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By Kate Chappell

KINGSTON, Jamaica, Weds. Jan 27, 2021 (Reuters) – Jamaican police said on Tuesday they had detained a person of interest as part of their investigation into an attack over the weekend on six homeless men in Kingston in which four were hacked to death and two critically injured.

While Jamaica has one of the highest homicide rates in the world, the attack was particularly grisly. All suffered chop wounds to the head and the two who survived were in a critical state, police said. More worrying still to the local homeless population, this was not the first such occurrence and could be the work of a serial killer.

Several years ago, homeless men were the victims of a pattern of similar attacks, killed while they were sleeping, said Dennis Brooks, a spokesman for the Jamaica Constabulary Force.

“We will spare no effort in investigating the heinous and barbaric murders of these men who are among our society’s most vulnerable,” Jamaican Prime Minister Andrew Holness said.

Minister of Local Government Desmond McKenzie said the incident was a reminder “to ensure that the vulnerable among us are never seen or treated as expendable,” urging the homeless population to stay in shelters.

Some were defiant, though, and preferred the relative freedom of the streets over the constraints of shelters.

Lying on some cardboard on a city sidewalk, flanked by two shopping bags full of possessions, Zenas Gayle, 55, said he would not consider going to a shelter although there was always a level of fear from living on the streets of Kingston.

“But if anybody goes for me (attacks me), I will go back,” he said.

Over 1,300 people were murdered last year in Jamaica, with gang violence to blame for much of the violence, and several communities remain under a state of emergency, under constant watch by security forces.

(Reporting by Kate Chappell in Kingston Writing by Sarah Marsh Editing by Alistair Bell and Matthew Lewis)

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