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Jun 6, 2022

Nora Parham Posthumously Pardoned; Sons Finally Relieved

It was a ceremony like none other on Sunday, with emotions still evidently raw, even fifty-nine years later – a posthumous pardon extended to the only woman to be hanged in Belize after she’d been wrongly convicted of the murder of her policeman partner. Her hanging happened in the early sixties, under Colonial rule when women’s rights mattered little and lawmen were purported to do no wrong in domestic situations. So when Nora Parham, a mother of eight young boys spilled some kerosene from the iron she was using on to the clothing that her abusive common-law husband wore and he later accidentally lit himself on fire, the law came down with brute force against her. But at the ceremony attended by the Speaker of the House, Valerie Woods, Supreme Court Justice, Lisa Shoman, Minister of Human Development, Dolores Balderamos-Garcia, and the Mayors of Belize City and Belmopan, the government sought to once and for all, right an age-old wrong. For the eight sons of the late Nora Parham, the gesture means a lot. News Five’s Marion Ali was present at the ceremony and filed the following report.


Marion Ali, Reporting

It took fifty-nine years for an erroneous conviction and execution that robbed a woman of her life to finally be corrected. On the fifty-ninth anniversary of that miscarriage of justice she was posthumously pardoned. On the morning of June fifth, 1963, at eight o’clock, Nora Parham was executed at the old Belize Central Prison on Gaol Lane. Prime Minister John Briceno, moved by the story behind Parham’s execution, tearfully handed over the Belizean National Flag to the deceased’s eldest son, Harold Parham.

The handing-over of the flag was preceded by Cabinet Secretary Stuart Leslie, who read the instrument, validating the pardon. Ambassador Leslie deputized for Governor-General Froyla Tzalam who is away. While it’s all symbolic, the gesture is significant for the eight sons who lived to see this day, and were all present to witness it.


Harry Parham

Harry Parham, Nora Parham’s eldest son

“We always knew that she was innocent. So we look at this as – they call it posthumous pardon but what I hear mentioned also in the House (is) that it’s actually an exoneration of her character, and that was what we were striving for.”


History has it that Nora Parham intentionally lit her common-law husband, Ketchell Trapp, ablaze. However, details that later surfaced proved not only that she did not start the fire, but that she ran to Trapp’s aid when she heard him screaming. Harry Parham said that the family had interviewed Agripina Espejo, who was present when Trapp gave his statement from his hospital bed. Espejo was shut down when she tried to point out the error that changed Nora’s fate, and from then on, there seemed to be a haste to convict and hang her.


Harry Parham

“Espejo, who was in her late teens at the time, said that she was inside the courtroom when she heard the police read Trapp’s declaration and she immediately rebutted that statement, that it had been changed. She said that they accused Nora of locking Trapp inside the latrine and lighting him on fire. Upon her rebuttal, she was charged with contempt of court. An appeal was sent to the Queen of England and she had agreed to stay the execution, but the correspondence in those days were by either mail or telegram and the correspondence came too late.”


Parham shared that he had to run to Trapp’s own fellow officers to intervene. So too did Trapp’s only son, Anthony that he fathered with Nora.


Harry Parham

“On many occasions, I remember while I was about seven years old – seven, eight – I had to go during the night sometimes at midnight, sometime one o’clock in the morning, I had to go to the police station to ask them to send somebody to take Trapp out of the house.”


But temporary intervention was all that Nora Parham got back then. And the vicious cycle continued until the fateful day. In Colonial days, a woman who reported of being a victim of domestic abuse, particularly at the hands of a lawman, was frowned upon, as the children remember.


Harry Parham

“Women were not encouraged to go to police for help. They probably were even scared to go to ask for help because many times they go in, make their complaints, it is ignored or treated very lightly or sometimes they themselves were looked upon as not the victim but as the oppressor.”


The execution of Nora Parham pulled her eight sons apart from each other, but they found ways of locating each other and to stay in touch. Through the years, they have grown closer to each other and hold their mom’s memory dear to their hearts. And it was evident at Sunday’s memorial when Nora’s granddaughter, Shari Parham-Sanchez paid this tribute to her late grandmother.


Shari Parham-Sanchez

Shari Parham-Sanchez, Granddaughter of Nora Parham

“The day I had to leave you when my life on Earth was through, God picked me up and hugged me and said ‘I welcome you.’ God gave me a list of things that he wished for me to do, and foremost on that list was to watch and care for you. But one thing is for certain though my life on Earth is over I’m closer to you now than I ever was before.”


The sons were all dressed in lavender and black, a silent condemnation of domestic abuse.  It is now what they all want serious action against.


Harry Parham

“Every major town in Belize should have some place manned with personnel that take these issues seriously and compassionately, where each case is recorded and appropriate action taken. They should now have a place they could depend on for counsel to deal with domestic issues and thus would be able to prevent similar occurrences.”


Marion Ali For News Five


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