Three dead after throats slit during ark-boarding ritual in Paradise
The bloodstained concrete where Taneka Gardner, the woman who was reportedly sacrificed in a bizarre ritual in St James on Sunday, was testament to the horror that unfolded at the Pathways International Kingdom Restoration Ministries in Paradise.
The rainbow-themed ritual, which included two days of fasting, came to a nightmarish end on Sunday night as members dressed in white at the Dr Kevin O. Smith-led cult-like operation, where those considered unclean were reportedly told that their blood had to be shed.
Before the ritual could end, the police stormed the Norwood Avenue facility with 144 congregants, including children, in attendance, preparing, as they were told, for an ark (His Excellency Kevin Smith's Ark).
Goats, cows and rabbits were all part of the script, and by 7:40 on Sunday night, three people were dead – two as a part of the sacrifice – and three taken to hospital for treatment.
Police Commissioner Antony Anderson yesterday told the media that the police were alerted by a congregant who had been injured when she chose to disobey the instructions given to her by the leaders.
“She gave other information, which led us to believe that persons were at risk. On responding to that report by the person who was injured, the first team of police that arrived were shot at,” he said, adding that they had to get backup.
“We were concerned that some form of ritualised killing was going to take place and so we did an entry,” explained the police commissioner.
When the police stormed the facility, they found a number of people who had been injured by other members of the church, and decided to secure the premises.
“There were about 14 children and 31 women, and so we see that as a rescue of these children, based on what we saw when we came in,” added Anderson.
Photos secured by The Gleaner showed men bound with cord, some naked and others with their torso skimpily covered with a piece of cloth. Food could also be seen strewn to the ground.
In the midst of the ritual was a policewoman attached to a station in Kingston.
Teachers, tax collectors, soldiers and sales agents also numbered among hundreds of believers following the man trained in psychology.
Smith, reportedly from Glengoffe in St Catherine, lived in Canada for 10 years before returning to Jamaica with a doctorate in psychology.
“He used to heal people, but he has deviated and became radicalised, and as a result, some members left him,” a former member of the congregation told The Gleaner.
With no proof that other such cultist organisations had sprung up across the island, Anderson said if that were so, it would be a matter of concern.
“Hopefully, this isn't the start of a wave of it. I don't see any sign of that. But, of course, it's a cause of concern,” he stated.
Anderson admitted that the group had been on the police intelligence radar before, but not in relation to the gorish hell which unfolded on Sunday.
He lauded Senior Superintendent Vernon Ellis, head of the St James Police Division, and his team for taking the information seriously when they received the call and for moving quickly to cauterise the matter.
“Otherwise, we could have perhaps had more persons killed,” he added.