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Nov 29, 2000

Answers on girl murders still in short supply

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They were particularly grisly crimes in which five young Belize City girls were abducted and killed over a sixteen-month period. Despite vows by authorities to solve the crimes quickly and a number of high profile public campaigns to end the violence, the homicides remain unsolved and the public’s attention has drifted elsewhere. Today, with a major private donation toward solving the cases, the police spoke publicly about what can only be described as a study in frustration.

Jacqueline Woods, Reporting

There were more questions than answers at this morning?s press conference. The police high command was asked about the investigations into the child murders, but officials remain tightlipped about the five homicides that took place between October 1998 and February 2000. Police Commissioner, Hughington Williams, says in the past far too much information about the investigation has been publicized and this time around the police will not go down that road.

Hughington Williams, Police Commissioner

“I want to say to the members of the families here that the efforts of the police have never ceased. While we have not been publicizing our efforts, and we think we do not need to do this at this time, you will know as soon as we have something positive to offer you. I cannot rest until we have something positive to give you. The children are our future of the nation and unless we can do something to protect them, something positive, I will not be satisfied. I want to assure you this morning that policing efforts will not wane until we get the kind of results we are seeking.”

However, while the police say they have been gathering information, solving the crime will not be easy. Presently, the Forensic Unit is not properly equipped to deal with sophisticated evidence.

Hughington Williams

“When we compare the type of crime we are experiencing and where our scientists are, we realize that there is much catching up for us to do. We are dealing with sophisticated crimes, criminals who have had the experience many times in one of the most developed countries in the world, and we do not have the same know how to deal with them in our Forensic Department. Therefore we need, I must be factual in saying that there are things that we need to do to catch up.”

The evidence that has been collected like blood and clothing fibers have been sent abroad for analysis. However, Williams says the results from those examinations have been negative. The police have been receiving assistance from the United States, Canada and Australia and three officials from the FBI are presently in Belize collecting psychological and geographical evidence. Minister of National Security, Jorge Espat, says the police are working towards establishing a complete forensic unit in Ladyville.

Jorge Espat, Minister of National Security

“We have double the size of the personnel at the National Forensic; we?ve relocated to a new spacious office; we have recently acquired I believe over sixty thousand dollars worth of equipment and we have sent personnel abroad for training.”

The police have also been receiving some financial assistance in their quest to bring the killer or killers to justice. Prior to the press conference, Julian Castillo, treasurer of the Belize Offshore Practitioners Association, handed over to the police a cheque for twenty-five thousand dollars. In May, the association was approached by the Government of Belize to see how they can assist with the investigation.

Julian Castillo, Belize Offshore Practitioners Assoc.

“We decided to step forward and to ask the members and the response has been this twenty-five thousand dollars. We had hope that it would have been more but we decided to hand this over rather than wait until we get any more.”

Jorge Espat

“We believe that it strengthens the hand of the Police Department, it certainly inaugurates new possibilities. It also reminds us that our work never ends in preventing crime, especially against our young children.”

The money will be used to offer rewards to anyone who gives information that will lead to an arrest and conviction.

Hughington Williams

“It will be information relating to our investigation. I cannot specify the type of information, which in fact that money will be spent on, but I can assure you the monies will be spent on worthwhile information. Not everything that a person drums up out of his or her head, that person will be given money for, but proven information.”

Although the police did not divulge any specific information in the child murder cases, the family members of the victims, who did attend the conference, say they feel optimistic about the police investigation. However, they have some concerns about the way the police have gathered evidence.

June Gabourel, Mother, Sherilee Nicholas

“What concerns me the most is that in one incident that happened in Sandhill, they told the man that they guaranteed his name will not be called. Still when they get the information from the man, they put his name on the news and they said they would guarantee that his name wouldn?t be called. Maybe that’s the reason why people don’t want to come in with information because the police call names.”

The families appeal to the community to come forward with whatever information they may have to help solve the crimes and finally bring justice for the families of Sherilee Nicholas, Jay Blades, Noemi Hernandez, Erica Wills and Jackie Malic.

Although no children have been murdered since February, parents are urged not to become complacent. Police declined to comment when asked whether they believe the killer or killers still lurks among us.

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