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JAMAICA NEWSWEEKLY For the week ending August 11th, 2006

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The drug dealer who killed a Jamaican father and then his seven-year-old daughter, was found guilty of two counts of murder and sentenced to life. Joel Smith, 32, killed Tori-Ann Byfield in the back as she tried to flee after witnessing the same man kill her father Bertram Byfield. Smith has been linked by police to a notorious gang in northwest London where the two victims also lived. He made his living by dealing drugs and robbing other drug dealers such as Byfield, according to police. Smith had almost committed the perfect crime, as there were no witnesses or forensic evidence. However, a plea from prosecutors shocked citizens into coming forward. Some of those who volunteered information were underworld figures who had been told by Smith that he committed the murders. Tori-Ann had recently arrived in Britain from Jamaica and was supposedly in the care of social services at the time of her murder. DNA later showed that Byfield was not her biological father.

Five-year-old Georgio Hado returned to Jamaica from Beirut last night with his grandparents and family friend. The travelers finally were able to return home after five weeks in Lebanon. Hado’s parents were at the airport waiting for his safe return and showed great emotion when he disembarked from the plane. The group saw great devastation during their harrowing journey and escaped through Syria. The travelers reported there is no food, gas or electricity in the war-torn country and that Red Cross trucks that were there for humanitarian reasons are being bombed while they are carrying food.

Within two weeks the government should have received a detailed report on the conditions that led to the collapse of a section of the Bahia Principe Hotel under construction near Runaway Bay. By tomorrow a report should be submitted by officials from the Ministry of Labor and Social Security and the St. Ann Parish Council. The Minister of Information and Development met with representatives of the developers yesterday morning. Discussions will be ongoing with the goal of putting a regime in place that would ensure strict adherence to safety and health practices at all major project sites. No work will be resumed on the site until the regulators and developers are satisfied that all safety issues have been resolved. A section of the hotel collapsed last week, killing one worker and injuring 11 others.

The Minister of Agriculture and Land dismisses concerns raised by Opposition Senator Anthony Johnson about ackee exports to the United States. The senator says the country could lose millions of dollars in exports if the government does not move quickly to get back into the U.S. market. Ackee exports were banned from the U.S. market in 2005 after the Food and Drug Administration found unusually high levels of hypoglycin, a toxin that exists naturally in ackee, in 31 cases of cans. The exports are believed to be worth about $50 million to the Jamaican economy, the second largest agricultural export. The minister says, however, that ackee production is improving and exports to the U.S. should resume in September.

Three children died in a fire in Springfield, St. James on Monday night. The fire is believed to be the work of an arsonist, and also claimed the life of the mother’s boyfriend, Neville Bernard, who is also the father of the three children. Reports are that the family was awakened by intense heat at around 10:00 pm. Reportedly Bernard attempted to rescue the children but realized his bedroom door was barred. He reportedly managed to escape but re-entered the house to save the children. He sustained severe burns and fell through the floorboards and rolled down a steep hill. He was taken to the hospital for treatment but died the next day. Undertakers later removed the remains of the children.

Jamaicans lined the streets yesterday to say farewell to the country’s cultural queen, Louise Bennett-Coverley. Hundreds came to pay tribute to her as the casket made its way through Kingston on the way to her funeral. Politicians were in good supply as well, with Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller in attendance. Former Prime Ministers P.J. Patterson and Edward Seaga also arrived as well as Opposition Leader Bruce Golding. Speakers recalled Miss Lou’s love of a good story, her laugh and her commitment to Jamaica’s indigenous culture. Miss Lou died on July 26 in Canada, where she had lived since the mid-1980s.

Yesterday the St. Ann Parish Council and representatives from the Pinero Group, developers of the Bahia Principe Hotel at Pear Tree Bottom, agreed to a work resumption formula. Work is expected to resume at the site today following a one-week shutdown. The meeting, held at the Ministry of Local Government, was presided over by the minister, Dean Peart. The company was given conditional approval to resume work, with conditions in place that call for the replacement of all wooden scaffolding around the building with metal scaffolding. In addition, contractors are to cease using wooden support shores when casting concrete decks. Work was suspended last Wednesday following the collapse of a section of one of the buildings while workers were casting such a deck. One man was killed and fifteen others were injured in the construction accident.

Rainforest Arial Trams, based in Miami, Florida, will invest in a 50 percent stake in a forest-based eco-tourism and adventure attraction in Ocho Rios. The company operates similar facilities in Central America and the Caribbean. The company has leased 97 acres of land from two government agencies for the project, and is now awaiting a ruling from the National Environment Planning Agency on their environmental impact assessment to start the development. It is reported it will take one year to complete the development upon receiving approval from NEPA. The investment is estimated at US $4.5 million. The goal of the company is to tap into the growing number of cruise passengers who land in Ocho Rios and do not have enough to do. Nearly half of the tourists who come to Jamaica are under the age of 35 and are increasingly seeking experiences other than beach relaxation.


The United States Olympic Committee has banned Trevor Graham from all Olympic training centers and sites in the U.S. indefinitely. The coach of the 100-meter co-world record holder, Justin Gatlin became the first coach to receive such a penalty. According to the USOC this was due to Graham’s unusual number of athletes he has coached who have been convicted of doping offenses. At least six athletes coached by Graham have been suspended for drug offenses and Gatlin recently disclosed a positive test in April for testosterone or other steroids. He faces a lifetime ban since this would be a second drug violation. The USOC also announced they would be issuing a call to action asking for greater support and research on doping issues from the federal government and U.S. sports entities.

Barrington “Cobra” Gaynor has taken over the coaching reins at National Premier League champion club Waterhouse. Gaynor is filling the position left open by winning coach Wayne Fairclough, who resigned at the end of last season. Gaynor will attend a coaching course in England to supplement his experience as a player of the national program. He will obtain a European Coaching License, which will bring more value to the club. Gaynor is a former Camperdown High and Jamaica fullback and has coached his alma mater in the Manning Cup competition.

Wendell Downswell has resigned as head coach of the national senior and Olympic football teams. Following meetings held last week between the JFF president and Downswell, the administration accepted a letter of resignation which took effect last Friday. The coach had been widely criticized for a string of poor international results beginning with a 5-0 loss to Australia and ending with a 6-0 beating of the national Under-21 team by Columbia at the Central American and Caribbean Games. The resignation was considered a mutual decision. An announcement about Downswell’s replacement is expected soon.

Jamaica’s double Olympic gold medalist Veronica Campbell will be out of action for the remainder of the 2006 outdoor track and field season due to an injury. Campbell, who won the Olympic 200-meter crown and helped Jamaica to gold in the sprint relay two years ago, has not fully recovered from a quadriceps injury she sustained on June 11 at an event in Gateshead, England. After a medical consultation, it was decided Campbell would not compete any further this season. Campbell will now miss the World Cup in September in Athens, Greece. In the current IAAF world rankings, Campbell leads the 100m event with 1,368 points, but trails American world champion Allyson Felix in the 200m.


The weekly news is compilation of new articles from top Caribbean and Jamaican news sources.

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Written by Staff Writer