Two months, no autopsy — murdered Westmoreland woman’s family in pain

MONTEGO BAY, St James — Monday, October 30 will make two months since businesswoman Lativa Helps was brutally murdered in Westmoreland.

And her family is feeling “hopeless” as they impatiently wait for an autopsy to be carried out, said Yanique Helps, sister of the deceased.

“I know the situation in Jamaica where they say it is one [government] pathologist, but she has been there almost two months now and every time we go to the parlour they keep telling us that we have to wait for an autopsy from Kingston,” she bemoaned.

According to Yanique, the family was told that a list with the names of those slated for autopsies is sent from Kingston weekly. However, Lativa’s name has yet to turn up, she told the Jamaica Observer.

“Each time it is just one or two names coming down and when the list does come, her name is not on it. We just can’t get anything concrete from anybody at all as to why,” Yanique complained.

The 39-year-old businesswoman, also known as “Latty”, was gunned down on September 4 in front of her establishment Latty’s Sports Bar and Restaurant along Bay Road in Little London, Westmoreland. She also ran a Supreme Ventures gaming outlet. An initial reports from the Westmoreland police has said that the killing was a case of mistaken identity.

Reports indicate that Lativa arrived at her establishment shortly after 8:00 am when she was confronted by gunmen on a motorcycle. The men allegedly asked her to identify herself, she ran off, but was chased and shot.

Her alleged killers were subsequently attacked by machete-wielding residents in a bizarre turn of events. It was reported that while trying to escape, the men were struck by a bus whose driver had witnessed the incident. The gunmen reportedly ran into nearby bushes and were chased by scores of angry residents, who police said chopped one of them multiple times. He later succumbed to his injuries. Another man was arrested by the police.

While struggling to deal with the loss of their loved one, Yanique Helps told the Sunday Observer that her family is also growing weary, as information surrounding the timeline of Lativa’s autopsy was limited. The family has reportedly attempted to pull all the stops to expedite the process; however, those attempts have yielded no success.

“We are just feeling helpless and hopeless regarding getting anything together for her. Everywhere we turn to see how we can do this has been a roadblock. We have offered to pay for the autopsy to be done because I know you can do it privately, but they said we can’t because it is a government case,” she said.

Yanique continued, “However, nobody is talking to us about it. We are just sitting down hopeless and helpless. We have gone to the parlour a lot. We have tried calling back the officers in charge.

“A cousin has tried to reach out to the MP and other leaders in the area, but everybody said that they will get back to us and we have heard nothing since,” Yanique continued.

With nowhere else to turn, Yanique stated that members of her distraught family were anxiously sitting at the edges of their seats waiting on a call to say that they can finally put Lativa to rest.

“One of my uncles was here and he had to leave. Everybody is waiting. Some people were here already and had to go back,” Yanique said.

“We are really hoping to hear that we are going to get the autopsy done soon or if it is a case where we can pay to do it privately, then we would do that. I got to understand that it is not an everyday thing that autopsies are done by the Government, so we could just pay for it, we are willing to do that so we can get our sister and loved one to bury,” she stated.

In the meantime, the businesswoman’s murder has been particularly hard on their father, Yanique told the Sunday Observer.

“It has not been good at all, especially for my father. I am having a rough time, too, because he is now staying with me, so most mornings around 3:00 I cannot sleep. He keeps talking about how they killed his daughter…and he can’t get her to bury,” she said.

Efforts to contact Minister of National Security Dr Horace Chang to get a comment on the matter were unsuccessful, but the Westmoreland police said late Saturday that the survivor of the mob attack, Edward Murray, otherwise called Edmon, a 20-year-old unemployed man from White Hall, Negril, in the parish, had been charged with murder, using a firearm to commit a felony, possession of a prohibited weapon, and unauthorised possession of ammunition.

His court date is set for November 8.

By that time, the family is hoping that something tangible will be done to pave the way for the deceased businesswoman’s autopsy to be conducted, so that final preparations for her farewell may be done.