SOMERSET, Manchester — Up to late Tuesday evening the country was still struggling to fathom what led to the gruesome killing of a police constable and injury to his wife at their house in this community Monday evening.
Reports that 41-year-old Constable Damien Blair and his 33-year-old wife, who is now in hospital, had a stormy relationship, coloured intense discussion about the chilling event throughout the day.
At the same time, Blair’s grief-stricken sister, Antonia Sutherland, and his colleagues at Mandeville Police Station, painted a picture of a caring husband and dedicated cop whose death was shocking, despite what they said were “warning signs”.
“They had been having problems for years. He wanted to move out, but there was nobody to take care of his poultry and goat, so he didn’t move. They were going to counselling, because they were getting a divorce, and then she fell ill and was admitted in hospital. He took care of her and then said, ‘Hear wah, me nah bother divorce, because she just wants somebody to take care of her’,” Sutherland told the Jamaica Observer outside the couple’s house on Tuesday.
A police report said about 6:25 pm Monday, Blair was shot inside his house, allegedly by his wife. Police said he ran from the house but collapsed at his gate, where further wounds were inflicted on him with a hammer.
According to the cops, Blair’s wife was found inside the house with a laceration to her wrist. They also that she had barricaded herself inside a section of the house on Desmond McKenzie Close in this deep-rural community in north-west Manchester.
The police said they are awaiting an interview with Blair’s wife, as the circumstances surrounding the incident are still not clear.
Constable Blair, a member of the Jamaica Constabulary Force for more than 20 years, was pronounced dead at hospital, while his wife was admitted in stable condition.
A senior police source confirmed that investigators found Blair’s licensed pistol and items, including two hammers and a machete, that are believed to have been used during a dispute.
“They were always fighting, but I never expected this. Him humble, enuh. Him nuh talk… I am shocked. This is surprising,” Sutherland said.
“My brother bought this place about 17 years ago, so when him and her were getting together she moved in and they lived here together ever since. To be honest, he came to my workplace the other day and we were talking for a long time,” she said, adding that Blair had told her that he was going to look about renting somewhere else to live.
The mood at Mandeville Police Station was sombre as Blair’s colleagues underwent grief counselling.
“Blair should have been more careful, because the warning signs were there. He was comfortable. I wished he had left [the house] a long time ago,” said one of his colleagues who requested anonymity.
Meanwhile, Inspector Simon McCormack, assigned to the Operations Branch, described Blair as a dedicated policeman.
“The members have taken this one really hard. Constable Blair was assigned to the guardroom/patrol. He is very soft-spoken, a hard worker. The mood of the staff is very low at this time, and I think they have taken it hard,” he said, adding that graphic photos of the slain cop posted on social media have affected his colleagues.
“I am just encouraging the staff and the station in general just to look at the domestic violence issue surrounding us,” said McCormack.
“We need to treat this thing with strict alacrity, knowing very well it can be any one of us. So when we have issues like these we need to just reach out and see how best we can have them resolved, because, honestly, I looked at a video clip and I really felt like my heart shut and the mood of the station right now will tell,” he said.
“I wish this on no one, and I just wish we can ride out this one. It is not going to be easy, but we are trying,” McCormack said.
“I am just hoping that members just look at their own situations. Sometimes and we can learn from these situations that whatever problems we have we can reconcile them in a different way, rather than resort to violence,” he added.
A resident, who asked not to be named, said the killing has cast a negative light on Somerset.
“The couple moved here over a decade ago and, to be honest, is a couple that have had their contention from a long time — quarrel now and then — but whatever the case, something happened here. It doesn’t look good on the community,” he said.
Another resident, who identified himself as Rocky, shared similar sentiments.
“It is very a sad thing, because having a policeman who is there to protect and serve pass out in this manner or any manner it brings shock, because they are the ones who, once there is any problem, the citizens call on to assist them and to see peace within their community,” he said.
“This is not something which the members of the community would really like, especially knowing him as a quiet person within this community for the years that he had lived here, and we do regret his passing. We wish this never happened,” he added.