Norman Grindley/Deputy Chief Photographer
A relative of one of the men killed at Green Bay, St. Catherine, 30 years ago, wearing memorabilia yesterday in Kingston.
Glenroy Sinclair, Assignment Coordinator
After his narrow escape from the jaws of death 30 years ago at the Green Bay military range in St. Catherine, Ian Brown is still shell-shocked. He remembers the controversial killings as if it had happened yesterday.
"Every time I see soldiers in uniforms and listen to the Green Bay song (They Can't Run Away on Judgment Day by Glen Richards) I feel really sad. I still remember everything clearly, especially the gunshots and the cries of my friends pleading for their lives. It was total wickedness," Ian Brown, one of the five men who survived, tells The Sunday Gleaner,
On January 5, 1978, 14 men from the Jamaica Labour Party stronghold of Southside, central Kingston, were escorted to the military range at Green Bay, St. Catherine, by soldiers. The men were lured with the offer of jobs. Five of them were allegedly shot dead by the soldiers, resulting in a scandal for the ruling People's National Party.
Before the incident
Those killed were identified as Norman 'Ghutto' Thompson, a former national footballer, Howard 'Gargo' Martin, Glenroy Richards, Winston 'Saddle Head' Hamilton and Trevor 'Gold Eye' Clarke.
Allegations are that the men were recruited to work by a man known as Junior Star, who claimed he was a member of the security forces. Further allegations were that the men from Southside were promised a salary of $500 per week, plus each person would receive a Datsun motor vehicle.
On the night before the incident, most of the men who took the trip, went to the Palace Theatre to watch the movie Honour Thy Father. It was an action-packed film that involved gun play.
"Is that show (movie) saved my life. When I saw one of the soldiers hug Saddle Head around a corner, I heard one shot. I got flat immediately. My sixth sense told me that Saddle Head was dead. More shots started to fire and I began to run," related Brown.
He ran uphill, through the bushes, ignoring the pain caused by prickles.
"While running, I could still hear the gunshots and my friends crying out in pain. I ran until I saw a road. I then hitched a ride in a van back to King Street, downtown Kingston," the pint-sized Brown recounted.
It was a different experience for another survivor. Dodging bullets, Delroy Griffiths ran and jumped from a cliff into the sea to save his life. He was picked up by fishermen in a boat.
Scarred for life
The impact of the incident has left Griffiths scarred for life. He walks the streets of Kingston, most times with a box on his head, or bags in his hands, looking like an insane person, but don't be fooled by his attire.
His two sons and common-law wife have since migrated to the United States. He does not have a family and is homeless. According to Griffiths, the memories of Green Bay have wrecked his life.
Speaking with The Sunday Gleaner, S Man (not his real name), who was one of several persons who chose not to make the trip, explained that the deal about the promised work was initiated by a man named Junior Star, and Saddle Head. He said prior to the Green Bay incident, some of the deceased and survivors had gone to the Forum Hotel in St. Catherine where they met men claiming to be senior military officers.
'I became suspicious when they said that we would transporting some guns and will be escorted by soldiers in front and from behind. I raised the question that if soldiers will be escorting us, then the boss don't need us. He could just use the soldiers to transport the illegal guns where he wants them to go," said S Man.
The concern was raised the night before the incident in a yard on Ladd Lane in Southside. At this stage, the men became disinterested and declined to go on the mission.
"If they had listened to men, nobody would have died," recalls S Man.
Of the five survivors, only four are still alive. Ruddy Nesbeth died last year, while Tony Spencer and 'Fire Booger' are living in the United States. Griffiths and Brown are still in Jamaica.