Girls who survived murderous Ithaca attack on the mend
– struggling aunt takes them in
Kerry Edwards, 13 and her 16-year-old cousin, Samantha Charles whose necks were slashed during an attack at Ithaca, West Bank Berbice on May 8 this year in which Kerry’s mother, Gertrude Edwards, 31, was killed are both on the road to recovery.
Though they experience severe pain at times, the girls are moving on with their lives and are relieved that the alleged attacker, Gladstone Williamson, is behind bars. Williamson was arrested a few days later and charged with murder and two counts of attempted murder.
At the time of the attack, the girls were asleep along with Gertrude and Williamson’s two children, Gladstone Jnr, 6, and five-year-old Althea Williamson.
After stabbing Gertrude several times and cutting her throat, the attacker slashed Kerry and Samantha’s necks, but left the two younger children unharmed.
The two injured girls are now in the care of their aunt, 27-year-old Irene Benn, a kitchen assistant at a Chinese Restaurant in New Amsterdam. Williamson’s mother, Brenda Williamson who resides at Ituni, Berbice River has taken Gertrude’s two smaller children to live there with her.
Irene said the children were reluctant to go at first but she encouraged them to go because it would have been difficult for her to take care of them as well as Kerry and Samantha. She told this newspaper that she has four children of her own – Haffisha 13; Sabrina, 10; Jamal 6 and four-year-old Shania – and that she works “very hard” – from 4 pm to 10 pm – to maintain them. On Sundays she makes time to take the children to church.
Though her house is small and her financial status is not secure, she has accepted the two girls with open arms as no other family member is in a position to look after them.
Benn told this newspaper that along with other bills she has to pay monthly instalments on a sofa set and gas stove she acquired through hire purchase. She is also trying to put aside a little money to make her kitchen more convenient as she plans to extend it and instal a cupboard.
According to her, “I am not in a proper job to earn a lot but whatever little I get I have to try. Gertrude used to help me out with my children but now she is gone.”
Benn said she used to receive public assistance for two of her children but that was stopped because she is earning an income. She said she does not know how she would make out to purchase school uniforms and other items for her children and Kerry.
Benn earns $16,000 a month and she said that while the father of her two younger children also provides money for them, with his job as a labourer he does not earn much.
She said Kerry who attends Berbice High School was a “bright student” but since the incident she has not performed so well. At the moment Kerry needs a bicycle so she can ride to school to save on transportation cost.
Samantha had dropped out of the Vryman’s Erven Secondary School and Irene said she would try to get her to go back but she was not sure if the girl would be accepted. She is also looking at the option of sending her to a private school, but that would have to be after she (Benn) has paid off her “debt.”
She said she does not want to rob the children of their education, pointing out that she came from a poor family of 10 siblings and did not have an opportunity to complete hers.
The woman related that she was just eight years old when her mother walked out of the home, leaving her and her siblings behind with their blind father.
Because of their economic situation, she became involved in a relationship with an elderly man at a tender age. She said she became pregnant at the age of 14 and was forced to drop out of school.
Pain in the neck
The wounds on Samantha and Kerry’s necks are healing and while they appear to be dried up from the outside the pain is still intense at times.
According to them: “We have to hold down we neck when it start to hurt.” The girls spent a few days in the Intensive Care Unit and one week in hospital; they still have to go to the hospital for monthly check-ups.
The girls said they both felt they would have died that night and are very thankful to have survived the ordeal. However, they are still being haunted by the memory of Gertrude being slashed to death as they watched helplessly.
Kerry recalled that on the night her mother was murdered, she was awakened by her assailant pressing against her foot which was hanging off the bed.
She sat up and then realized that the attacker had her mother pressed down on the floor and was “cutting she neck. Then I shake him and told him to come off my mother; don’t kill she.”
With that, she said, he turned, grabbed her and “start to cut me neck. Samantha wake up at the same time and he cut she neck too and then he run away.” She said it was when the attacker turned his attention to her and Samantha that her mother seized the opportunity to run out of the house.
Shortly after the man left, Kerry said, her mother returned “holding her neck and trying to tell we something but she couldn’t talk. She run out back the house and that was the last we saw her alive.”
Edwards went to a neighbour’s house obliquely opposite where she collapsed and died.
The girls said that at first they did not realize that they were so badly slashed and then they started to feel the pain.
Kerry said her brother picked up their mother’s phone that was left on the bed and attempted to call the police but she told him not to for fear that the man was still hiding outside. She also said that a candle that was on the floor fell on the mat and caught afire and they had to put it out.
She said they remained inside for a while and then when they thought it was safe, Samantha and her brother ran out to look for Gertrude and to get help.
According to Kerry, the police came and took statements from them. She said after answering some of the questions she asked the police not to ask her “anything else because my neck was bleeding and I was in pain.”
The police then took the girls to the hospital.
Gertrude, a vendor at the New Amsterdam stelling had moved out of her Angoy’s Avenue, home last October, reportedly to escape abuse at the hands of her reputed husband.
Kerry said that her mother never allowed him to visit them at Ithaca but recalled that a few weeks before the attack, the man arrived suddenly in the middle of the night, lit the lamp and was walking up and down in the house.
“We don’t know how he got in but me mother told him not to come back because it was not her place. They started to argue and she tell he ‘like you come to kill me’,” Kerry said.
“Then he tek a knife and went over she and say ‘if ah de come fuh kill yuh ah woulda tek de knife and slit your throat and then kill yuh daughter and yuh niece’.”
Kerry said that despite the man’s abusive behaviour she had liked and respected him like a father.
To all of the persons who indicated that they would like to make contact with Irene Benn in order to render assistance, here is her telephone number 685-1448.