Radio Sandwell African / Caribbean News

Imani Green Jamaica killing: 'Happy girl', eight, shot dead

2013-01-13 22:45:40

Imani Green

An eight-year-old girl from south London shot dead when a gunman opened fire in a shop in Jamaica was a "happy, playful and popular" pupil, her head teacher has said.

Imani Green was inside her cousin's shop in the rural north coast town of Duncans on Friday when a man entered the store and an argument broke out.

Police said the man then opened fire, shooting at people inside.

Imani, from Balham, was hit and died later in hospital.

Three other people are being treated for their injuries.

Imani, who was a pupil at Fircroft Primary School in Tooting, suffered from sickle cell anaemia and had been given permission by the school for her extended trip to Jamaica.

'Very brave'

Head teacher Anne Wilson said: "Imani was a happy, playful child who was popular with staff and pupils alike.

"She dealt with her illness very bravely and coped well with the special arrangements we had to have in place to support her.

"She had been given special permission to travel to Jamaica so that she could benefit from the warmer climate and we had been in contact with the local primary school she was attending."

Imani and her mother and sister had been staying with relatives in Duncans.

The family arrived on the island on 27 December and were thought to have planned to return to the UK at the end of the month.

After the shooting, Imani's sister Janella Parmer said: "We heard gunshots. We ran outside and shouted 'Imani, Imani, Imani'.

"I picked her up off the ground and realised she was still breathing.

"I flagged down a car and they drove us to hospital."

Imani is understood to have been hit twice, once in the head.

The three other victims, believed to be two women and a man, are now said to be in a stable condition in hospital.

The family's neighbours in London spoke of their sorrow following the girl's death.

One friend of the family, who asked not to be named, said: "This is a close-knit community, so this is going to hurt us."

Another added: "Nobody wants to speak, she was just a little girl. This is all so sad. We're distraught."

Shadow Justice Secretary Sadiq Khan, MP for Tooting, said he was "devastated" by the "terrible news".

'Reprisal shooting'

The BBC's Nick Davis in Kingston said said Duncans was seen as a "sleepy town and a backwater" where "crime is pretty much unheard of".

The area recorded the second lowest figure for murder in Jamaica last year, he added.

Police said there were a number of lines of inquiry but one theory was that the shooting was in reprisal for an earlier gun attack.

Jamaica's security minister Peter Bunting said he thought the shooting was connected to a lottery scam where Americans are duped into sending money to Jamaica in order to claim lottery winnings.

He told Channel 4 News: "The initial report that I received from the police suggested that this shooting is a reprisal for an earlier shooting a few months ago. The motive for [the earlier shooting] was a lottery scam-related dispute".

He added that more than 500 murders over the past five years were connected to lottery scams, which can reap millions of dollars for criminals.

'Desperately sad'

The Foreign Office confirmed it had been providing consular assistance and liaising with local authorities since the shooting on 11 January.

Peter Kellond, the British Honorary Consul for Montego Bay, said: "This is obviously a desperately sad event and we are providing consular support to the family and other relatives."

Mr Bunting condemned the killing.

"The senseless killing of a young, innocent child must outrage all well-thinking Jamaicans, and cause us to join our security forces in an intensified effort to rid our communities of criminals," he told the Jamaica Gleaner newspaper.

Retired Metropolitan Police officer Chris Hobbs spent a total of 18 months undertaking a series of deployments to Jamaica in support of Operation Airbridge, which was set up tackle the increasing number of "mules" smuggling cocaine between Jamaica and the UK.

He said the area where Imani was killed "does not have a reputation for serious crime".

"I would encourage people to still go on holiday to Jamaica," he added.

"Certain areas where tourists wouldn't normally go have a serious crime problem, but for tourists it shouldn't feel like it's a dangerous place."

But Mr Hobbs, who is a trustee of a Kingston-based children's charity Airbridge Charitable Foundation added: "Kids in the ghetto areas have seen dead bodies in the street and have certain rules to follow if there is gunfire in the area.

"There have been cases where children have been caught in the crossfire of drive-by shootings."


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