Blanchisseuse residents unfazed by murders

Blanchisseuse resident Steven Castillo speaks to Newsday reporter Elizabeth Gonzales on April 29. - ANGELO MARCELLE
Blanchisseuse resident Steven Castillo speaks to Newsday reporter Elizabeth Gonzales on April 29. - ANGELO MARCELLE

BLANCHISSEUSE, a tiny fishing village off the north coast, has been a getaway for many people on weekends who have built vacation homes on the cliffs overlooking the Caribbean Sea, but like so many communities across the country crime is threatening to upend the serenity, according to villagers.

Some residents who spoke to Sunday Newsday during a visit on April 29 said while the frequency of murders might be alarming to visitors, they have become desensitised to such incidents.

Most residents said they keep their heads down and focus on their daily lives.

It is how they make sure they are not the next victim.

But they all agreed the police must develop a comprehensive approach soon to tackling crime in the community before it gets worse.

On April 21, villager Carver Evangelist, 50, of O’Connor Street, was shot dead near his home.

Evangelist’ eldest son, Sherwin Maharaj, 31, was murdered on February 17, 2021, while taking soft drinks to a relative on O'Connor Street.

His younger brother Michael Evangelist, 31, and Nigel Dedier, 51, were killed at a construction site in Blanchisseuse on January 27.

When Sunday Newsday visited the area most residents said despite the recent rash of murders, they feel safe.

“Nobody interferes with you unless you interfere with them first,” said the owner of a small roadside parlour.

Though crime has not affected his businesses he believes if police don't intervene it would affect businesses in the area.

“I’m not satisfied with the work the police up here have been doing. They know certain things and they have been hiding it under the carpet. They know the people involved in the crime and they not doing anything about it. They should get rid of all the officers in that station and replace them with people who want to work,” he said.

Another villager said he hasn’t lost a night’s rest over the recent murders.

“Once they ain't come around me, I good. They could kill out each other up O'Connor Street. This little village we live in eh. If it’s not crime, it's thieving.”

A police patrol returns to the Blanchisseuse Police Station on April 29. - ANGELO MARCELLE

As Sunday Newsday approached a group of men who were at gathered at the side of the road, many of them began to walk in the opposite direction.

Steven Castillo, who was among them, said, “The only problem I have is people coming on my land and stealing my crops. It makes no sense reporting it to the police. What will they do? What have they been doing is a better question.”

The man said he feels safe living in the area. He said family-related or drug-related disputes are the main factors behind recent murders and other serious violence.

At O’Connor Street, there are a few abandoned dilapidated houses. And further into the street, before a steep incline, the Blanchisseuse Pentecostal Church is metres away from where Evangelist and his sons were murdered. A house where Evangelist's sister lived was burnt and shot at, a few days ago, is located nearby.

The area was relatively quiet, and those Sunday Newsday spoke with were open and friendly.

But villagers warned there are areas people avoid.

A resident of O’Connor Street said crime had gotten worse over the years.

“I’m not really unsafe, I am just holding my corner. I don't mix up, I don't go on that side of the road.”

“It not affecting me because I'm not in any crime. I do my little fishing and gardening, so the crime don't bother me.”

Down at one of the bays, a fisherman said something has to be done to restore a sense of peace because his customers don’t feel safe moving around anymore.

Member of the Blanchisseuse Community Council and organiser of the popular North Coast Jazz event Louis Lee Sing says community policing will help restore peace in the area.

Speaking to Sunday Newsday on April 26, Lee Sing said crime “crept” into Blanchisseuse but even with an increase in murders he doesn’t feel the reputation of the community has been damaged.

Blanchisseuse Community Council member Louis Lee Sing. -

“Those incidents are isolated. I do not see what is happening, affecting the growth and the development Blanchisseuse. Our jazz event is a catalyst for the development of a bed-and-breakfast industry in Blanchisseuse.

"We have had two incidents of murders that I would want to add to the national crime. But we have had the other challenges that we have had by way of murder."

He said the recent murders stem from a family dispute over some 16 acres of land after a court order.

“Outside of that, we do have the challenges of most communities where you’re having the odd incident and so, but people are still relatively free to walk and roam the village as a community without troubles or challenges. But, because we are also paranoid about crime in the country the minute you hear of an incident, you begin to believe the worst things of the space and that is unfortunate."

In 2020, Lee Sing told the media “someone has a 'death wish' for the community” after former commissioner of police Gary Griffith announced plans to re-purpose the Blanchisseuse Police Station to be more community-oriented.

Soon after, then head of the North-Eastern Division Snr Supt Winston Maharaj said the plan was to make the officers stationed there more intimate with the community and for operations to be more efficient.

Three years later, Lee Sing said the community is seeing the effects of that decision.

“We are getting the police to understand that they have to recover the lost ground that the community suffered when the former commissioner Griffith sought to re-purpose the police station.

“I along with members of the Blanchisseuse Community Council met recently with the senior officers where the command centre is and we walked through with them concerns, and we highlighted to them that you can't have a police station responsible for such a large geographical area and not have adequate police vehicles and manpower. And so, I believe that has been addressed and is being addressed on an ongoing basis.”

“I remain optimistic that we will return to our quiet once that family and its problems have been sorted out. But as you know these are things, that are easier said than done.

“We must ensure that we stamp out any existing element of criminality. We must stamp it out. But we must also be conscious that Blanchisseuse beaches are all entry points... and so the police have got to develop a plan to ensure the beaches are protected and to take such action that's necessary. The community itself also has to do what is necessary to protect itself from all interlopers.

"If for a moment I thought that we should be concerned about and fearful where we are; I would say that. But at this time, the only thing that I think we need to do is to pause, review where we are and then move from where we are to where we really wish to go.

Blanchisseuse Community Council chairman Sharon Debisette told Sunday Newsday the council is confident the police are working to reduce crime in the area.

“We’ll leave it in the hands of the police to do their jobs.

“We already spoke to the police; they have all the relevant information that they need. And they have information that we don't even know about. In the conversation we had with them they say they are looking at it and they know what is happening. So all we can do is sit and wait to see what's happening.

When asked what programmes – if any at all – the council has developed to help with crime and criminality in the area, Debisette said, “I’m the chairman of the council not an activist.

She added: “I live in Blanchisseuse and I have my family in Blanchisseuse so I have to be very careful what I am doing. I do not want to be a victim. I choose not to be a victim.”


"Blanchisseuse residents unfazed by murders"

More in this section