Commissioner of Police, Owen Ellington, has refuted claims that the bodies of civilians have been burned and buried to destroy evidence, during the joint military/police operation in sections of West Kingston.
“There have been reports that the security forces have been engaged in burning and burying bodies in a secretive way. Both allegations are false,” Commissioner Ellington said today (May 28) at a press conference held at Up Park Camp in Kingston.
He noted that the area of operation had been visited by the Public Defender, Earl Witter, the Political Ombudsman, Bishop Herro Blair, and the President of the Red Cross, Dr. Jaslin Salmon and “none of these individuals found any sign whatsoever of attempts to burn bodies.”
In reference to allegations of bodies being buried in secret, the Commissioner explained that several badly decomposing bodies were taken to the May Pen Cemetery by undertakers as they could not be stored at their facilities.
Commissioner of Police, Owen Ellington (right), addresses the media during a press conference today (May 28) at Up-Park Camp which was called to discuss the police operation in West Kingston. Beside him is Colonel general of the Jamaica Defense Force, Rocky Meade.
“As is a normal procedure in Jamaica, arrangements were made for those bodies to be collected by the undertakers. They were put in coffins, (and) they were taken to the (May Pen) Cemetery…the police went there (cemetery) along with the pathologist to conduct the autopsies. The bodies were photographed, finger-printed, blood samples taken and they were numbered. They were to be buried on orders from the police. That is no longer to be the case,” he explained.
In relation to the bodies that were seen outside of coffins, Commissioner Ellington informed that criminal elements went inside the cemetery, and overturned some of the boxes, but the remains have since been taken away for storage.
He emphasised that the security forces were acting in accordance with normal procedure and had no intention to bury bodies in secret. “The truth is that none was buried and any person, who wishes to examine the cemetery to look if there were any freshly dug graves, you can do that, we can make it available to you,” he said.
The Commissioner further informed that post-mortem operations will take place starting on Monday (May 31) and on Tuesday (June 1) and Wednesday (June 2) at Madden’s Funeral Home and at a second location in Kingston, and at the Spanish Town morgue in St. Catherine.
He said that all the bodies at the morgue, except one, are unidentified. “Some of them may very well not have come from Tivoli Gardens. We have photographed all of them. We are going to display them in the communities,” he said.
He informed of plans to set up an information hub where the photographs will be displayed in order to give relatives an opportunity to identify the bodies. “They will go to the morgue during the post mortem to make that official identification for investigative purposes and thereafter the bodies may be turned over to relatives for burial,” the Commissioner said.
He said that during the week-end, the security forces would start to provide information to the residents so that they can assist with identifying the deceased.