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January 05
14:26 2019

By Major Lloyd Jones

As I sat on my couch watching TV on a blessed Christmas morning surrounded by family; the smell of a fabulous McKesey ham in the air as Christmas dinner is being prepared, I couldn’t help but think of those Belizean families who had to spend their Christmas without their loved ones. Especially those families whose loved ones have “vanished.”

Christmas is traditionally Belize’s most family oriented time of the year and so for those whose loved ones just “vanished” the pain of not knowing what happened must be even more intense.

I have heard it said many times over that as painful as death is, it gets better with time. Perhaps it is because we all know that someday we must die. That fact does not make it any easier of course because death still stings for those of us left behind.

If death can bring us such immense pain, I cannot imagine the pain that comes with dealing with a “vanished” loved one. The unending questions; the constant worrying; the unceasing battle between hope and despair. These must all conspire to wreak havoc on the emotions of one’s family as they search for answers.

So absolutely crushing is the emotional pain of dealing with missing loved ones that families soon surrender and say “at least let us find the body”. So wretched is the anguish of a “vanished” loved one, that death itself seems far less painful to the families. Can you, who have never experienced this, imagine how utterly horrible the pain must be that families would rather death?

If we are to be frank, the Police seem too casual in their approach to missing persons. The central focus of the Police seems to be on the sensational murders taking place; mostly in the old capital. In many respects you cannot blame the Police because it is the City murders that tend to create public outcry and it is only public outcry that moves Belmopan!

A missing person does not generate the kind of energy on the part of the Police as does a murder. A missing person report is not treated with the kind of vigor that one would expect, and the already overstressed Police Department would rather not have to deal with those. Perhaps the Police have become numb to missing persons due to what appears to be a high number of teenage girls who go “missing” only to be found later in the company of an adult male (we need to talk about this some more).

The underworld if nothing else learns very fast; they are adaptive and creative in their purveyance of crime and so it seems that they have turned to “disappearing” people. If you “disappear” somebody and murder them you are much more likely to get away than if you kill that person and leave a body as evidence. I have not yet heard of a case in Belize where someone has been tried for murder without a body. If it is so difficult to get murder convictions when people are murdered on the streets in broad daylight and in front of witnesses imagine how difficult it would be to get a conviction where there are no witnesses and no body.

Perhaps this new phenomenon has to do with the shifting legal landscape. Could this emerging phenomenon be as a result of trial without jury? Could it be as a result of new methods of providing evidence such that eyewitness are no longer such an invaluable part of the prosecution? These two approaches to crime fighting were offered as solutions to the embarrassingly low murder conviction rates. Could it be that they have only served to change the way in which we murder each other?

I support the Police. I always have but I would argue that this phenomenon is as a result of the Police’s approach to missing persons. Firstly you must wait twenty four hours before the person can be reported as missing and secondly a response is unlikely to be triggered until at least a day later if at all. Poor investigative work also diminishes the chances of finding the missing person or his/her body. Without sound investigative work there will be no justice for the families of those gone missing.

The pattern so far is that a person goes missing, the families search and search but find nothing, and then somebody stumbles upon a decomposing body. By the time the body of the missing person is found it is already in an advanced state of decomposition, making it all but impossible to determine the cause of death. If the Police cannot prove cause of death then they cannot possibly convict anybody for murder. The person who committed the crime is therefore off the hook and families are left with a lifetime of pain.

Another emerging theory and one that we should not entirely discount is that there might be people out there who are harvesting human organs. Our limited investigative capacity means that such a person can carry on his madness for years without discovery. Belizeans have become too trusting of foreigners; we welcome them with open arms without knowing who they really are. Our vetting process is a joke as we have seen, for example, pedophile after pedophile being discovered in Belize – pedophiles who would have been discovered well before being admitted into Belize if only a cursory inquiry was done into their background. Could it be that we have allowed entry into Belize of a mass murderer? It is not a farfetched idea considering a number of young energetic persons have vanished; the young would make great organ donors even if involuntarily!

Belize needs to do more about these disappearances. Clearly this is a new pattern of crime to which our law enforcement agencies must quickly adapt or else many more families will feel the sting of a “vanished” loved one. The solution to this problem of course is not law enforcement’s alone – all of us as citizens must do our part to address this challenge.

Over the holidays my thoughts and prayers were with the “vanished” and with their families who had to endure a Christmas without them; a Christmas of worry, of despair, of pain.

Our little Belize has become a rough place. The descriptor of “the Jewel” is almost now, a misnomer. Real!

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