(Jamaica Observer) Young Jasmine Keeling was always smiling. She was such a cheerful child that her neighbours in the Burke Road, Old Harbour community of St Catherine called her Smiley.
But on Saturday morning she was not smiling when her friend and schoolmate passed by her gate and greeted her. In fact, she didn’t even respond to her.
Although this was unlike Jasmine, not even her friend could have predicted that the eight-year-old would have been found hanging by a cord in her backyard later that day.
“That was about after 10 in the morning. I was passing by and I said ‘hi’ to her and she didn’t respond,” the neighbour, who attended Davis Primary School with Keeling, told the Jamaica Observer yesterday. “She seemed sad.”
Jasmine’s relatives converged at the home that she shared with her mother and two older siblings on Sunday all too overcome with grief to speak.
“Her mother just went to lie down, she doesn’t want to talk to anyone right now,” a relative offered quietly.
A section of the house that was being renovated told the tale that the family could not, as residents said it was from one of the newly constructed columns in the backyard that Jasmine’s mother found her hanging. Neighbours gave their account of the tragedy.
“When mi go over there mi see her with the baby in her hand, and mi a try ask her what happen. She a hold her and a say, ‘Wake up nuh! Wake up nuh! Come fi you dinner!’ Is done she done cook and a look for her, and all dem a look dem couldn’t find her…” said Tracy-Ann Campbell, who lives a few houses down the street and helped to take the child to the hospital.
She said the girl’s mother was unconsolable on Saturday night.
“When she was there, she was saying, ‘I wake up and watched you sleeping last night, and tonight I don’t have you to watch.’ ”
Campbell shook her head in disbelief as she explained that it was the thin nylon cord that was being used for the construction that is suspected to have ended the little girl’s life.
“We couldn’t believe is that little cord, but the police said yes, because you can’t burst a nylon cord. Is something that you have to use knife and cut,” she said, still shaking her head.
She remembered “Jazzy” as an inquisitive and polite child.
“She was a nice little girl. She pretty like wah. She will see you and call to you. She love to talk and ask question. She always a smile,” she said, adding that she was well taken care of by her mother. “The mother is a lady like this: If she a wear pants, her children a wear pants. If she a wear sneakers, her children dem wear sneakers. If she go road, she carry home pizza… she carry home everything. She bring them out. She take care of her three pickney them.”
She added that the mother had a close call some time ago when her teenage son was stabbed, but he made a full recovery.
“Mi say look deh, look how she go fi go lose her son and she nuh lose him, and then she come lose her daughter like this. It hot, man,” she said.
Campbell’s sister, Julet, also expressed sympathy for Jasmine’s mother.
“She is a single mother just like myself, and she deal with them good,” she offered. “Me and her a nuh close friends, but when people deserve dem credit, dem deserve it. She deal with her pickney dem good and treat dem good. Mi a talk to you and cold bump just a wash me…”
She shared fond memories of the cheerful little girl.
“She always go right there to buy ice cream at the shop, and anytime I jokingly beg her some she would tell me that she soon buy mi one. Is a nice little girl. Every day she tell me that she was going to buy me an ice cream, and all now…” she trailed off.
While the details surrounding Jasmine’s passing have not yet been verified by the police, residents close to the family said Jasmine had been receiving counselling, as she was not taking a recent separation in the family very well.
Reports said that on Saturday she wanted to use her tablet computer, but her mother said it needed charging. She quietly went out into the backyard, where she was later found hanging.
The incident has left a cloud of gloom over Burke Road, which lies just a few hundred metres away from the heart of the Old Harbour town.
Why? That’s the question being asked by residents.
“It mash mi up from yesterday,” expressed a visibly perplexed Gary Smith, who lives at the opposite end of the street. “She nuh live nuh life yet. All inna mi sleep last night mi a vision di little girl. Mi cut up. It terrible. The little girl nuh live nuh life. Mi stand up inna di lane and see the people a run go up deh, so mi think a war a gwaan… only fi hear say a dat gwaan. It’s a tragedy. Mi nuh really live up that side, but mi always see she and her mother and sister. She was a nice little girl.”
Another man, known in the community as Rum Belly, shared: “Mi usually go in di yard next to fi her own go pick coconut, and sometimes mi see her a play in the yard same way, so a mi little friend. She always ask fi coconut fi herself, her mother, and her sister. When mi hear yesterday and a bawl, mi bredrin ask how mi fi really a bawl fi a little girl, but a who mi fi bawl fa? She nuh live nuh life yet.
Head of the police Corporate Communications Unit Senior Superintendent Stephanie Lindsay confirmed that the police had been alerted about 5:50 pm on Saturday and visited the home. She said the matter is still being investigated.
“We are able to confirm the death of a little girl who was found hanging from a length of cord in her home in Old Harbour, St Catherine. We are looking at it as a possible suicide, but investigations are ongoing,” she said yesterday.