moruga forest”:

The wanted man, according to police, contacted a friend telling him to get in touch with the police and tell them that he was ready to surrender. According to a police report, at about 9 am, officers from the St Mary’s Police Post and Princes Town Police Station went into the forest off Poui Trace in St Mary’s Village, Moruga where they met and arrested the suspect.

He was taken to the St Mary’s Police Post and later transferred to the Princes Town Police Station where he remains in custody. The suspect is expected to return to Tobago for further questioning.

His surrender came two days after his accomplice Gary Mohammed, 29, was killed in a shootout with the police at a shack in the forests off St Mary’s Village, Moruga. A team of officers acting on a tip-off stormed the shack where the two suspects were hiding for the past two weeks.

and on Friday October 16 Karl E Cupid in Newsday’s Tobago Bureau continued to follow the story:2009-10-16-7-1A_tob_murder_accused_1A

A Tobago man, Alvaro Ayres, 30, also known as Alvaro Bayne, as well as “Josey Wales”, appeared in the Scarborough Magistrates’ Court yesterday charged separately with the murders of two teenaged boys whose bodies were discovered at French Fort, in Scarborough, on September 19 last.

Ayres, who is officially listed as having three addresses — at Bethel, Mason Hall, and Bagetelle No 1 in Scarborough, appeared before Senior Magistrate Annette McKenzie in the Scarborough First Court.

….

The accused, who was dressed in a red, black and white striped jersey, three-quarter length blue jeans, and a pair of rubber slippers, was not represented by a lawyer. He stood expressionless as the charges were read by the Magistrate.

Charges in the matter were laid by Detective Sgt Rhodill Kirk, of the Homicide Bureau in Tobago.

….

The parents and other relatives of the victims were among persons seated in the public gallery inside the courtroom when the accused made his appearance at about 11.15 am.

…Prosecutor Sgt Willie Davis informed the court that DNA samples had been taken from the accused, as well as from the crime scene. Davis said these samples were to be taken to the Forensic Science Centre in Port-of-Spain today.

….

Ayres was remanded in custody, and is to reappear in court on October 20.

gspottt welcomes readers who found us by googling for information about Kolen Salandy and Rondell Thomas. Your visits pushed readership of the blog to record levels. We hope you found our monitoring of the case a helpful public service. All our readers should know why we have followed coverage of this case – because initial reports suggested either sexual violence against the young men or that bias violence might be at play. We are concerned for justice, the victims’ dignity and the pain and healing of the families in all such cases, while recognizing that no one’s sexual orientation and for no boy sexual violence should be a source of shame and hiding. We invite our new readers to check out our other blog entries, and to join our fight for justice, freedom from violence, and quality of life for Trinbagonians of all genders and sexualities.
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2 Comments »

  1. r.i.p kolen. you will always be remembered.

    Comment by akil — 22 September, 2009 @ 03:00 | Reply

  2. Unquestionably tragic, shameful. Thanks CAISO for trying to bring some accuracy to the reportage. Sloppy reports and inaccuracies raise so many questions about the crime. Which is more problematic: people who sure-sure and ready to call names, or partial stories that might marginalise information? I’m left wondering what how complete/truthful the investigation reports will eventually be.

    Comment by Anton — 22 September, 2009 @ 09:47 | Reply


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