One year after the murder ‘they still don’t know who did it’
The widow of gun victim James Lawes has described her heartache a year after his unsolved murder, and her fears that investigators have too many cases to crack.
Greashena Spence-Lawes had been married to Mr Lawes, 26, for just four months when he was shot outside Place's Place in Pembroke late on March 19, 2010.
Two men with him were injured, and no-one has been brought to justice for the crime.
In her first public comments about her loss, Mrs Lawes, 29, said yesterday: “The police have told me my husband was at the wrong place at the wrong time. They still don't know who did it.”
She is not aware of any motive for the shooting and detectives have not shared any theories.
“If they do know, they haven't told me. I guess they have to be careful not to mess up the case,” she said.
“The detectives have been doing a lot of work. They've been in contact with me and have kept me close, but there hasn't really been anything concrete yet.”
Mr Lawes was the sixth man shot in an outbreak of gun crime that's left 13 dead since it began in May 2009. Suspects have been charged in three of the cases, with two murder trials pending and one currently ongoing at Supreme Court.
Mrs Lawes, daughter of community activist Gina Spence, said: “Pretty much the biggest challenge to the police is there's been so many murders afterwards. Perhaps there are not enough people. There are lots going on. My detective has been working on three or four others.”
It was reported last week that the team that investigates all gun murders lost around a third of its staff recently. Nine consultants from the UK, all of whom were experienced officers, were told their contracts were not being renewed.
Mrs Lawes said: “A lot of those detectives have been working on four or five cases at the same time. It's been difficult to follow up and throughly put themselves into the case. For that to get worse? It's going to be a lot harder for them to crack the cases.”
Mrs Lawes, a hairdresser who runs Plush beauty salon on Union Street, met her husband, a barber, when they worked together at Prestige beauty salon.
They were together for two years before his death, and tied the knot in Mr Lawes' home country of Jamaica in December 2009.
She said of the night he was shot: “He'd just left. He'd been at my shop the whole day, back and forth. He told me he loved me and asked me if I was hungry and if my son was hungry. He was going to go back to work. I received the phone call maybe 20 minutes or half an hour later.
“My barber [from Plush] was in the area when the shooting happened. He called me from the scene. I was at work. I actually didn't believe it. I was in a lot of shock. I ran to the scene but I didn't believe it was real until I saw him lying on the ground.”
She said Mr Lawes was talking to friend and fellow Jamaican Maurice Martin, who lived behind Place's Place, when he was shot. He'd been getting ready to cut Mr Martin's hair. Mr Martin and another area resident, Bermudian Robin Stovell, were injured in the shooting.
Police reported that two men arrived at the scene on an auxiliary cycle and the pillion passenger fired 11 bullets at the group of men. Mr Lawes was hit in the stomach and leg and succumbed to his injuries two days later.
His family, including his parents and five siblings in Jamaica, continues to suffer. Mrs Lawes said: “He was very playful, happy and loved kids. He was passionate about his work; he loved his barbering.
“The hardest part for me is the impact it's left on his family. I can only do so much [to help them]. I'm here. I can see the police cracking down but for them, they don't see that. Their grief weighs heavy on me.”
Her son Nizigh Spence, aged nine, from a previous relationship, is also suffering from the loss of his stepfather whom he was very close to.
“Some nights he cries himself to sleep,” she said.
Mrs Lawes lives in hope that her husband's killers will be brought to justice. However, her feelings are affected by her belief they did not intend to take his life.
“I know my husband was in the wrong place at the wrong time. It wasn't for him. If they had vengeance for my husband it would make me feel different. If they were to catch the person I maybe would like to express my feelings to the person but I couldn't harbour any anger towards them because I know they didn't kill my husband on purpose.”
She hopes that any witnesses who continue to hold information will have the courage to come forward. “We can get this to stop if we come forth as a community,” she urged.
A candlelit vigil will be held tonight at the scene of Mr Lawes' murder, featuring prayer, song, dance and tributes. It begins at 6pm outside Place's Place and finishes at 7.30pm.