Residents of East Bank Berbice were in anger and disbelief yesterday as the decomposing body of 13-year-old Leonard Archibald, who was raped and then dumped into the Berbice River, was finally found, while the main suspect in the crime was accused by young boys of carrying out a series of attacks on them over a number of years.
At minutes after 3 pm, Archibald’s body was discovered on a mudflat located at the back of Kortberaad Village, in the Berbice River, which is some three miles from Brothers Village, East Bank Berbice, where the teen lived.
The discovery was made by a search party comprising relatives of Archibald, who had decided that it would be their final search for the day. The search of the river was undertaken in light of a reported confession by the suspect in the crime to dumping Archibald’s body and bicycle in the river after sexually assaulting him.
Vernon Cozier, 38, who was part of the search team, said the boy’s floating body was tangled in the vines and it appeared that birds had fed in it. “He ain’t get no hair, he ain’t get no eye and he one hand eat out clean and he foot eat out, bear bone deh,” Cozier described the corpse.
Archibald’s parents and siblings were seen crying and shaking their heads in disbelief as they related the discovery to residents.
On Friday, police had discovered Archibald’s bicycle along with a sheet behind Sister’s Village in the Berbice River. Family members said that although the bicycle was found, they were still hopeful that Archibald was still alive.
Archibald went missing last Sunday afternoon after he left home to pick up two of his sisters from a birthday party in a nearby village. However, he never returned home. He was last spotted riding a bicycle on the Sisters Village Public Road.
Police had held the suspect, identified as Hilary Edwards, and another man, both of Sisters Village, East Bank Berbice in connection with the child’s disappearance.
On Friday afternoon, police said the main suspect confessed to raping and dumping the boy in the river. Commander of ‘B’ Division, Lyndon Alves, told Stabroek News that the accused said he kidnapped the child, who became unconscious during the sexual assault. In an effort to cover up the crime, he reportedly then dumped the boy’s body into the Berbice River.
On Friday evening, around 7 pm, the two suspects were taken to Sisters
around 7 pm, the two suspects were taken to Sisters Village, East Bank Berbice, where the main accused reportedly pointed out where he had dumped the teen’s body in the river.
After realising that the men were in the village, residents rushed to the scene. They said the suspect’s friend, who has also been held for the crime, claimed that he was not present when the crime was carried out. He said the main suspect and another man had been at the house where the crime was committed and he had heard “groans” from within. He added that the main suspect subsequently asked him to go and buy marijuana.
The reported circumstances of Archibald’s death inspired a march yesterday morning along the East Bank Berbice Public Road, where residents demanded justice for the child. Some said that they were angry at themselves for not seeing that the main accused was held accountable for his previous attacks on youths in the community. They promised to stand with Archibald’s family to ensure that justice is served and the accused never returns to the area.
Up to last year, the man was reported to have been linked to the molestation of a seven-year-old.
Many residents told Sunday Stabroek that reports of the suspect interfering with young boys in the East Bank Berbice community were lodged at the Sisters Police Station, but much was never done. “Every time he attack one child, he a gon’ go hide and come back like four, five weeks after and be time then them police forget about the incidents and them boys a shame, some them na want it carry up,” a woman said.
During this newspaper’s visit to the East Bank Berbice yesterday, several young men from the villages that make up the community related instances where they were attacked by the main suspect. In some cases, some said they were raped.
Some were reluctant to speak, despite the promise of anonymity, due to the stigma attached to being a victim of a sexual assault.
However, one youth, who is now in his twenties, stated that he was attacked by the man when he was 12-years-old. “He did lash me in me head and carry me in the bush and hang me up. Me been in the bush for three days. The second day, the branch break and I fall down and I hide and I see when he come in back with [the] cutlass looking for me but I hide,” he said. “The third day me try, try and come out,” he added.
The young man noted that when the suspect first dealt him a blow to his head, he fell unconscious. It was during this time that the man would have sexually assaulted him, before tying him to a tree branch in the backlands.
The young man added that when he returned home, his parents took him to the hospital, where he was admitted for several weeks. The attack was reported to the Sisters Police Station. “Me parents them does drink and like them settle the story and take the money and drink it out,” he suggested.
A 15-year-old boy, who resides in the area, said in July of this year the man pounced on him in his home. “Me been deh upstairs and he run up the step easy and I try fa haul the blind on the window and we holla fa we neighbour and the man come and he run downstairs,” he recounted.
He said a report was made to the police and the man was warned.
Another lad, who is 18, stated that two years he had left home to go to Light Town Village, East Bank Berbice, when the man attacked him. “He say he buddy deh inside the dam holding the boat, if I can help he carry in the spray can. So I help he and then [he] hold on from me hand and he say if I start holla he gon’ kill me, and he pull me inside the boat and push the wood on me. And me tell he the bicycle lef on the road, let he go long for it and when he gone I swim away,” he related.
A report was made to the Sisters Police Station, but the man went into hiding for three weeks. He was subsequently arrested about one month after but the case was dropped against him after he reportedly promised to replace the young man’s phone, which he had apparently stolen during the attack.
The man has also been accused of molesting a seven-year-old child last year. A close relative said that the attack occurred at the home of the child’s aunt, where the suspect would lime from time to time. The man was reportedly seen playing with the child’s genitals by a younger sibling, who told the child’s mother. Before the woman arrived at the house, the man had left and he went into a hiding. The case was also said to have been reported to the Sisters Police Station.
Another youth, who is 19, said he was also attacked two months ago but managed to get away. He said he never reported what happened to any police nor did he ever tell any of his relatives.
A 40-year-old resident also related that about five years ago, the accused, who had been a friend, attacked him in his home. “I wasn’t attracted to him. He tried to go in my house and force himself on me but I fight he off,” the man said. “He always like to hit and run. He na crazy. If he see you nice, he want destroy you and most time he does smoke up,” he added.
It is unclear whether the suspect was ever charged for any of the attacks as many of the cases were settled privately. “Me does see he after and he does watch me full in me face and na say nothing either,” one of the young men said.
Attempts to confirm the reports were made at the Sisters Police Station. Sunday Stabroek visited the station, where an officer who was present related that the logbook which contained the reports was not present at the station since it was taken as part of the investigation.