One year after sex worker Wesley Holder was brutally slain and his bloodied body left near a city church, police are yet to apprehend those responsible.
In his memory, his relatives, friends and members of the Society Against Sexual Orientation Discrimination (SASOD) held a vigil and walk on Saturday.
The small group of about 20 persons holding a banner, flag and placards first gathered at the site where Holder’s body was found on the morning of January 11, 2013 – just off of High Street behind the Carnegie School of Home Economics. The area is now overgrown with high grass but all of those taking part in the vigil walked to the spot where Holder’s body was found.
Tears flowed and the grief was evident. A moment of silence was observed before the group headed to Smyth Street as they chanted “We need justice! We need justice!” The group continued into Brickdam and then to King Street en route to the Brickdam Cathedral where the then 19-year-old Holder often went. As the group passed the police station, police officers occupying the barracks could be heard shouting derogatory remarks before erupting into bouts of laughter.
Wiping tears from her eyes, Holder’s aunt Paula Niles said, “me ain’t feel nice a tall because since me nephew dead, up to now me ain’t really hearing nothing.” She told Stabroek News that persons were held in connection with the murder but they all claimed they had nothing to do with it. Niles said that since then, she has heard nothing about whether a suspect was being sought or any other aspect of the police investigation. “I personally feel hurt because ah day like today he woulda deh with we. He was so loving, enjoyable… If he wasn’t enjoyable and if he wasn’t so nice he wouldn’t have been having this today,” the woman wept as she followed the procession.
The woman stressed that they need justice, noting that visiting the spot has brought back memories. She said that since his body was found last year, this was the first time she had returned to the spot.
Asked if she still has confidence in the police after such a long time had passed, Niles responded in the negative. “Honestly we don’t have no confidence that the police are gonna do anything, because this is a year already and we the family is every day you does hear somebody say something different about my nephew’s death,” she said.
The woman said the persons responsible for Holder’s killings will eventually pay for it. She said she was certain about this and as such has left the matter in the hands of God. “Whoever do it and lef me in such a grief and a hurt you will pay for it… Y’all hurt we. Y’all tek away we whole joy; everything y’all take away from us,” she sobbed.
She said that despite her nephew’s sexual orientation he, like every man had the right to life. “Come on people, stop this killing,” she shouted.
Meanwhile co-chairperson of SASOD, Joel Simpson told Stabroek News that the vigil was not only in relation to the anniversary of Holder’s death but to highlight other incidents of violence particularly against transgender sex workers which occurred within the last year.
He reminded this newspaper of a similar case in Berbice a few months ago in which the victim was killed and his body left lying on the roadway and the countless brutalities committed against persons who fall into this category. He said the cases become “cold cases” since there is no follow up by the police.
Simpson said that there is an “inner epidemic of hate inspired crimes” adding that his organisation was seeing more murders on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity in Guyana.
The vigil was the initiative of the Guyana Trans United, a new transgender group focusing on the rights of people who fall into this grouping but SASOD was present to lend its support. Simpson said his organisation’s message to the police was that they need to take incidents against transgender people seriously, investigate and follow up. “There are so many incidents that have become cold cases. I can’t think of a single incident in recent years where there has been a prosecution for the murder of a transgender person and that in
itself is telling,” he said.
Asked if this was a surprise to him, Simpson said it was more disappointing because it would be hard to convince him that in these cases there are no suspects or evidence leading to any of the perpetrators. He expressed the view that at least one of these incidents, which has occurred in recent years should have led to a prosecution and the fact that this has not occurred is troubling. “It is saying that the police are not doing their jobs,” he said.
Simpson said one of the challenges is that murders of lesbians, gays, bi-sexuals and transgender people (particularly the last grouping when they are sex workers) seem to have fallen on the “lowest scale of priority when it comes to investigating homicides and that is troubling. My message is to treat every human life as important. (And) to investigate all of these murders to their best based on the resources that the police have available.” He noted that a larger issue is that there needs to be an improvement in the level of criminal science, crime scene investigation and forensic science. “I think that we are still in the 20th century where that is concerned and more resources need to be dedicated to that,” he added.
He said that while he was not affiliated with Holder, he knew he was involved in some of the organizations that are standing up for the rights of transgender persons and sex workers.
Holder, known as “Tiffany” and “Ole Boy” of Cross Street, Werk-en-Rust, was found dead clad in a green fishnet dress. A post-mortem examination found that he died from haemorrhaging and shock as a result of stab wounds and blunt trauma from a blow to the head.
Holder’s handbag and a knife which he walked with for protection along with his slippers were all found at the scene of the crime. The police subsequently said that the items mentioned above and a number of used condoms which were wrapped in toilet tissue were discovered.
Persons who knew Holder are convinced that he was killed because of his lifestyle.
It was based on information received that police arrested a teen boy who reportedly confessed to being present when the crime occurred. He had confided in a relative but after being arrested he changed his story. Police later released him after they said there was a lack of evidence to charge him.