Ruling delayed in Shemar Weekes inquest

A missing piece of critical information has forced a week’s delay in the long anticipated Coroner’s ruling in the probe into the hanging death of 12-year-old Shemar Weekes.

But along with apparent disappointment at being unable to deliver her judgment Monday, Coroner Manila Renee expressed serious concern about the lack of an information sharing system between police and the Emergency Ambulance Service (EAS) that could save lives.

Renee had promised that, this morning, she would deliver her verdict in the circumstances surrounding the death of the former Coleridge & Parry Secondary School student who was found hanging by his mother Julieann Weekes at their Fryers Well, Checker Hall, St Lucy home on May 14, 2015.

Shemar’s mother Julieanne Weekes leaving court today.
Shemar’s mother Julieanne Weekes leaving court today.

But Renee is still awaiting details that she said would have an impact on her ruling. They include the time police received the call from the scene and the information they received about the boy’s condition.

When the court was called into session today, the Coroner learned that Assistant Ambulance Officer Trevor Bynoe, who took the distress call at the EAS at 9:36 that tragic night, did not speak directly with anyone at the scene, but received second-hand information from police.

“Send an ambulance for Shemar Weekes who attempted to hang himself,” was the extent of the message from the police officer, according to a written statement Bynoe gave to lawmen, and which was read out in court.

Renee said she had been assuming all along that the emergency call to the EAS had been made by someone at the scene and she therefore needed to put the police officer who received the initial call and then passed on the information to the EAS, on the stand.

“The time that night [when the call was first made]  . . . will influence what I write [in the ruling],” Renee said, before she adjourned the case until next Monday. On that day, she expects to have the voice recording from police operations control and any written information regarding the precise nature and content of the initial call, admitted into evidence.

Earlier, during Bynoe’s testimony, the court also discovered that there was no system in place for police to link calls to the EAS, so that callers could speak directly with health care personnel while awaiting the arrival of paramedics.

He told the court that the EAS had been trying for a while to get the police to provide telephone numbers of callers, but that had proven to be a challenge.

“We have had meetings with the police regarding this matter, to the effect of police obtaining numbers from callers for us, so that when required, we could be in touch with those persons regarding the call,” Bynoe testified.

“The police just pass on the call,” he stressed, noting that in Weekes’ case, the officer at operations control did not even indicate whether the boy was dead or alive.

The Coroner expressed grave concern at these revelations, suggesting that lives could possibly be saved if a system were in place where police, callers and paramedics could exchange vital information in a timely manner.

In addition, she also appeared alarmed when Bynoe told her that some “newer Digicel mobile phones” did not recognize 511 as the EAS number, and redirected those calls to the police 911 emergency link.

The only other witness to testify this morning was Greig Gooding, the paramedic who went to the scene of the hanging around 10.04 p.m.  and saw Weekes lying on its left side.

He said there were no signs the boy was breathing and there was evidence of bruising around his neck.

The dead boy’s mother Julieanne Weekes, stepfather Shawn Greaves and great aunt Clarista Daniel all showed up for court today.

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