Sorrowful Sunday in Tobago – pensioner killed in fire, teen chopped to death

DEADLY BLAZE: Denzel Clarke, 24, near the burnt house of his neighbour Christiana Neptune-John who died in the fire on Sunday morning in Golden Lane, Tobago. PHOTO BY DAVID REID -
DEADLY BLAZE: Denzel Clarke, 24, near the burnt house of his neighbour Christiana Neptune-John who died in the fire on Sunday morning in Golden Lane, Tobago. PHOTO BY DAVID REID -

AN 87-year-old woman was burnt to death after becoming trapped in a fire which gutted her Golden Lane, Tobago home during the pre-dawn hours on Sunday.

This was the first of two tragic incidents which rocked the island in an eight-hour span and came before a teenager was hacked to death by a relative in Mason Hall. The murder was said to be the result of a land dispute.

The charred corpse of Christiana Neptune-John, who lived alone in a small wooden house, was found by fire officers who responded to a distress call around 4 am.

The pensioner's neighbours – 24-year-old Denzel Clarke and his stepfather – tried to save the woman, but the blaze was too intense.

Newsday understands the house was built with just one door and two windows.

Her body was ordered removed to the Scarborough mortuary by DMO Salandy.

Divisional fire officer David Thomas told Newsday that investigations are continuing to determine the cause of the fire.

When Newsday visited the scene, Neptune-John’s niece Esilma Forde said the news of her aunt’s death caught her off-guard. “It real ketch meh – it real sad, can’t even describe this.” She described her aunt as "quiet and kind-hearted and loving.”

Another relative, who wished to remain anonymous, said she always thought Neptune-John would pass away peacefully because of her age. She said the tragic circumstances of the death has left her shocked.

Electoral representative for Plymouth/ Golden Lane Zorisha Hackett, who also visited the scene, said she met Neptune-John just over a year ago and they became fond of each other.

“Once a month since then I would always check up on her.

“I went up by her last Thursday – she said she had some stuff that she wanted me and her to read, so I didn’t even get to read for her because this was supposed to happen tomorrow (Monday).

"So I was supposed to go back and meet with her in the morning and that is why this affected me so much – it wasn’t just somebody telling me an elder passed away, it is somebody I started having a really close relationship with and I was there just late last week and I was supposed to see her tomorrow.”

Hackett said she arrived at the scene shortly after 5 am – when the curfew ended – after residents contacted her.

“I stayed until the remains were removed and they opened the body bag after they brought her down the hill for her niece to identify the body – there was really nothing to identify.” Hackett said on her first visit to Neptune-John, she had discussed the pensioner's living conditions.

“I told her I was uncomfortable; she also had a little shed where she used to do her numbers in, and I told her I think you should be a bit more comfortable, and I even offered to do a little washroom for her.

"I told her I was very concerned about the ventilation of the building with the two small windows and the one door, and she said she was very comfortable and that I shouldn't do anything to change the way she accustomed living.” Hackett lamented there is no fire station within close proximity on that side of the island.

“My challenge has been and one of the things I spoke to on the campaign trail is the fact that we don’t have access to an ambulance and a fire appliance somewhere stationed in the district because I found that on this end, Plymouth/Golden Lane, we have so many fires and the response time, I mean they (firemen) come as fast as they could but..."

She said the situation has made her even more concerned for other elderly residents. “We may have other seniors living in homes where exits and access to the ins and outs may be limited.

Hackett said she intends to reach out to the THA Division of Health, Wellness and Family Development to garner support for others who may have been affected by the fire and the woman's death.

“The neighbour’s children – the Kolars family – they were there looking on, witnessing the actual fire and all the efforts being made to rescue Miss Neptune-John. So I know that those children may need some counselling. They were asking their mummy why this had to happen and things like that."

TEEN CHOPPED TO DEATH

In the other incident on Sunday, a land dispute is believed to be behind Tobago's fifth murder for 2021.

Jamal Sebro, 18, died on Sunday after suffering a deep chop wound to the left side of his neck.

According to police, around 11.20 am, Sebro was at his Farmer's Trace, Jaegar's Hill, Mason Hall home when he got into an argument with a male relative. Police said the relative was armed with a cutlass and the deceased was holding a piece of clay brick.

Sebro was allegedly chopped on his neck by the relative. He ran a short distance away and collapsed in nearby bushes, where he died. The suspect was later arrested by police.

Speaking with reporters at the scene, Sebro’s mother Shunelle Bobb, said she was shocked at how the incident unfolded.

CHOPPED TO DEATH: Jamal Sebro, 18. -

She said the killer came with two female relatives at the house on Sunday morning.

"She said she wanted to speak to me and we went in the back of my building speaking. He called her away and told her don’t speak to me, don’t have no dealings with me and she told him, 'behave yourself, I’m speaking with the lady,'” Bobb said.

She said at that point her son came out and began arguing with the male relative.

She said the argument escalated and another relative came to hold Sebro back. But in the melee, Sebro slipped and fell and this was when he was chopped by the other relative.

"He (Sebro) got up, walked a little way and then fall down.”

Sebro's mother said she was still stunned at how a peaceful Sunday morning could turn bloody in the blink of an eye.

“I don’t even believe it. I don’t even know what to say."

She said her son was not a confrontational person. “He wasn’t a rude person, always cool going his merry way.” She claimed the property in question had been given to her by another relative.

“He (the suspect) have a problem since I started to build. After that, every time he see me, he have something to do right by me.

“Look I just come in the house Saturday – is just Saturday I take up my children and come in the house – he start to dig behind my house to plant post. He believes to himself that all the land is his own, but it's really family land."

The mother of five said Sebro was her first child. She is hoping for justice. “I hoping I get justice, I want justice – not because it’s my (relative who committed the crime), I want justice.”

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