The grandmother of eight-year-old Imani Green, the British schoolgirl shot dead in a grocery store in Jamaica while on holiday, has spoken of the moment she heard the news and rushed to see her grand-daughter “in a pool of blood”.
Sandra Fisher, who lives in Jamaica and was in the northern coastal village of Duncans on Friday night when Imani was killed, said: “My two little granddaughters were there and when one came back I said ‘Where is the baby?’.
“We went to the shop and I saw a little girl lying down in a pool of blood. I started to cry and everyone was crying and saying: ‘Why did they kill the little girl?’ She is such a pleasant child; she is the daughter of my son who migrated to England around seven years ago.”
Imani’s cousin Brandese Brown, who witnessed the shooting, told ITN the gunman was wearing a hood over his head. “I could see the shot coming out of the gun, just a spear of fire,” he said.
Eight people have been arrested in connection with the shooting and are being questioned by Jamaican police. Deputy Supt Steve Brown said: “We have taken people into custody as we search for a motive for the attack.”
It was initially thought that Imani had been killed in a gang retaliation shooting, but Jamaica’s Security Minister Peter Bunting has said he believes it was linked to a lottery scam. “The initial report that I received from the police suggests that this shooting is a reprisal for an earlier shooting a couple of months ago, and that that shooting, the motive for it was lottery scam related,” he said.
The scam involves Jamaican criminals calling elderly Americans in the country’s mid-west, telling them they have won the lottery, and that they need to pay a fee to release the money. Jamaican police estimate that $50m (£31.8m) was transferred into Jamaican accounts as a consequence of the scam last year alone.
The con has been linked to 500 deaths in the last five years, and accounts for more than half of violent crime in the part of Jamaica where the shooting took place.
Imani was on holiday with her mother and several other family members, three of whom were also wounded in the shooting. Her brother and other family members have flown from their home in Balham, south London, to Jamaica.
Imani had sickle cell anaemia, and had been given special permission to go to the island for around a month, as the warmer weather was better for her condition. She was to attend a primary school in the country.
A special assembly was held this morning at Fircroft Primary School in Balham, where Imani was a pupil, with prayers read for the little girl and her family. Staff and children are now being offered counselling.
“We felt it was in Imani’s best interest to be there rather than here at this time,” said Anne Wilson, the school’s headteacher. “Today and for the next few days and weeks it’s going to be difficult for [the other pupils], but we’re here to support them. Imani was a happy, playful child who was popular with staff and pupils alike. She was dealt with her illness very bravely.”
Speaking from his home in Battersea, Imani’s cousin Marc Palmer, 18, said: “I’m doing okay. The family are over there, but I haven’t spoken to them. I don’t think there is going to be a memorial, I haven’t heard of one. The family are in complete shock.”
He added: “The last time I saw Imani was at my mum’s wedding last year. She looked really pretty that day, wearing a dress. She was a normal girl with no particular interests.”
Nathaniel Peat works with Jamaicans Inspired, which seeks to connect members of the UK’s sizeable diaspora with their roots. He was born in England and grew up partly in Jamaica. Now living back in the UK, he said that the country’s Jamaican diaspora was “shocked” by a crime which is certainly not the norm.
George Ruddock, editor and Managing Director at GV Media, publishers of Britain’s oldest and biggest black newspaper The Voice, said that Jamaicans in the UK are unlikely to see the killing as linked to murders or “returnees” which have taken place in the past.
It seems to have happened in what is a small, quiet, ‘drive-through’ town; you would not expect this type of thing there. In Kingston, as in any major city, there is gang violence and crime – that is no different to London, Manchester and Glasgow.
“Jamaica is no longer the most violent country in the Caribbean, they have worked hard to bring down the murder rate. Where it is still prevalent, it is mainly localised to parts of Kingston. Duncans is not the sort of place where I would be worried about going; I have stayed there before and passed through many times.
“The Jamaican diaspora in the UK is not at all dissuaded from visiting home by what appears to be an isolated incident. You hear about gun and knife crime in London and it does not stop us from going out to work.
“Our hearts go out to her and her family – we feel her loss like a sister.”
Duncans is a very rural part of Trelawny, this type of incident is isolated, I wouldn’t expect it would be a regular thing. Like most countries, most of the crime takes place in the metropolitan areas like Kingston and Montego Bay. Duncans is off the beaten track.
“I do not think it would register with the British Jamaican diaspora, because it appears to be an isolated case, rather than being linked with Imani’s status as a visitor from London. It certainly does not appear to be something that regularly happens to returning residents.
“It is quite a successful move on the whole: you rarely hear of people coming back to Britain saying they have change their minds. Jamaica does suffer from crime but it is not vastly different to other countries in that respect.”