WHEN a mother loses a child due to illness, that feeling is unbearable. When she has lost that child at the hands of her own lover, the agony lasts forever and she is tormented by years of guilt and depression, as 47-year-old Jacqueline Rochester has learnt.
Rochester’s story is a nightmare that any mother could experience.
“On the ninth of July 2005, my daughter was brutally murdered by someone I used to date. She was one year and six months old,” she recalled.
Rochester had four children, two of whom were living with her at the time. She said that she left her two children, eight years old and one-and-a-half years old at the time with her lover, to attend her daughter’s graduation with the intention of returning the following morning. However, threats of a hurricane prevented her from returning until a day later.
“My daughter had just passed her GSAT,” Rochester recalled recently. “So I left the baby with him, then I got a call the following morning that my daughter was dead. When I came home she was in the morgue.”
Rochester, who was living in Nain, St Elizabeth at the time, went to the Mandeville Police Station and was told that the baby could have been murdered. Her lover told her and the police that the baby fell off the bed and that a bicycle had fallen on her.
“But the police told me that they visited the house and looked at the bicycle and that could not have killed her,” she said. “When the autopsy was done, it showed that she was beaten, her ribs were broken, inside of her was ruptured, her brain was swollen and there was a mark around her mouth to show that he was covering up her mouth,” she told the Jamaica Observer.
She explained that the two weeks before an autopsy was performed her partner was still with her, but she could not shake the feeling that he was hiding something.
“He was there with me but there was this feeling inside of me, and I kept asking him ‘You sure is not you kill my daughter? and he would say no,” she stated.
But the day the autopsy was to be performed her lover left and she never saw or heard from him again.
“He left the day of the autopsy and never got the official autopsy report,” Rochester said. “Him never pack him stuff or anything. I saw him when I was on the road walking towards the house and I asked where he was going and he said he was going to look for his friend in Mandeville, so I said, ‘But when the autopsy result come out I’m going to be alone’. He said no, him soon come back. From that day until now I haven’t seen or heard from him. That same day when they did the autopsy the policeman called me and said he murdered the baby because he was the only one with her at that time.
“I don’t think he is dead,” the broken-hearted mother said. “I don’t have a clue where he is, but I am still trying to find out,” she went on.
But Rochester said despite the fact that he was the only one who had access to her child at the time, no arrest was made.
“The police have not said anything to me. From that day I have been going to the police station in Mandeville,” she said. “But sometimes you really want closure. All the police did was hold him for like a couple hours. The doctor in Mandeville told them not to let him go because she saw signs where the baby was beaten because he had taken her to the hospital. The doctor told me that the baby came there a dead baby, and is him took her to the hospital.”
Rochester said that they were together for over a year before the incident and despite the fact that the child was not his, many persons believed that he was her dad because he took good care of the three of them.
She warned mothers to be careful who they let into their homes and into their children’s lives.
“What I would say to mothers with young children is that if you can be alone, be alone,” Rochester said. “Because you will never know what is a man’s intention. They will treat you good, they will make you feel happy but you never know when they going to snap, because this person literally took care of me, my son, and my daughter… and I mean took good care. But you can’t see inside of a person because then you would know what they have in their intentions because what they show outside is a totally different thing.
“It’s not an easy road. No mother must go through that. So if you can stay alone, stay alone, even if it’s until your kids get big and can defend themselves,” she said.
Even today, years later, Rochester is still groping for answers and still trying to understand what took place that day, when her daughter died.
“Trust me, I wouldn’t want my worst enemy to go through that because it took years for me to start coming to terms with this and I still can’t get over it.
“I feel protective of other people’s kids when I see them now. It is not an easy road. I slept with her album under my pillow for almost three years and it was my son who took it up and hide it. When I hear of mothers losing their children in any fashion I know what they are going through because I have been there. It’s not easy for you to know you leave your child healthy and everything, and when you come back you find her in the morgue lying down. Right now I’m talking about it, and is like I am going right back,” she said as her voice broke. “My whole family was shattered. My son was eight at the time and he could not get over it for years, and every day after that him used to say he wished he had let the baby sleep with him because she would not have died.”
Rochester said that the child’s biological father was angry and has threatened to do to her what she said the man did to his only child.
“I blame myself a lot of times. I have sleepless nights, I have thoughts of suicide, and I have developed major complications health-wise because of her death. But I just want closure and I don’t know how to get closure. I saw one of the policemen recently that was involved in the case and he said I was to forget it and I said I can’t forget it. How can I forget it?”
“I just feel that the system in Jamaica — the whole investigation process is not right, because I don’t think a murderer like that should be walking free. He should be in jail, because he can date somebody else and do the same thing, as it look like him don’t have a conscience.
“So that type of person need to come off the street and be put away and face the brunt of the law. My child never even live to go to basic school, primary school – nothing at all. He robbed her of her chance in life and it is sad sometimes but I just trust and hope in God that wherever he is, one day he will be revealed and brought before the court and face his time.
“I feel he will hurt somebody else again and only then I might get a little closure.”