Leonard Archibald did not have to die. He was just 13 years old and attending high school. He had his whole life ahead of him. According to reports, he had set out on a bicycle on that fateful day to accompany his sisters home from a birthday party. There might have been some thought that he was needed to ensure that they got home safely. Therefore, there must have been a concept of danger in Brothers Village, but not that harm might befall young Leonard or that that journey would have been his last.
Was this young man merely in the wrong place at the wrong time? Were his rape and murder simply happenstance? Reports from the contiguous Brothers and Sisters villages point to the presence in the area of a serial rapist, who preyed mostly on the young – a paedophile. By simply canvassing the community, a Stabroek News reporter was able to learn that there had been sexual assaults or attempted assaults on at least four boys in the past. Some of the victims revealed the details of their horrific experiences, once assured of anonymity by the reporter; others refused to speak.
Nevertheless, what has been divulged points to a criminal who has used both subterfuge and force in the past on his victims. According to one victim, when he was 16 years old, a man had lured him to a boat, by pretending he needed assistance. The victim subsequently escaped by swimming away, after employing a ruse to make the attacker leave him to go collect his bicycle. The man had been arrested and charged. It is not clear what the charge was, but it was later dropped after the suspect returned the victim’s cellphone so it clearly could not have been an indictable charge. Another victim related that when he was 12 years old, he was hit over the head by a man and sexually assaulted while unconscious. When he came to he was tied up in a tree, alone. Fortune or fate saw the branch on which he was tied breaking and he was able to hide when the rapist returned looking for him and later escaped. The police were also involved in this matter; the victim believes the man was arrested and charged but that his parents took compensation and the matter was dropped.
Other victims said that reports had been made to the police, who had done nothing. This is an indictment of the police in ‘B’ Division, who must be made to answer for this. That a paedophile was left to continue to prey on and attack the vulnerable makes a mockery of all of the training that the police have been receiving in approaches to detective work, intelligence and dealing with sexual assault.
The inability of the police to successfully prosecute this man and the tendency of the community in which he dwelt and preyed to look the other way, served to embolden this predator.
There is outrage in the community, in the country and even further afield at Leonard Archibald’s death and calls for justice. None of this is misplaced, but a thought should also be spared for other victims, who would have undergone horrific trauma when they were attacked and who are doubtless fighting daily battles with the shame and stigma attached to being raped, none of which was their fault.
For all of the assaults that community members claimed had occurred over the years, any predators should have long been behind bars. The police ignored an opportunity to do real investigative work and breached their obligation to serve and protect. The residents forgot to be their brother’s, sister’s and children’s keepers.
While emotions run high at this point in time, given the freshness of what has occurred, and the fact that two alleged suspects have been charged in the Leonard Archibald case, the community seems united in the cause to secure justice. What will happen if and when these persons go to trial, possibly years down the road? Will there still be fervour in seeing justice meted out? Will community members still be willing to speak up? Or will there be blame thrown around over who should have done what and when?
All boxes should be checked, i’s dotted and t’s crossed if the police are to redeem themselves in relation to previous failings. It would give the community and other victims a real chance at healing. It would restore faith in the justice system.