Cellphone dispute ends in murder
ST JOHN’S –– A quarrel between two convicted prisoners over a cellular phone yesterday ended with one of them being stabbed to death with a near 12-inch long blade.
Akeem Browne, 22, was reportedly stabbed in the chest around 11:30 a.m. Police said he was rushed to Mount St John’s Medical Centre (MSJMC) where he was pronounced dead about an hour later.
The Observer was reliably informed the two inmates had a fight last month for the same reason –– a cellular phone.
After yesterday’s incident, a source said prison authorities questioned the inmate who allegedly stabbed Browne and called in the police and army personnel.
“The police and Defence Force now have the jail on lockdown. No visitors can come in because of the problem we’re having in here. There’s the killing; the day before another convicted man was chopped, he nearly lost a hand; and couple days before that there were two fights. It’s a lot of things happening in here,” a prison official said on condition of anonymity. “We’re facing a lot of challenges and they won’t go away no matter how many more prison officers are hired. We need a better prison and some people shouldn’t share cell with some people, but right now everything is just crowded.”
Efforts to reach Prison Superintendent Percy Adams for comment was unsuccessful.
Prison sources told the Observer the incident occurred in the passageway of the “N” Block.
This is the country’s eighth homicide for the year.
One eyewitness describing the incident said: “They [two inmates] were quarrelling over a phone. I believe it was one of those Samsung phones and the guy [name omitted] rush[ed] [Browne] and push[ed] the cutlass in [his] chest,” an eye witness reported.
The source said none of the other inmates who witnessed the attack, tried to stop the confrontation.
The injured youth reportedly walked back to his cell where he collapsed.
“These things happen so often, dem inmates didn’t even react. Nobody say anything, nobody do anything,” the source added.
He said it took some time before Browne was taken from the prison to hospital because the authorities immediately locked down the prison after the incident.
The inmate who stabbed Browne is reportedly 24 years old and is serving a 12-year sentence for armed robbery of a service station, while Browne was serving four years in prison for robbing someone of a bag with valuables.
His sentence would have expired on January 22, 2015.
Anika Henry, an aunt of the deceased, described the dead inmate as a pleasant person, who made a one-time mistake from which he was learning.
The jail, which was built to house 150 inmates, now has about 360. Some cells have as many as ten inmates per cell, particularly in the section where prisoners on remand are held.
Apart from the overcrowding, smuggling of contraband into cells is another problem.
The dead inmate and his alleged attacker were fighting over one such prohibited item –– a smartphone. Inmates are not allowed cellular phones, but on many occasions the authorities have found prisoners with phones.
There have been at least two instances, in recent months, when inmates called into radio stations to complain of the conditions inside the overcrowded facility.
Two months ago, two inmates –– triple murder convict Avie Howell and remanded accused fraudster Kenroy Marshall –– escaped from the maximum security block of the jail.
Howell was killed during his recapture and Marshall was shot when police caught him.
Following that incident, Attorney General Steadroy “Cutie” Benjamin said a committee would be established to investigate how the duo escaped. To date, there has been no word on the progress of the police-led investigation.