Jamaica: 3 suspects arrested in women's beheadings

August 2, 2011 - 9:59 PM

KINGSTON, Jamaica (AP) — Police arrested three suspects in the grisly slayings of a mother and daughter whose beheadings during a home invasion last month renewed a sense of fear and outrage among crime-weary Jamaicans, officials said Tuesday.

Six other suspects are being sought for the beheadings of Charmaine Rattray and her 19-year-old daughter, Joyette Lynch on July 20, police commanders said in a news conference at the Jamaica Constabulary headquarters in Kingston. Criminal charges were expected to be filed soon.

"We are, I want to assure you, committed to our task and we will continue to investigate as robustly as we can," said Assistant Police Commissioner Novelle Grant.

The beheadings of the mother and daughter during a home invasion at night in a typically quiet neighborhood on the outskirts of troubled Spanish Town sent a shock wave through much of the island's society.

Authorities said the killings appeared to be related to a power struggle within the Clansman gang, which has been at war for years with the One Order gang over drug and extortion rings.

To avenge a death or send a message, Jamaican gangs sometimes will murder someone who merely lives in a neighborhood controlled by rivals.

Two days before the women were butchered, 18-year-old Scott Thomas, a reputed Clansman named by police as a suspect in several killings, was decapitated in his Spanish Town home by a group of men armed with guns and machetes. In an apparent copycat crime that same week, 37-year-old Gary Smith of the volatile Kingston community of August Town was beheaded by a group of attackers who dragged him out of his house. His attackers are still at large.

National Security Minister Dwight Nelson congratulated investigators for arresting the three suspects in the women's murders.

"The security forces have signaled they will not cower under the brute force and barbarity of heartless criminals who are bent on unleashing nationwide fear and anguish," Nelson said in a statement.

Prime Minister Bruce Golding said the beheadings deeply rattled islanders as security forces are trying to get a handle on the island's violent crime problem amid an anti-gang crackdown. He said a sense of fear was palpable during a recent visit he made to the neighborhood of Lauriston, where the women were killed in their beds.

"The most effective way to deal with this and to send a clear signal that this society is not going to tolerate it is to work as feverishly as I know the police are working to bring to justice those who are responsible," Golding said last week on his monthly radio show.

Some residents in the community fled their homes after the slayings of the two women, fearing for their lives.