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September 7, 2010
Vincy woman, 5 others die as bandits torch store

Tue, Sept 7, 2010

Barbadian police are on the hunt for two men who, last Friday, set a clothing store ablaze, claiming the lives of six women, including one Vincentian.{{more}}

Twenty four-year-old Kellishaw Ollivierre, originally from Kingstown Hill, worked at the boutique Campus Trendz, located on Tudor Street in Bridgetown, which went up in flames.

The fire, which has been described as “bordering on a national tragedy” by Barbados Minister of Health Donville Inniss, was as a result of a botched robbery, police said.

The women, ranging in age from 18 to 24, were allegedly found in the bathroom of the store.

Police public relations officer Inspector David Welch told the online newspaper Barbados Today that the store manager was wounded by the assailants, who ran off, but not before throwing Molotov cocktails that started the fire.

The huge crowd which assembled by the police barricades at either side of the blaze were kept at bay as the fire raged for more than six hours.

Law enforcement sources confirmed to Barbados Today that in the heat of the moment, when the location officially changed from a rescue mission to a crime scene, someone “inadvertently” bungled the operation by moving five of the bodies from the bathroom where their lives expired.

“The fear now is that critical pieces of evidence might have been destroyed or compromised by what occurred,” the veteran lawman said.

“While the firemen were battling the blaze, up to the point when the first victim was discovered alive and taken by ambulance to the Queen Elizabeth Hospital (QEH), it was still a rescue scene.

“However, when the five bodies were discovered, it officially became a crime scene and detectives and forensic specialists should have determined every move from there.

“That did not happen and the result is that the scene was severely compromised.”

Fire and rescue investigators are also now trying to determine if they had been able to discover a side entrance into the building earlier than when they eventually did, if the victims might have been rescued.

A fire fighting source explained that more than an hour and a half after responding to the call that people were trapped in the rear of the building, they discovered that there was an adjoining side entrance from a neighbouring property, which they might have been able to enter earlier to try to effect a rescue.

This they said, was discovered after valuable time was spent trying to push through the fire from the front, smash an entrance through thick walls at the back, among other strategies.

“Earlier notice would certainly have been helpful, but we can’t say that they would have been found alive,” the fire fighter said. “You must understand that in such circumstances an untrained person would have panicked and would hardly have considered that the only source of clean air in such circumstances would have been found four to five inches off the floor.

“So you are talking about intense heat and possibly massive smoke inhalation. … We may never know if knowledge of the door would have saved their lives, but it is reasonable to conclude that it would have altered the way firemen went about trying to effect a rescue.”

Meanwhile, Proprietor of Oouch Boutique, Latoya Scott, said she not at all pleased with the way the police handled her during the tragedy and is also fuming after allegedly being man-handled by a police officer.

She added that while persons were trying to assist the police the police were only interested in clearing the area.

“I was on the phone with a girl that trap inside the building and she tell me that when the fellows throw the cocktail she run back and a woman tell she ‘you going stand in here and get burn up?’ and run through the fire.

“I trying to explain to the police what going on and the man just ain’t hearing me. The girl did calling for help and all the man telling me was ‘eih, eih, get back’. Although I try to explain to him what happening, the officer just keep shouting get back, like I is an idiot or something,” she complained.

Scott added that because of her persistence, she was met with a swift poke with a baton.

“They need training for crisis, I felt I had information he could have used, but I not good enough, so he had to take out a long black baton and drive me back. I complaining, I got to complain about this, I don’t feel good, especially not after having contact with them and now the line dead,” she added.

The deceased are Pearl Amanda Cornelius, 18, of London Bourne Towers, St. Michael; Kellishaw Ollivierre, 24, of Wellington Street, the City; Kelly-Ann Welch, 24, of Montrose, Christ Church; Tiffany Harding, 23, of Upper Collymore Rock, St. Michael; Nikita Belgrave, 23, of Shop Hill, St. Thomas, and Shanna Griffith, 18, of Spring Garden, Black Rock, St. Michael.

Olivierre, Griffith and Cornelius were employees of the store, while Welch, Harding and Belgrave were customers.

Minister of Health Donville Inniss said the fire was a most heinous act and the culprits responsible should not be spared the rod. (Extracted from www.barbadostoday.bb)