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October 10, 2014
Battle for property at Mesopotamia gets ugly

The battle for possession of a property in Mesopotamia, took a nasty turn early Wednesday morning, when the current occupant of the house was jolted out of his sleep by the sound of shattering glass.

The house in contention, situated adjacent to the magistrate’s court, was bought by Stephen {{more}}DaSilva and business partner Clinton Samuel, two Vincentians living in the USA, about six months ago, after the property was put on the market by the St Vincent Building and Loan Association.

However previous owner, Thomas “Chippy” Browne, refuses to leave.

When SEARCHLIGHT visited the property shortly after midday on Wednesday, we observed that several of the house’s window panes had been broken.

We spoke with 86-year-old Browne, who was adamant that he is still the owner of the property and noted that there is, “perhaps a little balance owed to the Building and Loan,” for the property.

He explained that Joseph DaSilva, who is his next door neighbour, has been hostile towards him over the past six months, claiming that the property had been bought by his brother.

“Everybody will tell you how nice I have been, not only to Joseph, but the entire Marriaqua. My lawyer … assured me that everything is good with the property and Building and Loan, except I have a small loan for them,” Browne said.

Browne further told SEARCHLIGHT that he also has 12 acres of land which he could sell to pay off the balance at the Building and Loan.

“He DaSilva keep coming and talking about the property is his, although I told him my property is safe,” Browne said.

“Although he was told that I am the owner of this house, he (DaSilva) thinks they had made a bid for the house through the Building and Loan.”

Browne’s caregiver, Gloria “Sonya” Nanton, said she reported for duty at about 6 p.m. on Tuesday, accompanied by her son.

“My son left after some time and after I close up, I put on the lights in the porch and the rest of the house. I checked on Mr Browne, gave him something to drink and went back into my room and dozed off,” she said.

According to Nanton, she woke up at about 4 a.m. and went to the living room to check to make sure everything was alright.

“I draw the curtain. I ain’t see nobody and I take off the light. I go in the bathroom and when I was coming back and walking towards Mr Browne’s door, I hear bangalang, bangalang (description of the sound she heard), stone pelting and thing mashing up,” Nanton recalled.

“I grabble him up and say, Mr Browne, come, they mashing up the place…”

Nanton said Browne, who walks with the assistance of a cane, was reluctant to move, but she held the elderly man around his waist and dragged him into the hallway.

“We were still standing there when things been still going on. I tell him to call the police or his son, Ken… After a while I didn’t hear anything breaking up and then my son came,” she said.

On closer inspection, four of the window panes in Browne’s bedroom, situated just above his bed were broken. Several pieces of large glass and splinters could be also be seen dispersed on the elderly man’s bed.

Some of the window panes in the living room and two other rooms had also been broken.

Dica Richards, Browne’s nurse for the past 11 years, said on Tuesday, a truck came to the property and dumped large boulders at the entrance of the property, blocking Browne’s car from parking.

The boulders were still at the entrance of the driveway when SEARCHLIGHT visited on Wednesday.

One person who was at the house at the time of the interview, showed us a video recording of a man, who was identified, tying a piece of rope to the back of Browne’s car and pulling it out of the yard to make way for the truck to dump the boulders.

That same morning, Richards said one of the pipes that distributes water to the house was cut. She said that the phone also went dead. She said they made inquiries at telecommunications provider LIME and were told that they did not cut the telephone service.

Richards further noted that two weeks ago, she saw a truck dump a load of sand in the front entrance to the house.

“I could not get into the house. I had to park my car over the street. Some of the guys had to move the sand and so I was able to park in the yard, until they came and place the stones there,” she said.

Richards added that she is very concerned about Browne’s health during this ordeal.

“I am more concerned about his health. I am here to take care of him. He’s not doing very well at all,” she disclosed.

SEARCHLIGHT then journeyed next door to speak with Joseph DaSilva, who said as far as he is aware, six months ago, his brother Stephen DaSilva and his business partner, Clinton Samuel, both of whom reside in the USA, bought the property.

“As far as I know, Mr Chippy Browne is trespassing. I asked my brother to let me see a deed, because people asking me all kinds of questions. He gave me a copy of the deed, … I could only talk about what I know,” DaSilva said, while a man stood just outside his property hurling curse words at him.

“I don’t know what they’re accusing me of. My brother and his business partner bought this place. Here is where I am living; I must be associated with there, because I could give information and show that my brother owns the place,” DaSilva added.

Searchlight contacted the St Vincent Building and Loan Association yesterday for clarification on the sale of the property, however they declined to comment.

One person, familiar with the transaction, however spoke to us on the condition of anonymity.

According to the source, while it is not normal for a financial institution to deliver a property without vacant possession, the new owners of the property agreed to accept the property the way it was.

“They stated in writing, and it is in the deed, that they would accept the property without vacant possession. They actually signed to that,” the source said.

The source however said that in cases such as this, the normal procedure to obtain vacant possession would be to go to court.

“I would advise them to seek the court to have the matter addressed… that is the resolution for them,” the source said.

When he spoke to us on Wednesday, Joseph DaSilva said his brother made several arrangements with Browne and members of his family to extend the time given to vacate the property.

“When the time comes, he (Browne) refused to leave. I don’t understand this at all,” DaSilva stated.

“Do you know anybody in St Vincent, 86 years old and has a mortgage? There is something wrong with that,” he said.

While stating that he is not in charge of the property occupied by Browne, DaSilva noted that the new owners ordered their lawyer to do work on the property.

“You came and saw the stones there. The lawyer was ordered by the owners to throw stones there. I got a truck for them. He is my brother, so they must associate me with it.

In relation to the breaking of the windows, DaSilva stated that he came out of his house around 6:00 a.m., and saw that the windows had been broken.

“They go associate me with it. I don’t bother what people say. Some people saying that my brother bought the building and gave Chippy a lifetime to stay and now my brother can’t wait. That is garbage!”

In his heydey, Browne was a prominent businessman, owning retail outlets Velma Browne Shopping Centre at Freeland and Velma Browne and Son and Charmaine’s Boutique at Sharpe Street, Kingstown. He was also a major buyer of nutmeg and spices for export.

Up to press time, Browne was still occupying the house.