Chaos reigns as angry family members walk out of Danielle Rowe’s funeral
More than a month after her murder, the thanksgiving service for eight-year-old Danielle Rowe was marred yesterday by chaos brought on by a family dispute that denied her a dignified send-off.
The funeral, which took place at the Portmore Seventh-day Adventist Church in St Catherine, erupted into disorder soon after members of Danielle’s family began leaving the building as her father, Norval Rowe, was speaking. The elder Rowe, who is a police corporal, was listed on the programme to read the morning’s first scripture from 1 Corinthians 15:50 – 58.
While he spoke, Danielle’s mother, Sudiene Mason, was the first to exit the church.
As the service progressed, many other family members and close friends proceeded to remove themselves from the church pews, leaving the Reverend Francis West, who was delivering the morning’s sermon. The relatives objected to the order of the service and claimed that they had been excluded.
The aggrieved family members protested that elements of the funeral programme, such as the withdrawal of some activities to be undertaken by some family members, went against their wishes.
“It’s not about them, it’s about family. The mother never asked for that programme. Dem reprogrammed everything. The opening prayer supposed to be my mother. They put JCF (Jamaica Constabulary Force). Why? What they got to do with anything?” one family member questioned.
Perceived gov’t takeover
Eveth Thomas, Danielle’s grandaunt, was at the centre of the commotion that ensued because she was outraged by what she perceived to be a government takeover though there was no evidence of such.
“Nuh politics! She [Danielle] nah guh down inna no politics! We nuh wah dem speak!” she shouted in anger, encouraging the other family members to end the funeral proceedings earlier than scheduled.
“Dem outta order fi tek me off a the programme and put people weh we nuh know,” she continued.
Attendee Carlene Smith, a former dancer and dancehall queen, persistently pleaded with the family to get along and go back inside the church.
“Listen nuh man! Come together all of you. Get the mommy, get everybody. It’s your service. Just do it properly,” Smith urged.
Following the funeral, the Ministry of Education and Youth sought to counter claims made by Danielle’s relatives, who insisted that the Government was involved in amending aspects of the funeral programme.
In a statement, the ministry said that “the Government was not involved in the planning of the funeral” and that Fayval Williams had attended in her capacity as education minister and gave remarks.
“No other person from the Government was engaged in the funeral,” the statement read.
Among those present at the service were Williams and a team from her ministry; Corporal Rohan James, chairman of the Jamaica Police Federation; Icylin Golding, custos rotulorum of St Catherine; Fitz Jackson, member of parliament (MP) for St Catherine Southern; Leon Thomas, mayor of Portmore; Commanding Officer for St Catherine South, Superintendent Christopher Phillips, and other JCF personnel.
Before Danielle’s father read from the Bible, he thought back to the last time he had seen his “angel”, which was on May 16, the day she turned eight.
“This is not a good day,” he declared, referring to the fact that he had to bury his daughter, who he characterised as being the most loving and compassionate person he knew and that she was not deserving of such a gruesome death.
Abducted outside school
Young Danielle was abducted on June 8 from outside the school gates of Braeton Primary and Infant School, which is located in the St Catherine South Police Division in which her father works. She had been left for dead with her throat slashed when she was found along Roosevelt Avenue in St Andrew later in the day. She was subsequently transported to the Bustamante Hospital for Children, where she succumbed to her injuries two days later.
Her horrific death has since sparked outrage islandwide and has led to several protests, with persons calling for a resumption of the death penalty for her killer. The latest protest was on Friday, when family and friends took to the streets bearing white placards smeared with red paint and marched at the intersection of Arthur Wint Drive and Roosevelt Avenue, close to where she was found.
The autopsy that was conducted at House of Tranquillity Funeral Home on June 19 revealed that Danielle died from an incised wound to the neck.
The police revealed that it is believed that Danielle knew her killer. They also released a sketch developed using an electronic facial identification technique of a female of interest in the case.
“[There has been] a whole lot a speculations, a whole lot a rumours. Some absolutely disgusting statements have been made,” the elder Rowe said.
He continued by saying that his daughter, who desired to be a veterinarian, would constantly check on him to ensure that he was okay and to show her affection.
Meanwhile, Danielle’s mother was inconsolable throughout the service and at the burial site. Her screams of grief and despair being bellowed from her frail frame were a heart-wrenching sight to behold as she could not keep herself together and fainted repeatedly. She and other relatives were dressed in blue as this was Danielle’s favourite colour.
Williams said in her remarks that many Jamaicans felt a range of emotions in response to the “heinous act” against Danielle, including anger and hurt. She added that this was made worse by the fact that the investigations have not yet determined who ought to be held accountable.
As such, Williams encouraged the congregation to honour Danielle’s memory by cherishing lives and spreading love.
“Let us be kinder to one another, more patient and more compassionate. That’s what we need right now,” she said.
The minister also emphasised that Danielle was a “child of much promise and potential”, a daughter, a classmate, and a Jamaican who was described by her teachers as reserved, soft-spoken, and well -behaved. She was also among the top students at her institution, placing third overall and first among the girls in final exams.
“I ask, is there no one who saw anything that could help the police in their investigations? I appeal for anyone with information to step forward [as] the attacker or attackers must be brought to justice,” Williams said.