Important Note: This Internet version of 7 News is a verbatum
transcript of our evening television news script. Many interviews on our newscast
are conducted in Creole. In the interest of clarity for our foreign readers,
we attempt to paraphrase the Creole quotes in English
Tonight, residents of Crooked Tree village are on high alert, after the tranquility of their village was disrupted last night.
A little after 7:00, an armed intruder went on a home invasion at a residence in an isolated area of the village. Betty Westby was cooking for her 82 year old mother and 14 year old mentally challenged son when a hooded figure entered the house. It's a story we've heard many times before in the city, and most times in ends in bloodshed or battery, but nothing could have prepared us for how dramatically this Pastor's wife flipped the script:
Robin Schaffer reporting
This rustic home in a country setting may seem serene, but it was the scene of a traumatic home invasion in Crooked Tree Village last night.
While cooking dinner for her family, Betty Westby heard a loud noise, and when she went to investigate she came face to face with a hooded figure holding her 82 year old mother, who has a heart condition, at knife point.
Betty Westby - Victim of Home Invasion "When he saw me he just threw my mom across from right here where we are sitting and he came directly at me with the knife. I grab a whole of his hand with the knife with both my hands and I held on with that hand because I knew that was what he could hurt me with and we struggle and we fought and he kind of push me down right here where I am sitting and he put one of his foot in my stomach and then he held me here with on hand and then the other hand with the knife I had held and he said get on the floor. I said I am not going on the floor. He said I am going to kill you. I said you will kill me but I will look right in your face until you kill me. I said tell me what you want and I will give it to you, but I am not going to go on that floor. I felt the force of that young man's hand trying to get that knife into me. My hands hurt because of trying to restrain him."
In that moment, held at knife point, where most of us would have given in to panic, Betty Westby took on a steely resolve to protect her family at all costs.
Betty Westby - Victim of Home Invasion "I was thinking how dare you come into my house and try to do this and I told him that. I said how dare you? This is my home. I said in the name of Jesus you are not going to hurt me, you are not going to kill me nor my mom. I said take what you want and you leave, At this point the fright of everything kind of pass and I was angry. What I was really thinking was that you are not going to violate me nor my mother. That was what was going through my mind. I said God, take charge of the situation and I spoke it out loudly and when I said that the young man face got pale. I saw he was more frighten that I was, but he was still insisting that I get on the floor and I was not going to go on that floor."
They struggled for about 5 minutes, and that's when his hood came off and she saw her attacker's face:
Maurice Westby- victim of home invasion "The hood came off during the struggle and she saw the person and she knew who it was - somebody who had been in and out of our house working to put on the same addition along with my brother and so she said oh it's you and she rebuke him. We are Christians and she said in the name of Jesus you are not going to come in my house and kill me."
The commotion alerted Westby's 14 year old mentally challenged son.
Betty Westby - Victim of Home Invasion "He heard the commotion and so he came out and when he saw this young man with this knife over me he scream and that was when I realize that there was a second person because the young man became distracted from me, but when I son scream I said run "deege" and I heard him say grab him."
Betty Westby seized the opportunity to grab her husband's gun, but weary of loading it in front of her attacker, she ran.
Betty Westby - Victim of Home Invasion "I grab my husband's gun and I went outside with the gun and I laid on my stomach on a clump of bushes and I loaded the gun. I hid my mother behind that curtain there and I told her don't move. And so while I was on my stomach I took my phone out of my pocket and I call my husband because I didn't have a number for any of the police men in Crooked Tree, but I knew that he had their numbers, so I call him and I said dad, two men are holding up me and mamma right now. He said what, I said yes and he cut off immediately and he called the police."
"While I was down there on the ground the guys came out and they were just like from here to that step end there, but they didn't see me. I was on the ground and so they were talking and then I was thinking what do I do."
As she lay on the ground, clutching her weapon, she saw the attackers leave. From there, she then secured their home and held the fort with the gun at her side:
Maurice Westby- victim of home invasion "And so she open the door with the police pointing the gun at the police until she saw it was the police and she said okay sir, I am sorry, open the door and took out the cartridge and then I got home shortly after that, but nobody was injured. Praise God and thank God."
When the attacker left the house he did take the family's rifle. The community is advised that he is armed and dangerous. Police and villagers continue to search for him.
2 year ago, we told you about 24 year-old Justin Orillana, who spent 5 years on remand awaiting trial for murder because police believed he stabbed his stepfather, 38 year-old Cecil Thompson, to death. He was acquitted of murder then, and in a retrial which finished a few hours ago, he was acquitted of manslaughter. So, he's finally free after 7 years of dealing with this case.
In this month's retrial case, Crown Counsel Kileru Awich, called 8 witnesses to prove his case against Orillana. The witnesses described that on March 27, 2007, Orillana went home and asked Thompson where his belongings were, which included his tennis shoes, his clothes and other items. They were all missing, and Orillana became angry when Thompson ignored him. According to the witnesses, he returned shortly afterwards with a knife in his hand and he asked Thompson the same question once again. When Thompson ignored him yet again, Orillana allegedly stabbed him multiple times in the left side of his body and his forehead. Police found him dead inside his house.
Crown Counsel Awich also presented a caution statement to the jury which police recorded from Orillana himself. In that statement, Orillana supposedly confessed to the killing, and told police that he didn't mean for Thompson to die.
In his defence, Orillana denied under oath that he gave that caution statement to police, and he declared his innocence. He also called a witness who gave alibi testimony on his behalf. He told the jury that at the time of Thompson's stabbing death, he and Orillana were in Hattieville.
After deliberation, the jury reached a majority, 7-2, verdict of not guilty, and he was acquitted. So, unlike the end of the 2012 trial, Justin Orillana walked out court, and this time, he wasn't escorted back into the custody. Instead, he was allowed to go home a free man.
Tonight, the Forestry Department is in possession of 2 exotic birds who which have been on San Pedro for several years. They were confiscated from their former owners, the Halliday Family, the Forest Officer discovered that the family didn't have the proper documents to keep them as pets.
Forestry says, these parrots are not native to Belize, and so it is illegal for the family to keep them. So, when the Forestry Department went on the island for an education session, they happened on the Halliday pet birds.
What unfolded was a confrontation between the family, the police, and the Forestry Officer. With the help of amateur footage captured by one of the family members, Daniel Ortiz put together this story:
Daniel Ortiz reporting
This white bird in the top cage is Gabby a cuckatoo, the other is Captain Morgan, a macaw, known as Keppi. They used to be owned by the Halliday Family on San Pedro.??They look to be well cared for, even though they aren't in their usual cages.
They weren't so calm yesterday however, when the Forestry Department removed them from their homes, confiscating the exotic birds from the Hallidays who were reportedly breaking the law by keeping them as pets.
Notice that she managed to remove the bird from its cage while remaining on her phone the entire time.
That's after this scene unfolded, a confrontation between police and Brian Halliday, son of Edward Halliday, who owned the birds.
He claims he was protecting his father's property. This happened because Forestry officer, Victoria Cawich exercised her authority and took custody of the birds. Police were there as her support.??The family wasn't expecting the state to start enforcement so quickly. Cawich and her colleague had promised to all viewers on the Good Morning San Pedro TV Show.
Victoria Cawich - Forestry Officer, Forestry Department "The Forest Department is here along with Belize Bird Rescue to - it's not to start but to continue the licensing process of parrots because we know some people here in the island own parrots and one; it is illegal to have them, but because we recognize that a lot of people have these parrots we are here to issue them. 1) You have to apply for it and then we do an inspection and then if you pass the inspection you get your permit to keep your parrot. The parrot will also be banned so everybody would know that you have a legal bird. With that, we have been on the island in many occasions to see people who already have parrots and most of the times people feel we are here to remove the parrots, but we are not here to remove anyone's parrot unless they are not in healthy conditions of if they are in a dire state."
The Halliday family says that she wasn't so understanding or reasonable when she encountered them, and none of the unhealthy conditions existed for her to justify removing them for their own safety.
Edward "Eddie" Halliday - Bird Owner "Their orders were that we are here to confiscate the birds, we are not here to talk to anybody, we are not here to ask any questions, we are here to confiscate the birds which they did and they took the birds away."
Edward Halliday is a bird lover, who says that he's had these birds for a long time, and that he's well-known on the island for it
Edward "Eddie" Halliday - Bird Owner "Keppi which is the macaw, it's not a scarlet macaw, its miligold macaw, it was cross bred in captivity to where it is. Keppi has been with me over 20 years. Keppi was being handled by a German guy called Herman the German, who got Keppi from two people that were called the "Pirates" that had Captain Locust Bar which is today Big Daddy's. Herman the German says Eddie, you take that bird. He doesn't act like that with me, he obviously loves you, and so you keep that bird. Gabby was left with me by the owner which is Robert Vogues. I have been in touch with Robert. Robert has sent me documentation, we've gone to Forestry and they want more documentation, but according to the lazy, if we could provide the documentation for Gabby she will give them back."
Daniel Ortiz "Do you believe in any way that you are breaking any laws by having them as your pets?"
Edward "Eddie" Halliday - Bird Owner "I don't believe so. Like I mentioned before have had Keppi over 20 years. I ask the Forestry lady, I said ma'am, fine, you came, you were on a morning show on the Reef TV and you said that you were not here to take away people's bird, but to educate people and to show people how they should handle their birds and then we are here to register those birds. We will have a meeting tonight at the Lion's Den, we want everybody to come in and register their birds and if you don't do it you have until December to do it. But in fact that was a lie."
Supt. Luis Castellanos - OC, San Pedro Police "I believe that the young lady Ms. Victoria Cawich and the police that went with her, they actually spoke for almost an hour to an hour and a half trying to convince them that the birds cannot be held and so I believe that the young lady used all her discretion to try to explain to them that they cannot hold the birds."
But why would both sides go through all of this over - of all things - birds?
Brian Halliday - Son of Eddie Halliday "When I came here I ask them to please leave my property because at the end of the day I know that there were other procedures that should have been taken place than where they were at the position at the time. When they left the premises I went ahead and I grab the lock, lock the gate and then two police officers came. They know me good and they started to talk to me, they said Brian, just let it be, let them take the birds - they said that will take it to the police station and they will have it there for the time being and if you guys work it out you can have it back. When things started to get out of hand that I wasn't allowing them to come into the property, it seems to me that Mr. Castellanos authorized two more police officers to come over. Those two were neighbors, they see me every day - I give them my respect. They came to the property with intentions to arrest me, no questions ask."
Supt. Luis Castellanos - OC, San Pedro Police "Whilst they were checking the area, they came across two birds that I mention and as such they ask for police assistance. The thing turned out to be kind of hectic when they tried to confiscate the parrots. I sent police officers and then the son of Mr. Halliday obstructed the police and the forestry officer and as such we had to detain them."
"I was out there personally and I saw that they used the necessary force to detain him. He was behaving disorderly, he was resisting arrest and as such the police had to use or man-handle him to have him escorted to the station. I did not see that they abused their authority. However though there is a process in the police department where if you believe that they used excessive force we have an internal division where it can be investigated and then from there we could move on from there."
To the outside observer, it may seem trivial, but to the Hallidays, those birds were part of their family, something which the Forestry Department Rep. wasn't fully appreciating.
Edward "Eddie" Halliday - Bird Owner "I told her at the station last night, if you were nice about this and you didn't bring the police to harass my family to arrest my son, to put my son in a choke-hold, my son is all bruise up from the roughing up - for birds. Is that necessary? We have people killing in San Pedro and Belize. We have drugs rampant on the island and they are not doing anything about that. But they came to a law abiding house with law abiding citizens - we don't have a police record, we've never been to court and the way they harass us yesterday was like we are old time criminals."
Supt. Luis Castellanos - OC, San Pedro Police "I understand they have the birds for quite some years now, the gentleman mentioned 32 years, maybe more, maybe less, I don't know, but I know that he is 32 years and to get losing the birds it would have created problems and he didn't want to lose the birds, but however the birds cannot be kept unless they have an import or an export license to show that they were imported legally into the country."
This evening, we got an opportunity to speak with Cawich, who explained to us that yes indeed, they had not intention of confiscating any parrots, which are native to Belize. She told us that all the parrots which make their homes in country have remained with their owners who have them illegally in captivity. Those residents on San Pedro who have any such birds will be allowed to register and comply with the law, and keep their pets.
She added that in the case of the Cockatoo and the Macaw, they aren't native birds and so, it is illegal to own them because they were likely smuggled into the country. Because the Halliday family can't show proper documents from the authorities in the Countries which these birds are from, the Forestry Department is forced to keep them confiscated. Cawich adds that if the Halliday family can show that these birds weren't smuggled into the country, then, they will be given back.
We haven't heard much about the failed election petition against Elvin Penner for the past few months, but it is still very much under challenge in the courts.
The case came up for pre-trial management today and the upshot is that PUP standard bearer for Cayo Northeast Orlando Habet and two of his constituents are headed to the Supreme Court in November to convince Supreme Court Justice Courtney Abel to overturn the decision of Chief Elections Officer Josephine Tamai. Tamai's office rejected 337 of the 2,002 signatures collected for the Penner recall causing the petition to fall short of the threshold for recall by 79.
Today after the pre-trial review Senior Counsel Lisa Shoman, told the media that they have received most of the disclosure they need for trial.
Hon. Lisa Shoman "The Chief Elections Officer actually as I say provided much of the disclosure that we wanted. There are some matters that we still want and those we will get by the end of August. After we have that disclosure, if there is need for additional affidavits those have to be in by the end of September. The Chief Elections Officer has not yet filed an affidavit but they have until the end of September to do so."
Acting Solicitor General Nigel Hawke appeared for the Chief Elections Officer and the Attorney General. The trial had originally been scheduled for earlier this month but was rescheduled.
A pair of noteworthy Orange Walk politicians were also at the Supreme Court today. UDP Standard Bearer for Orange Walk Central Denny Grijalva and PUP Mayor Kevin Bernard were there for a trial over a contractual dispute. Grijalva's company De-Mar's construction was hired by the former UDP Town Council to pave some streets in the town; he claims the bill came up to 188 thousand dollars - and that the council paid him less than half. He says the UDP council agreed to pay him the balance in monthly installments, but then a PUP council was elected, and he claims they have not honoured the agreement. So, his attorney Darrell Bradley sued the council. The case was heard today before Justice Sonya Young who has reserved judgment for September 15. The town council is represented by Eamon Courtenay.
Yesterday in his press conference, the Prime Minister discussed the ongoing difficulties at BSI, where the owner of the plant, ASR and the Cane farmers are locked in a seemingly intractable dispute over the price for bagasse. The government has offered to pay for an independent expert to step in and mediate a dispute, but ASR rejected that. Today at an end of crop press conference in Orange Walk, ASR executive Mac McLachlan, the international advisor for ASR, explained why they don't want an outsider coming in:..
Mac McLachlan, international advisor for ASR "This is a commercial issue. It's an issue about the supply and usage of sugarcane to produce sugar and basically that has to be negotiated between the two parties. It's a commercial issue, as in any commercial discussion as the Prime Minister said that's not the role of government and obviously he is helping to facilitate the process but at the end of the day this has to come down to a commercial agreement between ourselves and the cane farmers."
Reporter "Any idea when you will go back to the negotiating table?"
Mac McLachlan, international advisor for ASR "We are always dispose to continue that discussion because we all need it. There can be no cane industry without a mill and there can be no mill without the cane industry and I think everybody understand that basic fact, so we are dispose to discuss that further into discuss a proper commercial agreement that respects both sides in a respectful and mature way and we look forward to getting on with that."
McLachlan also told our colleagues at CTV-3 why as invested parties and partners, BSI/ASR and the Cane Farmers have to work out the agreement on their own:..
Mac McLachlan, international advisor for ASR "The Prime Minister has often said in the past that he would like to help facilitate solutions to this issue but we were able to point out to the Prime Minister which he understood and accepted that this is actually a commercial issue. Its between two commercial partners. Its not something that can be arbitrated on from the outside, its something that has to be dealt with and understood and spoken about rationally between two commercial partners. What we are keen to have because we have no agreement at the moment with BSCFA. We want to negotiate a new agreement that will stand the test of time; an agreement that will set this industry up for the future to give clarity to both the cane farmers and BSI for the future and we look forward to having an opportunity to do that, but I'll stress again, its a commercial issue between two commercial players and we believe that's how it should be conducted."
Reporter "So, in no way did BSI/ASR refuse that offer out of malice?"
Mac McLachlan, international advisor for ASR "The point is that everybody is trying to help and we appreciate that but what I am trying to explain is that this is a commercial issue between two commercial players that supply the cane and that mill the cane and it has to be undertaken on the basis of a commercial discussion between those two parties - that's what we explained to the Prime Minister."
As you heard in our story, the farmers have given their negotiating team until October 15 to come up with a signed agreement.
And, the PM also discussed the IMF at yesterday's nearly three hour press conference. It was in response to a question from 7News, in which we asked about a 29 page document put out by the IMF ten days ago. It discusses Belize's two debt refinancing exercises, in 2006 - 2007, and 2012-2013.
As has been well publicized, the IMF was not invited to assist in either, and they conclude, rather huffily, that, quote, "debt sustainability has not been effectively restored following the two restructurings, thus calling for more robust macroeconomic policy adjustments…further fiscal consolidation is warranted to achieve debt sustainability and reduce future financing needs." The Prime Minister told the press yesterday that he doesn't really give two hoots about what the IMF has to say:..
Hon. Dean Barrow, Prime Minister of Belize "We successfully, I don't care what they say, we successfully restructured the super bond when they were insisting that we could not do it unless we entered into an IMF austerity program. Can they tell us anything? I am the happy position where I can say that without any fear of backlash or consequences because I am in no program with them, have no need to get into any program with them and we therefore in this government and in this country are our own masters. They can say what they want, they can draw the conclusions that you say they are drawing with respect to debt sustainability. We know what we are about, we know how we will deal with that and one thing that I could signal from now is being very actively contemplated is not another restructuring, but some form of a debt buy back."
And one more bit of news from yesterday's press conference is the announcement about the San Pedro Polyclinic. The island town has been crying out for a full time facility for years, and Government says one is in the making:
Hon. Dean Barrow, Prime Minister of Belize "Need for a 24 hour polyclinic and we are working on that with the Ministry of Health, so I can promise the people of San Pedro that that is as well going to happen."
Reporter "Are there any considerations being made in terms of having a 24 hour medical facility there and having actual personnel at the place?"
Hon. Dean Barrow, Prime Minister of Belize "Yes, Ministry of Health I think had some sort of a reduce session with the authorities on the island and I know this will be done because I've been told about the bill with which I will be tag to pay for this, so that's going forward yes."
San Pedro will also get a much upgraded road for the north end of the island.
Also in for an upgrade is the battered old northern highway - we are told that government has set aside funds to pave a few miles of this neglected roadway which leads to Altun Ha.
Today the rural development department held a contract signing as a part of an initiative to spark rural development in Belize. Three contracts were signed with 3 local grant recipients: The National Kriol Council, Belize Local Fowl Association and Ladies Involving Nature and Knowledge (LINK) Women's Group. A representative from each association explained what their project was about.
The total value of the grants is 134,898 US dollars, with each association receiving roughly 45 thousand US dollars to fund their respective projects.
It's well-known that the Lord Ridge Cemetery is over-filled, and that the Belize City Council is not authorizing new burials there.
But in 2011, when the Zenaida Moya led council officially opened the mile 13 Burial Site, known as the Eternal Garden Memorial, there was public pushback.
So, under Mayor Darrell Bradley, City Hal did some research as to why city residents are reluctant to use that new burying ground. In line with that feedback, and they made upgrades to Eternal Garden to make it more attractive as a final resting spot for the dearly departed.
It was officially re-opened today, by Mayor Bradley who told the media about the new elements:
Darrell Bradley, Belize City Mayor "We want people to feel comfortable with this facility up here. A significant amount of investment has gone on into making the place look respectable and to make people feel comfortable that their love ones are buried in a way that is dignified. The fact is for the Lord Ridge Cemetery we have just outgrown the space. The position really is that we are not accepting new burials at the Lord Ridge and that has been the position for at least a year. So that if someone wants to be buried in the Lord Ridge Cemetery they have to have already purchased a space previously or they have to use a grave space that a previously deceased loved one is buried in. So that we are doing tombs for example there so if you want to bury two people in the same grave space we have a certain amount of years that we look at. I think the previous burial had to have been above four years because we look at public health issues in terms of having to excavate and things like that so that our priority is to develop this site so that members of the public can feel comfortable using this site."
"I remember when this site was open under the previous City Council, people were reluctant to use it because of the distance from Belize City. We've put in place mechanisms including allowing our city council bus to be use free of cost. We have upgraded all the interior roads that you see here has been done within the last 3 weeks. We've built the bathroom facilities because people were complaining, you would come up here for a burial that would last an hour. Sometimes people do the full funeral here - that's 2 hours and there is no bathroom facility. There is no shade, no benches, and no trees. A significant amount of work has been done in planting trees, constructing this facility, upgrading the roads. We are also working very keenly ensuring that our records keeping is very accurate. I know that this was a problem at the Lord Ridge Cemetery in that people who were buried there for example 30 years ago, there is a difficulty in us finding those records because it was manual. Everyone who is buried in this facility together with new burials in the Lord Ridge facility, in you are using the tomb method, all of that is in a computerized system."
As you heard in our interview, the City Hall is offering free bus transportation to mourners burying their dead at Eternal Garden. They've also waived some of the fees attached to the burial expenses, for those who can't afford it. The City Council says it has spent 100 thousand dollars on these upgrades to the mile 13 facility.
Yesterday Belizean athletes again competed in the Athletics portion of the Commonwealth Games, but neither Kaina Martinez nor Kenneth Medwood advanced.
Martinez competed in the 200 meter sprint, placing 4th of 7 runners with a time of 24.54.
Kenneth Medwood, however, was unable to participate in his 400 meter hurdles due to the flare up of an old injury. Brandon Jones competes in the Triple Jump tomorrow.
But while Belize did not fare too well in the Athletics Competition, one of our cyclists had a fair showing in the Individual Time Trials. Giovanni Lovell finished in 58:21, placing 29th out of 60 cyclists. That's in the middle of the pack, but he was the second best amongst all riders from the Caribbean.
Joel Borland placed 41st out of 60. 4 Belizean riders will continue on Sunday where they will compete in the Road Race.