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Schoolboys slaughtered

Published: 
Friday, January 22, 2016
Laventille residents on teenagers’ murder:
A crime scene investigator at Picton Road, Laventille, where Mark Richards and De-Neil Smith were shot dead while returning from school yesterday. PHOTO: ABRAHAM DIAZ

Slaughter of the innocents. That was how Laventille residents yesterday described the double murder of two schoolboys, who were dragged from a taxi and shot dead while on their way home at Upper Picton Road.

The victims have been identified as Success Laventille Secondary School students Denelson Smith, 17, and Mark Richards, 16, by residents of Upper Picton Road, Laventille. 

Mark Thomas, a member of Project Reason, who lives in the community, told the T&T Guardian that the killing of the two was a slaughter. 

“If I could speak to the gangsters and them I will tell them that in all wars there are rules of engagement, please excuse the non-combatants. If you know there are people who not in this war, I can’t even call this a war that what happened was slaughter. They picking out the best fruits,” Thomas said.

He said Smith was an aspiring pilot, and had been attending aviation classes every July-August vacation. Thomas said crime was a disease and it should be treated as such, adding that one cure was for the people to unite against the wrongdoers and co-operate with the police.

“Maybe we could stop a retaliation, we as the people have the power but we keeping silent. We have to come together and take away the power from them (killers),” he added. 

Police said the teens, both Form Four students, were on their way home with two other classmates when gunmen stopped the car they were in, ordered all the children out and shot the two teens.

Smith collapsed and died near Fatima Trace while Richards died a short distance away. The teens lived not from where they died. Smith lived at Mulrain Trace, Picton, and Richards at Sogren Trace. The killing police said happened around 3.15 pm.

At the murder scene yesterday Smith’s brother, Devin, called for a ceasefire among warring gangs.

He said his brother was always indoors and only ventured outside when it was time for school or when he was going out to lime with friends out of the area. He said his brother was a good person who got along well with all.

“I hear people laughing up the road, saying they get two and they laughing,” Devin said. 

Smith’s mother screamed that her son’s death will become just another statistic and that no justice wil come out of her son’s killing. Overcome with grief she could not be interviewed when approached at the scene. 

Both police and residents were wrestling with a plausible motive for the shooting as neither teens were said to be involved in anything illegal. 

A woman, who lives not too far from where the boys were killed, said she has lived in the area for most of her 60-plus years and described the tragedy as “heart-rending.” The woman said the presence of police officers in the area could not be a deterrent until the minds of mankind change.

Her neighbour said he was just entering his home when he heard the gunshots and later saw Smith’s body a short distance from his car which was parked along Picton Road. 

“I accustomed to this but this is the first time that it was so close. I living here all my life, 54 years, and we tired of this shooting,” he said, suggesting a police post in the area may be a deterrent. 

Cops concerned over murder rate

In a telephone interview with the T&T Guardian yesterday head of the Homicide Bureau, Snr Supt Oswald Cudjoe, said the police would work to solve the murders as soon as possible, given that from all initial information the teens were not involved in anything illegal. 

In an interview before the murders yesterday, Cudjoe said the hierarchy of the Police Service was concerned with the murder rate and have been trying to combat it but was being starved of vital information that the public could offer.

 He said while the police were doing what they could, without the public’s assistance it was a major stumbling block.

Cudjoe added that of the 33 murders for the year two have been solved with a teenager and a 53-year-old man before the court charged with murder. 

He added: “Between December and January that is normally a high period and we are conscious of that and have put things in place like increased patrols to help stem the tides. 

“But there are sporadic murders and murders happening out of the hot spots. I believe we have capacity and ability to arrest the thing. People want the murders solved but they don’t want to come forward. 

“We cannot do it alone, we need the assistance. The solve rate will increase. We will bring it down to an acceptable level but as I read, man heart is evil.

“No one knows when a man is going to kill someone. What we will tackle are gang violence and organised crimes. We have to focus on that,” Cudjoe added.  ​

There will be a probe—Garcia 

Education Minister Anthony Garcia reacted with horror and anger yesterday after being informed about the double murder of two students.

A statement from the Education Ministry last night said Garcia, who is attending a University of the West Indies meeting in Jamaica, stated that officials of the Student Support Services would visit the Success Laventille Secondary School today to provide grief counselling to both classmates and staff.

“I am disturbed by the fact that our students are not safe while using public transport and what is even more disturbing is that they were killed while in school uniform. I will be calling for a full investigation into this matter as incidents such as this should not be allowed to occur,” the release quoted the minister as saying.

Police have identified the students as Mark Richards, of Sogren Trace, Picton Road, and Denelson Smith, of Mulrain Trace, Laventille. The release said both the police and MTS security at the school have confirmed that Richards was a student of the school but did not attend classes yesterday morning. 

According to police they were passengers in a taxi when gunmen pulled up and opened fire on them. They were killed instantly. Health Minister Terrence Deyalsingh is currently acting as the Minister of Education.