“Right in the back here, there is a child – just about a year old – what is that child going to do without a mother and a father? He goes to prison – he should be hang in my estimation.”
Such were the sentiments expressed by Gender Affairs Minister Frederick Stevenson last Sunday as he visited the family of this country’s latest homicide victim. Stephenson further issued an impassioned plea against the backdrop of the “unfortunate, gruesome killing” of 26 years old Park Hill resident Mickiesha Gumbs following the fatal altercation with her “on and off” boyfriend Vandyke ‘Dez’ King last Saturday.
“I am appealing to men again, as I continually do and I am appealing to women who are involved in domestic relations – talk to somebody and please get out!
And I’m saying to our men: women are not your property, they are not your car, they’re not your house or a piece of land [and] they’re not a chattel. Please if you cannot be comfortable in a relationship with a woman, you don’t have to kill her just leave. Go your way. You can’t kill the women of St. Vincent and the Grenadines because they’re not your property.”
On the sidelines of a march and rally, produced in equal parts to commemorate International Women’s Day as well as to stand against all forms of violence on Tuesday, Minister Stevenson was asked to clarify whether his preference of a hanging sentence can be used to agitate local Courts towards that stricter penalty –should Vandyke King be found guilty of Mickiesha’s murder.
“Well we can’t tell the Court what to do but hanging is still on the books here. We just don’t do it anymore. They have these guidelines now. Remember when ‘Compay’ [Daniel Dick Trimmingham] cut out the man [Albert ‘Bertie’ Brown] stomach and the Privy Council ruled on the appeal and said that crime wasn’t heinous enough to justify an execution,” Stephenson replied.
The Minister maintained his preference for that penultimate punishment, particularly in this case, even as he pointed to the fact that to let the accused languish in prison for more than five years –post trial but before any appeals filed is adequately entertained – could result in the State losing it’s ‘right’ to execute due to what might be adjudged the inhumane imprisonment of the appellant.
Reports are that the 34 years old boyfriend who worked as an “aviation security officer” was on the job at the Argyle International Airport when a fellow villager phoned him saying “a man just gone carry home he woman and he probably call a pardna with a vehicle to pick him up,” Joseth Gumbs, the oldest of the deceased’s siblings told reporters from their extended family home.
Mickiesha Gumbs was a preschool teacher and the mother of three children. She was planning her eldest child’s birthday celebration minutes before her brutal murder. “She was sitting her discussing plans for her daughter’s 10th birthday next week and she got up with the other kids around the yard and told them ‘leh we go for a walk.’ She was going for her daughter, way she have with him, by his mother.
On her way coming back now, he meet up with she somewhere in the corner roun’ dey, the daughter say he come with two knife, he use one. There’s a girl over dey who was there with them she say that he was kicking her up first and thing like that.”
From this eyewitness Joseth also learnt that her youngest sister’s life was stolen while holding her youngest daughter, a one year old that Mickiesha shared with Dez. It was to this their only child together after five years, whom Minister Stephenson referred.
Making reference to unconfirmed reports that the alleged murderer was simultaneously involved in another relationship Minister Stephenson also said on Sunday, “this is not good.
You can’t have two girlfriends and just because somebody send you a message and tell yo that one of your girlfriends got a ride in a vehicle, yo come up and kill her? I’m sending a very strong message to the men in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines and to remind the men: Women are not your property.
“Women are not persons you invest in and you figure that if your investment ain’t go right that your only choice and your only way out of it is to kill. You can’t do that! Women are your mothers, women are your sisters, women are your children, they are your nieces, they are your grandmothers…. As a man I’m saying to men in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines ‘come on! Be responsible. Do better. You didn’t make a woman because you can’t make life. The only Person who gives life is the Almighty God up in heaven.’ And you cannot take willy nilly; run down the road this afternoon because you hear something and stab up a woman or chop her up or shoot her.”
Stephenson who is also the incumbent parliamentarian for the nearby South Windward constituency exhorted witnesses to the horrific murder. “We want the people in Park Hill, in Village here who saw what transpired, they must go to Court and give the evidence so that the legal process could take its rightful course.” Additionally, MP Stephenson offered this reminder, “I want to appeal again to our womenfolk who are in domestic relations to speak out, to report incidences of domestic violence. Talk to a friend, talk to somebody you know and if you feel you’re not getting anything done, talk to me.
“The police have a responsibility under the Domestic Violence Act to investigate and to do the necessaries. I want persons in every community, if you see somebody you think is involved in a domestic relationship and violence is perpetuated against them, talk to somebody. Go report it and at the end of the day, go to the Court and give the evidence so that these persons who perpetuate violence against our women and who perpetuate violence in the society here in St. Vincent and the Grenadines, the law is there to protect you, the law is there is to ensure that whatever is done is done in a manner that the redress can be effective. I think we have to do more as a government, we can do more as a Ministry, the police in the communities have to visit the communities; talk to individuals and talk to persons and act.
“Under the criminal code, if a woman is beaten the police can charge a man for assault, common assault, grievous bodily harm, murder, whatever. Under the Domestic Violence Act we have said that once these acts are committed against an individual, against a woman, against anybody the laws are there to protect the nation.”
On Monday a police bulletin confirmed that the alleged assailant was taken into custody. Mickiesha Gumbs succumbed to multiple stab wounds to her neck and was pronounced dead at the scene.