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Feb 25, 2020

The Horrific Murder of a Canadian National in Hopkins

James Slemp

A horrific murder occurred in the south.  The body of a Canadian national was removed from a creek after he went missing for three days. James Slemp lived a quiet life at a farm, but on Friday his life was cut short. It is suspected that a former farmhand brutally murdered the elderly man, partially decapitating him and then disposing of his body in a nearby creek. News Five’s Duane Moody reports. 


Duane Moody, Reporting

James Slemp has been living in Belize for about fifteen years. Originally from Nova Scotia, Canada, the seventy-nine-year-old made Hopkins Village in southern Belize his home. He first lived in heart of the village and later relocated to this remote location, referred to as the Fresh Water area, which is off the main road into the village. There, he had a farm and lived a very humble life, while being helpful to villagers.


Dwight Punzel, Friend of Deceased

“When he first came to Hopkins, he lived in town, near the beach. But then he got tired of reading books and watching movies. He said he wanted to go back to farming so then he bought the property and he was raising Brahman cattle. He had just finished butchering one of the steers like the day before he died. And he butchered the steer and the freezer is full of the meat.”


Jim, as he was affectionately known, had no relatives living in Belize; he siblings live in Canada. In 2019, several items were stolen from Slemp’s property when he was visiting with his family in Canada. News Five understands that on Friday, Slemp confronted a former farmhand about a planer tool that was among the stolen items. That dispute reportedly led to the older man being attacked with a machete. Later that afternoon, the neighbours realized that Slemp was missing and on Friday night, a missing person’s report was filed.


Dwight Punzel

“They told me Saturday that he was missing. All I knew is that he and the gentleman from across the creek were in a dispute. Jim went to confront him about stealing some things and I think that’s when it happened.”


Duane Moody

“So he was attacked?”


Dwight Punzel

“Yes, Jim was attacked; violently killed. Jim had hired this man. I am not saying his name because I don’t want to… We even had him work for us sometimes too. Sometimes we would pay him and he would come and help. But Jim hired him and then after a while he said, no you can’t keep working for me because I can’t trust you.”


Following the report, friends and police began searching the area for Slemp. They would later find his crocs footwear floating downstream. Fearing that the worst had happened to him, the men took to canoes along the creek. It was not until Monday morning that the decomposing body of the Canadian national was found in the creek; his head had been almost severed.


Joseph Myvett

ACP Joseph Myvett, Head, National Crimes Investigation Branch [File: February 24th, 2020]

“Shortly before midnight, one Thomas Pou visited Hopkins Police Station and he reported that his friend, one James Slemp, seventy-nine years Canadian national who lives somewhere on the Hopkins Road was not answering his phone and was being reported missing as the last time Mister Slemp was seen and heard from was sometime around midday on Friday. As a result, police launched an investigation within the area, conducting searches. A short while ago, his body was recovered in a lagoon, not too far from his residence.”


Dwight Punzel

“We had a prayer meeting over here; we prayed (crying) that we find him quick. They were ready to search all day, all the way to the lagoon. They were gonna look all the way. We had kayaks, canoes, but they just found him when they started going down the trail on the other side of the creek, they found him maybe in twenty minutes. They were thankful.”


Duane Moody

“Did you get to see?”


Dwight Punzel

“I could have, I didn’t want to. I only want to remember him alive.”


Bloodstains can be seen on an adjacent property where it is believed that Slemp was killed before his body was dumped in the creek. News Five has confirmed that the suspected weapon used in the murder was retrieved and that a woman has been detained. The suspect, whose name is being withheld at this time, is a Guatemalan national who reportedly has military training. That person is still being sought by police, who have made contact with their Guatemalan counterparts.


ACP Joseph Myvett

“Police are seeking one person whom they believe can assist them in this investigation.”


Dwight Punzel says he knew Slemp for about three years, since he started development in proximity to his farm. From all accounts, Jim was a generous person that always wanted to help others.


Dwight Punzel

“Jim was very a generous man. He supported Julian, he is from Hopkins and he is like a father to him and he is also taking care of his grandkids, who are Julian’s children. And he would have them here every week. Bad things can happen everywhere. But I guess you have to be aware of your surroundings. But I don’t feel fear because we are trusting ourselves; we are trusting in God to protect us.”


Duane Moody for News Five.

Viewers please note: This Internet newscast is a verbatim transcript of our evening television newscast. Where speakers use Kriol, we attempt to faithfully reproduce the quotes using a standard spelling system.

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