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The double standards of the paradise island.

Discussion in 'Mahusiano, mapenzi, urafiki' started by Babylon, Sep 20, 2009.

  1. Babylon

    Babylon JF-Expert Member

    Sep 20, 2009
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    How murder of our gay man in Jamaica has exposed the double standards of the paradise island

    Last updated at 9:36 AM on 19th September 2009

    Shortly after lunchtime today, the great and good of Jamaica will trek up a tortuous mountain road and file into a dilapidated little stone-built church to pay their last respects to Our Man in Montego Bay. According to his wishes, John Terry MBE will be cremated and his ashes scattered on his beloved island.
    Given his elevated position, many expected the memorial service for Britain’s Honorary Consul — who was brutally murdered last Wednesday — to be staged in a more auspicious venue.
    Speaking for the first time since her ex-husband was found bludgeoned and strangled at his home, Mr Terry’s second wife, Elizabeth, told me: ‘We deliberately chose a very simple place because it is a perfect reflection of the way he lived his life. John was a very simple man.’

    [​IMG] Everyman: Honorary Consul John Terry was just as comfortable mingling with Jamaica's elite as he was mucking in and helping his neighbours

    Perhaps, in some ways, he was.

    Yet there are those who would say that Mrs Terry — who was married to the amateur diplomat between 1987 and 1994 and is the mother of his two children, Jordon, 21, and Melissa, 18 — is either commendably discreet or desperately naive.
    For however we might describe Our Honorary Consul’s lifestyle in this hedonistic Caribbean playground, if truth be told it was anything but ‘simple’.

    On the contrary, he led an astonishingly complex life, as I discovered while investigating his murder: a crime which has scandalised and embarrassed even unshockable Jamaica, statistically the murder capital of the world.

    Enlarge [​IMG] Crime scene: Mr Terry was found in his bedroom at his home in Montego Bay

    To those well-heeled figures with whom he rubbed shoulders in his professional and public roles — magistrate, hotelier, charity fund-raiser, and, of course, Honorary Consul (a title he assumed with great pride 13 years ago) — he was the consummate English gentleman.

    Debonair, charming, courteous, amusing and boundlessly generous: these were the most frequently uttered adjectives one heard in upper echelons of Jamaican society this week.
    ‘We always used to call him Judge, and he seemed to like that,’ says one senior colleague at the exclusive Half Moon resort, where Mr Terry was latterly employed as a manager.

    Another acquaintance, taken with his rakish physique and nimbleness on the dance floor, dubbed him ‘Lionel Blair’.

    [​IMG] Death in paradise: Beneath Montego Bay's apparently laidback lifestyle lies an abhorrence to homosexuality

    Despite the ease with which he mingled with the island’s elite, however, Mr Terry made his home in Mount Carey, a village of tumbledown shacks and shanty bars, worlds apart from the air-conditioned parlours where he went about his daily business.
    There, he beetled about in a scuffed and ageing four-wheel-drive, slopped about barefoot, and lived in a shabby single-storey farmhouse, furnished sparsely in an outdated English style and shared with various pets and a brood of chickens.
    The only white man for miles around, he was accepted as an ‘honorary Jamaican’ for his readiness to muck in and help neighbours, whatever their problem.

    He even spoke in the local patois, which he had perfected after 40 years on the island.
    Yet, unbeknown to either of these social groups, I have learned that there was another — very different — John Terry.
    [​IMG] Hatred: Reggae star Buju Banton's lyrics have glorified the act of machine-gunning homosexuals

    This was the camp, flamboyant character who, almost from the moment he arrived on the island four decades ago, was prepared to flout Jamaica’s archaic, and often brutally enforced, gay taboo to pick up youthful West Indians for casual sex.
    His numerous male lovers included Desmond, now a 45-year-old Jamaican charity worker, who told me how he and ‘Mr John’ had been occasional partners for almost 30 years, having first met on a beach when Mr Terry was in his mid-30s, and Desmond was just 16.

    ‘When I opened the paper and saw he’d been murdered, I couldn’t believe it,’ said the slender, shaven-headed man, who asked not to be identified for fear that he might be targeted next.
    Weeping, he added: ‘He was such a good person, so considerate, so stylish, with such great taste; and so entertaining when we went back to his house to fool around.'
    It was all just fun. He never harmed anyone. Why would anyone want to do this to a man like Mr John?’
    Desmond’s incomprehension is being echoed by everyone who knew the Honorary Consul.

    But Jamaican detectives are wrestling with a more pressing question: did his secret gay flings cost him his life?
    Since the killer left a chilling note beside 64-year-old Mr Terry’s body, referring to him as a ‘Batty Boy’ — a deeply derogatory term for homosexual men in Jamaica — and warning that he would not be the last gay man to die, the answer appears to be obvious.
    It seems that Mr Terry took one risk too many by inviting the wrong man into his mountain retreat — a mistake made by two other closet homosexuals in the Jamaican establishment not long ago (a politician and a priest) who were also brutally slain.
    Yet, while the island’s CID chief, former Scotland Yard detective Les Green, concedes that there are ‘inklings’ that Mr Terry was bisexual, and knew his killer, he insists that the motive is by no means clear-cut.
    For one thing, he says, the long, handwritten note may have been left as a red herring, deliberately designed to mask the real motive.
    Even if the letter was genuine, he adds, it does not prove conclusively that homophobia was behind the attack, for he says the note’s full contents — which he declines to reveal in full — leave many unanswered questions.
    But Jamaica’s embattled gay rights lobby, whose founder was himself stabbed to death five years ago, believes that this apparent prevarication by the British police chief is simply a sop to local sensitivities.
    For when it comes to gay rights, Jamaica’s machismo society is still stuck in the Dark Ages.
    Its abhorrence of homosexuality is rooted in a hotchpotch morality derived from ‘Sodom and Gomorrah’ Christianity, Rastafarianism, and laws set down in colonial times.

    It is routinely proclaimed, from pulpit to parliament.

    Montego Bay is notorious for anti-gay sentiment. Two years ago a group of gay
    men were set upon by a mob as they danced at a carnival in the resort.

    They were chased through the streets and one was caught, stripped naked and
    beaten severely.
    Several top reggae stars have stoked the hatred with lyrics inciting violence against gays and lesbians.

    One of the most sickening songs, Boom Bye Bye, by Buju Banton, glorifies the act of
    machine-gunning and hurling acid at homosexuals.
    But such attitudes are by no means confined to street thugs.

    Many of Mr Terry’s friends in high places hold their hands up in collective horror at the mere suggestion that he might have been anything other than a heterosexual pillar of propriety.
    So what is the truth behind this perplexing case — elements of which could come straight from The Honorary Consul, Graham Greene’s acclaimed story about sex and betrayal in a distant British diplomatic backwater?
    Certainly its central figure might have been created by the masterful English novelist.

    Born into a proud British military family, in 1945, his grandfather won the VC for bravery in the Zulu War.
    His father, Charles Terry, was a distinguished RAF squadron leader, and his mother, Eleanor, served in the Royal Nursing Auxiliary.

    He spent his early years in New Zealand and Pakistan before being educated at a West Country boarding school.
    ‘It was a traditional military upbringing, with etiquette taught, and the table set properly with a napkin at every meal,’ Mr Terry’s Cheshire-based sister-in- law, Glenys Terry, told me after flying to Montego Bay for today’s memorial service with his older brother, Peter, 67, a retired army major.

    He also has an elderly aunt and cousins in Britain.
    Mr Terry attended catering college then went into hotel management, first in London, then Bermuda.

    In his mid- 20s he landed a post in a leading hotel on the western tip of Jamaica, favoured by stars such as Harrison Ford, Ralph Lauren and David Bowie.
    He relished the vicarious glamour, but was just as happy swapping jokes with the local beach bums.
    As his lifelong best friend, therapist Stella Grey, told me: ‘He walked with kings and commoners, and treated them all exactly the same.’
    With his easy-going charm and gregariousness, his career prospered, faltering only briefly when he attempted to run his own coffee plantation.

    He was also a tireless supporter of charities, constantly arranging fund-raising events and helping people.
    The Jamaicans adored him for it, and appointed him as a Justice of the Peace in his parish, a pivotal role in island society which caused strangers to knock at his door at all hours, asking for official forms to be signed and stamped.
    He took his work very seriously, but in his convoluted private life, it did provide him with an added little advantage.

    For it meant that his neighbours never questioned why he sometimes returned home in the evening with an unfamiliar young man in tow.
    During his teens and early 20s, he seemed to prefer the company of women.

    He was first married, albeit briefly, to a Canadian, and met his second wife, Elizabeth Robinson, when she was working for the Jamaican Tourist Board.
    ‘John was very jovial and he had a sparkle in his eye. He was also a very confident gentleman, and he had a pure and generous spirit,’ she told me.
    Mrs Terry declined to explain why they parted, after seven years of marriage.
    Nor would she comment on the ‘hurtful speculation’ about his secret gay life.
    According to his occasional lover, Desmond, however, he was part of a group of wealthy, white expats in Montego Bay who coveted the company of so-called ‘coconut Rastas’: a crude term for handsome, young Jamaican boyfriends who, like a coconut, were deemed to be black on the outside, but white on the inside.
    The expats do not pay directly for the favours of these young men, whom they meet at known gay pick-up haunts, such as beaches and bars, but would buy expensive clothes, meals, and other gifts for them.
    ‘Sometimes these boys can cause a lot of trouble,’ said Desmond pointedly, pondering on the reason for Mr Terry’s murder.
    ‘They might start ringing their guy all the time, demanding more and more things, and if he refuses they will threaten to “out” him. It’s like blackmail,’ he added.
    Occasionally, he said, some of the white ‘sugar daddies’ also venture along the so-called Hip Strip, a street of raucous bars and clubs where some male prostitutes are willing to risk a beating, or worse, by openly soliciting.
    It wouldn’t have taken much of a detour for the Honorary Consul to pass along this street on his way home from work, but Desmond says he had never known him to do so in the 30 years they were friends, and doesn’t believe such a high-profile figure would have been reckless enough to risk stopping off there.
    But if he wasn’t murdered by some grasping toyboy or casual pick-up, then what did happen on that night last week?

    During his final hours, friends say the consul gave no indication that anything in his private life was troubling him, and his village neighbours and colleagues recall that
    he seemed as cheerful as ever.

    The first hint that something was wrong came at about 9.30pm, when Mr Terry’s close neighbour, Imogene Higgins, was approached by a young man as she stood chatting to a friend beside the consul’s garden gate.
    She had never seen him before but estimates him to have been no more than 18 or 19 years old, and he wore a fashionable matching outfit of brown jeans and a brown shirt, topped off by a brown and white peaked cap.
    ‘He asked me three times where he could get a taxi,’ Mrs Higgins, a stout, middle-aged mother of two told me.
    ‘He didn’t seem to know where he was, or what direction he wanted to go in.’
    Gazing up at Mr Terry’s house, where all the lights were blazing, it dawned on her that the young man must have come from there, but she assumed that he was just one more needy stranger who had called to ask for help or official documentation.
    She had no time to ask him his business, as he jumped into one of the minibus taxis that regularly ply the main road between Negril and Montego Bay, some 20 minutes drive down the hill.
    Before leaving the village, he went to a local shop and bought credit for a Motorola mobile phone.
    Mr Terry owned a phone of the same make, and it appears to have been the only thing missing when his body was found the following day, by his gardener-cum-handyman. Mrs Higgins accompanied him into the house, and also saw the murder scene before police arrived.
    The consul was lying on his side, on his bed, with his head hanging over the edge at an odd angle, she recalls. He was dressed in a white T-shirt but no shoes.

    He was covered from the waist down by a sheet, so she could not tell whether he was wearing shorts or trousers.
    It didn’t appear to have been a frenzied attack. Rather, it all seemed very deliberate.
    Mr Terry appeared to have been battered only twice with a blunt object (to stun him, police suspect) and the piece of white cloth which asphyxiated him was still knotted
    tightly around his neck.
    ‘It looked as if he had been entertaining the man, because in the kitchen I saw empty teacups, two boxes of takeaway food — one empty — and a Guinness bottle top,’ Mrs
    Higgins says.
    Strangely, she claims not to have seen the tell-tale note found by police when they arrived a few minutes later.
    Indeed, she even refuses to believe it ever existed — much less that the upright Englishman whom she revered could have harboured any secrets that went against Jamaica’s archaic moral code.
    ‘Mr Terry — a Batty Boy?’ she mouths in disgust, when I ask her about the rumours.
    ‘Never! It just isn’t true. Mr Terry was a gentleman.’
    Of course, this is precisely the sort of denial taught in Jamaica’s schools and churches, parroted by its populist politicians, and booming out from its ubiquitous ghetto-blasters.
    It is up to the local police now to discover whether the Honorary Consul really was the victim of some twisted killer on a mission to wipe out homosexuals.

    But even if the killer is caught, it could take an eternity to bring him to justice because, with 1,600 murders a year, Jamaica’s courts are swamped.
    The average time for completion of a murder trial, from arrest to verdict, is
    five years.

    In March, 2008, another expat Briton, Barbara Scott-Jones, 61, was murdered in the hills above Montego Bay, allegedly by her former boyfriend. The case is grinding through the courts.

    Ironically, it was Mr Terry’s duty to liaise with her grieving relatives.

    But if it transpires that homophobia was behind the murder of this British diplomat, the people of this beautiful but benighted island — to whom he gave so much — should hang their heads in shame.