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Nora Parham: The only woman ever hanged in Belize #442544
07/15/12 07:35 AM
07/15/12 07:35 AM
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Marty Offline OP

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Marty  Offline OP

June 5th
5/6/1963
Nora Parham – Belize

“Under the British laws at the time she was found guilty and sentenced to die. Today it would probably have been different.” So said George Price, the first black prime minister of Belize, recalling the case of Nora Parham who, after a long period of physical and sexual abuse by her partner, Letchel Trapp, finally killed her tormentor by pouring petrol over him and setting him on fire. The court in Belize was told that Trapp died in agony.

Nora, an Asian, was the 36-year-old mother of eight sons and Trapp was the father of four of them. She was said to have complained several times to the police about Trapp’s violent behaviour. Although the jury at her trial recommended mercy, the British governor of the colony, then called British Honduras, declined to interfere with the verdict.

On Wednesday, June 5th, 1963, Nora’s sons kept vigil outside the prison where their mother became the first woman to be hanged in British Honduras.

Source


Belize, B. Honduras, June 5. — Nora Parham, aged 36, the East Indian mother of eight sons, was hanged today for the murder of the man with whom she had been living.

So ran a minute, page-10 wire story in the London Times* from the British Central American possession soon to become self-governing as the country of Belize.

The unfortunate subject of the story was the first, and remains to date the only, woman put to death in Belize.

But she’s very much more than a bit of trivia.

A domestic violence victim hanged for murdering her batterer — who just happened to be a cop — Parham remains a lively source of controversy down to the present day.

Nora’s position as the victim in an abusive marriage, combined with serious doubt about whether she truly killed her husband at all, have given her enduring appeal. There’s a going campaign to issue her a posthumous pardon. In fact, there was a going campaign before she died to issue her a humous pardon, opposed by a governing party paper on the grounds that “sympathy” ought not “change court rulings.”

And it’s hard not to feel sympathy for Nora Parham and the years of beatings she’s reported to have endured in her relationship with Ketchell Trapp. One doubts even the harshest magistrate would condemn a person in her situation to hang today.

“By refusing to treat the pair as wife and husband, not just cop slayer and cop,” argues this volume on gender politics in colonized Belize, “the government deepened its own highly political silence about domestic and community gender oppression and violence and added a threatening element to its re-call to ‘domestic womanhood.’”

That cop/husband was doused with gasoline and set afire, but admitted as he expired from these ghastly injuries that he had been beating Parham before the fatal fire.

Even so, it sounds like a calculated way to kill a person.

But many believe, as Parham testified at her trial** that it wasn’t homicide at all … that Trapp was incidentally splattered with gasoline during his donnybrook with his wife, then carelessly set himself ablaze lighting a cigarette while off in the outhouse. (While naked, no less. What a way to go.)

“While he came back in the bedroom, I had a gasoline iron [in] my hand with a pan of gasoline.

“He came in the bedroom with a stick in his hand and hit me on my head. When he was going to hit me another hit, I threw the gasoline on him and he grabbed away the pan from me, and I went through the backdoor and he stone me with the said pan.

“After he stoned [me], I ran around the house and he never see where I got to. I went in the house through the front door, then I took the gasoline iron from where I left it and put it in the box.

“While I was inside I heard a noise and I run to see what it was. When I went I saw Ketchell Trapp come out of the latrine under fire. I then run up to help him but I see I could not, then I continued running towards the Hospital back street, running towards the station.

-Nora Parham, at trial

That trial excerpt is drawn from a strongly pro-Nora account with more details about the case here.

Belize still hands down death sentences, but has not carried one out on anybody, man or woman, since 1985.

* June 6, 1963

** All-male jury, which was true of all juries in Belize until 1970.

Source


Re: Nora Parham: The only woman ever hanged in Belize [Re: Marty] #442545
07/15/12 07:35 AM
07/15/12 07:35 AM
Joined: Oct 1999
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Marty Offline OP

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Marty  Offline OP
From a friend....

It's a sad tale that I was familiar with but didn't know some of the details including the testimony that Nora gave about using a gasoline iron (probably such as the one in the youtube video below.)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o8S4saKkizQ

Re: Nora Parham: The only woman ever hanged in Belize [Re: Marty] #442546
07/15/12 07:37 AM
07/15/12 07:37 AM
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Marty Offline OP

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Marty  Offline OP

The Crown against Nora Parham



Very rarely do we go back into the national archives to excavate information surrounding occurrences of the past, but the events that transpired between February and April 1963 are of such significance that we should not allow those memories and the important lessons they present to fade from national consciousness.

Just last week, we were reminded with the murder-suicide case of Dindsdale Arthurs, 32, and Fania Susan Noel, 23, that domestic disputes sometimes can and do end in tragedy. One case that stands out in our history is that of Mrs. Nora Parham and her common-law husband, P.C. 183 Ketchell Raymond Trapp, ages 36 and 37 respectively, at the time of their deaths in 1963.

The Parham/Trapp story is different from the Arthurs/Noel story in some fundamental respects. During Women’s Month in March, the Nora Parham story was resurrected on the pages of this newspaper with the claim by Trapp’s daughter, Sandra, that Trapp was the real victim, and Nora the aggressor. That account has been rebutted by various other sources, though we find it interesting that this was the exact same claim made during the April 1963 murder trial in the Supreme Court by the then Solicitor General, J. K. Havers.

Nora Parham was married Parham, but her maiden name was Williams. She was originally from Punta Gorda, where she had been living with Trapp. The couple was together for seven years, and had four children, apart from Nora’s four with her husband.

On Tuesday, Eric Williams, 62, a security officer with the US Embassy, told our newspaper that he was a teen living in PG at the time, when he remembers seeing Trapp kick Nora down a flight of stairs, while he was on duty at a night spot – Dream Light – where a dance was in progress. The side of Nora’s face was bleeding when she got up.

Williams later became a police officer and spent a part of his tenure in Orange Walk, where the Nora Parham story continued to be a subject of public discussion.

Williams said that he felt sad when he heard the news about Nora, and he recalls a Belize Billboard article with Nora’s 8 children (including Nora’s two toddlers), which he said generated a lot of public sympathy. (The paper was run by Philip Goldson of the then Opposition, National Independence Party.)

On Wednesday, the day after we spoke with Williams, we visited Orange Walk Town, where we spoke for a second time with Agripina “Pinita” Espejo, M.B.E., J.P., currently a Commissioner of the Supreme Court. Espejo told us that Nora was wrongfully convicted because someone changed Trapp’s dying declaration to say that Nora had set him afire.

Dean Williams tells us that a riot almost broke out over Nora’s execution and British forces were brought in to keep the peace.

Of note is that while Nora was being kept at the prison in the final hours before her execution, a group of Christians, about 200, kept vigil outside. (Nora was reportedly spirited away to the hospital that night for unknown reasons.)

Police invoked crowd control up to the day of the hanging.

“No black flag, no bell, and not even any noise audible to the public was made when eight o’clock came and Nora was hanged,” the Belize Billboard of Thursday, June 6, documents, revealing that M. Becker, Medical Officer, certified her death, along with Acting Superintendent of the Prison, P.S. Campbell, and other officials present at the time.

On Wednesday, April 1, Ethel Burgos pointed us to another survivor of that time, Miss Ivy, another lady in her 80’s. She told us that she remembers Nora and pointed out the place where the house stood that Trapp and Nora stayed – premises now occupied by Chinese and Belizean stores, at the corner of Main Street and Avilez Street.

In a rush to make an appointment, Miss Ivy told us that she had heard Nora was supposed to be hanged but there are those who say that she was never hanged, and authorities sent her away secretly. She expressed surprise to hear that Nora was indeed executed in 1963. So did the elderly Ethel Burgos.

Agripino Espejo, who told us that she was a personal friend of both Nora Parham and Ketchell Trapp, is the first woman mayor of Orange Walk Town, and she was recognized as one of Belize’s patriots at last September’s ceremony.

Espejo continues to insist that Nora was not responsible for Trapp’s death, and she believes that Nora should be pardoned from what she says was a wrongful conviction.

Espejo told us that she was one of thousands who signed the petition calling for Nora’s pardon back in 1963.

According to Espejo, when she and another hospital nurse visited Nora while she was in police detention on the night of the incident, Nora’s face was swollen. However, the medic, Fernando Zetina Rosado, who testified in court, said when he examined Nora the following day, February 7, all he noticed on her was a wound on her left shoulder that would have been 8 days old – nothing inflicted in the prior 36 hours.

Eric Williams opines that Nora had felt the full brunt of the law because Trapp was a cop. In the book, From Colony to a Nation, by Anne S. Macpherson, the author writes that the state dealt with Nora as a “cop slayer.”

“Another woman who committed the identical crime just weeks later received only an eight year sentence….” Macpherson wrote. “But by ignoring allegations and evidence of Trapp’s physical abuse of Parham, by refusing to treat the pair as wife and husband, not just as cop slayer and cop, the government deepened its own political silence about domestic and community gender oppression and violence…”

Nora was the first and only woman in the record books to have suffered death at the gallows in Belize.

While the deaths of Trapp and Parham were tragedies in themselves, what continues to weigh down on the hearts of those who hear the story is the deeper effect the tragedies have had on the lives of Nora’s 8 surviving children, who grew up without one or both of their parents, and some of whose lives remained largely disconnected because they ended up being raised in separate homes. They are still yearning for the full story to be put in its proper and truthful context in a way that will bring closure once and for all.

More than that, there is the broader hope the Nora/Trapp story will inspire positive change in a community still overwhelmed with too many instances - too many fatal instances - of domestic violence, where love between spouses should instead prevail.

(Amandala credits the Belize Billboard for providing thorough accounts of what transpired with the Nora Parham case between February and June 1963. Documents were sourced from the National Archives in Belmopan.)

Espejo told us that she heard Trapp tell the policeman who took the statement of February 6, 1963, that he had gone to the restroom after a scuffle with Nora and he lit a cigarette, which set him ablaze. During the scuffle, Nora threw gasoline on Trapp.

However, the prosecution insisted that it was Nora that intentionally threw gasoline on Trapp and lit the match herself around mid-day on Wednesday, February 6.

Of interest is that Nora had pleaded not guilty to murdering Trapp. The Belize Billboard, which was the main newspaper documenting the trial at the time, reproduced her testimony, saying she spoke “clearly and without hesitation”:

“...he was going outside, saying to me he was going to the toilet. While going to the toilet he used threatening words to me. I then replied to him saying, I will make the Sergeant know about your threatening words. He then returned back in the bedroom. While he came back in the bedroom, I had a gasoline iron [in] my hand with a pan of gasoline.

“He came in the bedroom with a stick in his hand and hit me on my head. When he was going to hit me another hit, I threw the gasoline on him and he grabbed away the pan from me, and I went through the backdoor and he stone me with the said pan.

“After he stoned [me], I ran around the house and he never see where I got to. I went in the house through the front door, then I took the gasoline iron from where I left it and put it in the box.

“While I was inside I heard a noise and I run to see what it was. When I went I saw Ketchell Trapp come out of the latrine under fire. I then run up to help him but I see I could not, then I continued running towards the Hospital back street, running towards the station.”

Nora claimed that she asked the policemen to go help Trapp.

According to Espejo, Trapp told police that he lit the cigarette while he was in the outhouse and that’s when the fire started.

Trapp was reportedly naked when it happened, and medics said that it would have been worse if he was wearing clothes. Still, it was documented in court that he suffered severe third degree burns to about 90 percent of his body, and even his vital organs were badly damaged. Medical evidence from Dr. Dennis Hoy indicated that the burns penetrated his skin and organs. Dr. Fernando Zetina Rosado, who attended to him in OW, said he had been burned on his chest, back, abdomen, genital area, legs and thighs, and only his neck, face and head were free of burns.

Ketchell Trapp was admitted to the Orange Walk Hospital, adjacent to the police station, after 1 on Wednesday, February 6, and transferred to Belize City Hospital about an hour later. Doctors did not expect him to live, and in fact, he died after 7 the following morning, Thursday, February 7. Trapp was buried with full police honors.

Police arrested and charged Nora for the murder of Ketchell Trapp, and in a preliminary inquiry held in Orange Walk, the prosecution, with 23 witnesses led by ASP James Lennan, managed to convince traveling magistrate, A.B. Balderamos, that Nora did have a charge for which to answer. Espejo, who was in her late teens at the time, said that she was inside the courtroom when she heard the police read Trapp’s declaration and she immediately rebutted that the statement had been changed. She said they accused Nora of locking Trapp inside the latrine and lighting him up.

“That’s when I said they changed [the statement]... when he [Trapp] was giving his statement he said I gave her a couple of blows...she was getting her iron ready to iron and she took the gasoline and throw it on him, but she didn’t light the match...he had already gave her some blows, he said, and then he went to the toilet. That’s when he took his cigarette and the matches but he had the gas on him. So when he lit the matches to light the cigarette and that’s when he caught fire... but the story was that she locked him in [the toilet],” said Espejo.

She said that she told people that the statement was wrong, but no one paid her any attention, both in Orange Walk and Belize City. She said that she continues to repeat the account she had heard back in ’63.

Nora was transferred to Belize Central Prison on Saturday, February 16, 1963, where she awaited her trial, which took roughly a week before a guilty verdict was handed down by a jury of 12 men.

The trial was called up in the April session of the Supreme Court, over which then Chief Justice, Sir Clifford de Lisle Innis, presided. J. K. Havers presented the case for the Crown, and Nora was defended by Sidney A. McKinstry. In the Supreme Court, Nora, described by the Belize Billboard as neatly dressed, erect in posture and well spoken, had pleaded “not guilty” to the charge of murder.

The jury of 12 men was comprised of (1) Joseph Dennis Robateau (foreman), (2) Norman Richard Kemp, (3) Theodore Fuller, (4) Basil Vernon, (5) Antonio Aguilar, (6) Claude Moody, (7) Keith Wallace, (8) Norman Saldano, (9) Joseph Adolfo Vasquez, (10) Sydney Swift, (11) Kent Badillo, and (12) Alfred Haylock.

The trial was swift. It took about a week between the time when the Sol Gen laid out his case to the time when the judge passed the death sentence on Nora.

During the course of the trial, the Crown argued that there was no reason why Nora could have lost control, and so the argument of provocation could not stand. It was a case of “cool, calculated” murder, Solicitor General Havers argued.

There was clear evidence, even in Trapp’s dying declaration, that the couple was troubled with serial domestic disputes. Nora had allegedly complained of Trapp beating her and quarrelling with her, and she had reportedly made threats that she had bought a 3-pound tin of Gordito brand lard, and she had a pot in which she would boil the lard and throw it on Trapp while he was asleep. Havers produced witnesses to cite four such threats, as well as threats allegedly made by Nora that she would do the same thing the wife of another policeman had done to him – George Lemoine, who had lye thrown in his face.

P.C. Hugh Donald Sanchez had testified that Nora had complained 8 or 9 times while he was on duty of Trapp’s assaults on her, and the accounts did not suggest that police did anything apart from encouraging Nora to leave him.

In her testimony in the Supreme Court, Nora said that there were times she had left Trapp, but he would find her and plea to her to return, which she did after they made up.

While in Orange Walk on Wednesday, we visited the Main Street residence of octogenarian, Ethel Burgos, the niece of the couple’s landlord at the time, who told us that she remembers Nora, who would have been her peer. She recalls that Nora had talked about leaving Trapp around the time the incident happened.

Sol Gen Havers had Martha Ramirez, the wife of a P.C. George Ramirez, testify in the Supreme Court. Nora had reportedly complained to multiple persons, including Ramirez, that Trapp used to drink a lot and would beat her up.

Mrs. Francis Fuller, the wife of a man with whom Trapp once boarded, gave similar testimony, indicating like Ramirez that Nora had threatened to burn Trapp with hot lard.

Even though anecdotes cited jealousy as the main cause of quarrels between the couple, the witnesses cited more specific sources of conflict, including accusations by Trapp that Nora had given him “shell-eye” babies, because both were “black” and two of their children were “brown-skinned” and so could not be his, as well as claims that they disputed over money. Nora had claimed that on pay day, one Crown witness said, Trapp would put the money in Nora’s hand, then took it away and went to pay the shop bill.

Havers had submitted to the court that Nora quarreled with Trapp because he did not give her enough money for fineries, and that Nora, who had complained about beatings, was determined to get even with Trapp. That day, Trapp was said to be on his day off, and was seen happily “dancing and twisting” very early in the morning on that fateful day.

Notably, Havers had told the Supreme Court that there was no violence that day that could have deprived Nora of her self control and her attack was not done under any provocation, and he went further to argue that there was, based on the medic’s report, no physical evidence that Nora had suffered violence.

For her part, Nora had testified that Trapp had beaten her – Trapp admitted to hitting her in his dying declaration.

In his summation of the case, the Sol Gen did not specifically cite any witness that could say they saw Nora burn Trapp. He said Trapp was not the perfect man, but he clearly cared about his home because he cleaned the yard, washed dirty things and even helped with the laundry.

On Tuesday, April 30, the jury was advised that it could arrive at one of three possible verdicts: guilty of murder, guilty of manslaughter or guilty of nothing at all. It is clear that the jury disbelieved Nora, and the 12 – all men – concluded that she had murdered Trapp.

The justice system allowed for clemency, and even C.J. Innis had assured the jury before they delivered the verdict of guilty of murder that a plea for mercy could be considered. But in the end, no mercy was granted, and Nora was hanged at the gallows at 8:00 a.m. Wednesday, June 5th.

When the death sentence was handed down by the judge, the jury was told that the recommendation for mercy would be sent to the Governor – at the time, Sir Peter H.G. Stallard.

The decision of the court sparked public outcry among those who sympathized with Nora, and over the course of the following four weeks there was a movement to amass signatures via petitions to save her from the gallows.

A particularly emotive article was carried in the Sunday, June 2, edition of Belize Billboard carrying the screaming headline: “Save Nora for her 8 kids’ sake.”

Notably, there was no Court of Appeal, no Privy Council to overturn the Supreme Court verdict and any possible stay of execution was in the hands of the same Crown that had brought the case against the woman.

Nora was leaving behind 8 sons, ages 15 years to 14 months old, four from her marriage and four from her union with Ketchell Trapp.

A total of 2,461 persons had signed the petition: 1,815 from Belize, 310 from Stann Creek, 268 from Punta Gorda, 68 from Salt Creek, the Billboard reported.

A special committee appointed on May 7 by the Governor Stallard decided that the law must take its course. Petitioners had hoped that then First Minister, George Price, and Chief Secretary Michael Porcher could help, but a deputation that included Nora’s 8 children, made pleas that were to no avail. It was reported that the Governor refused the children a personal audience and said he would hear from them only in writing.

Nora’s son, Dean Williams, informed us today that an appeal was also sent to the Queen of England, and she had agreed to a stay of the execution, but the correspondence, sent via mail, came too late to save her from the gallows, Williams recounted.

The Billboard editor called for Nora to be pardoned in the Tuesday, June 4th, edition, pointing out that while murder does attract the sentence of death by hanging, the law nonetheless also provides for persons convicted of murder to be pardoned, and Nora should be pardoned for the sake of her 8 children.

When the darkness of despair eclipsed the movement to save Nora, her sister, Winfred Williams, began to make arrangements to bury her.

Nora was reportedly baptized a Roman Catholic days before her death and burial, and she had a Christian burial at the request of her family.

Source

Re: Nora Parham: The only woman ever hanged in Belize [Re: Marty] #442554
07/15/12 08:17 AM
07/15/12 08:17 AM
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For accuracy sake, Dean Barrow is our first black PM; George Price was our first PM. Nora was not Asian, but of East Indian descent


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Re: Nora Parham: The only woman ever hanged in Belize [Re: Marty] #508298
10/16/15 05:30 AM
10/16/15 05:30 AM
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Marty Offline OP

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Marty  Offline OP

“I escorted Nora Parham to the gallows!”

Most older Belizeans will remember the June 5, 1963 execution of 36-year-old Nora Parham, convicted of the murder of her common-law husband, Letchel Trapp, a police constable. Parham is the only woman to have been executed in Belize’s history.

On Saturday, Amandala travelled to the Cayo District along with the office manager of the Belize Ex-Services League, Valerie Richardson, on her rounds to deliver stipends and food supplies to two World War II veterans.

Belmopan resident Eustace Pandy, 97, apart from sharing some of his interesting stories of those eras, told Amandala that he was the prison officer who walked Nora Parham to the gallows.

Pandy said that he never actually hanged anyone, but he was a witness to many hangings, including that of Parham.

“The last person I saw hanged in the prison was Nora Parham,” Pandy revealed.


“I escorted Nora Parham from the female area to the gallows,” Pandy explained.

“What was her demeanor like; how did she act when you were escorting her to the gallows?” asked Amandala.

“She was brave. She believed that she was great. She was not sorrowful nor nothing. She was dressed, from the female quarters and we marched her to the gallows room and she was hanged,” said Pandy.

Did she say anything before she was hanged?

“No, she did not say anything. She just smiled,” Pandy recalled.

Pandy said that after Parham was hanged, “I told the men a woman is completely different from a man. Every man that hanged did the same thing, but Nora Parham was different. She was brave.”

Pandy mentioned that during his time there were many hangings at the prison.

The colonial judicial system had sentenced Nora Parham to death by hanging after she was found guilty of the murder of her common-law husband, Letchel Trapp, who was a police constable, and whom Nora Parham had reported to the police as being physically abusive to her.

Appeals to the colonial governor to pardon the 36-year-old Nora Parham, who was a mother of eight sons, four of whom Trapp had fathered, fell on deaf ears.

In her testimony at the trial, Nora Parham admitted to throwing gasoline on Trapp, but testified that she did not light the fire that killed him. He went to the latrine and he lit a cigarette and that ignited the fire that caused his death, she told the court.

An excerpt from Nora Parham’s testimony that is available online revealed that she told the court, “While he came back in the bedroom, I had a gasoline iron [in] my hand with a pan of gasoline.

“He came in the bedroom with a stick in his hand and hit me on my head. When he was going to hit me another hit, I threw the gasoline on him and he grabbed away the pan from me, and I went through the backdoor and he stoned me with the said pan.

“After he stoned [me], I ran around the house and he never saw where I got to. I went in the house through the front door then I took the gasoline iron from where I left it and put it in the box.

“While I was inside I heard a noise, and I run to see what it was. When I went I saw Letchel Trapp come out of the latrine under fire. I then run up to help him, but I saw I could not, then I continued running towards the Hospital …”

It seems that Parham had become something of a celebrity before her hanging. In 1963, crime was not as rampant as it is today, in 2015. A person on trial for murder, especially a woman, was sure to be the talk of the town.

Pandy said that at the time, Her Majesty’s Prison was located on Goal Lane in Belize City.

“I had just returned from Trinidad when I heard about this lady they said was pregnant or something like that. Well, they called me and Tucker to take this lady to the hospital. We took this lady to the hospital, and all the doctors that were there said this lady was not pregnant,” Pandy said.

Pandy continued, “A big crowd was outside the prison to see Nora Parham. So we took Nora Parham through the back. She was an Indian woman [who was 36].”

Most of the men who served in the British Honduras Volunteer Guard during World War II are dead. Only a handful of the old soldiers are still alive, scattered across the country, and they continue to receive their much-needed support from the Belize Ex-Services League.

The majority of the soldiers from the British Honduras Volunteer Guard were either deployed to Panama or to Jamaica, where they received training in the skills of soldiering.

Pandy recalled that he was 19 years old when he joined the British Honduras Volunteer Guard and was deployed to Jamaica as a member of the British Honduras North Caribbean Force, where he received further military training. Pandy explained that for the entire duration of the time he spent in Jamaica, he was the drill instructor, before his honorable discharge as a Company Sergeant Major.

Upon his return home, jobs were not easy to come by. But Pandy, a well-known and respected man, was able to land a job as a prison officer at Her Majesty’s Prison, where he served for 25 years before retiring as the Deputy Chief Prison Officer.

“I was in charge of Gracie Rock Prison for 13 years. Within those 13 years they took me before Mr. Price (who was then First Minister, before self-government in 1964) many times.”

Pandy said that on one occasion he was taken before Mr. Price because he used to give the men Johnny cakes. He explained that when the bread used to go bad, he had a sack of flour and he made Johnny cakes for his men. Apparently, the men were to have had bread.

“They didn’t reprimand me. Mr. Price said he could understand,” Pandy said.

“I was there 13 years and I didn’t charge a man. We planted cassava and all kinds of greens,” Pandy recalled.

“I had a tractor and I bring the dirt from Sibun and I plant my plants,” he said.

“In the morning, we had a gang of 7 prisoners go out to clean Courthouse Wharf; from there we would go to Government House, and the prisoners who were sentenced to hard labor were used to clean the town,” said Pandy.

Amandala


Re: Nora Parham: The only woman ever hanged in Belize [Re: Marty] #542678
05/30/20 06:22 AM
05/30/20 06:22 AM
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Marty Offline OP

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Marty  Offline OP
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Pain in silence

In honor of my dad and uncles (sons of Nora Parham) — we love you!

As a little girl growing up, I always wanted to be like Grandma Nora. I wanted the same hair, the same face, the same nose and mouth; I wanted to look like her. I wanted to see her when I looked in the mirror, and I wanted people to see her when they looked at me.

For me, that made my dad and my uncles happy, and I loved seeing them smile. Whenever we’d have family reunions —sssh don’t tell them I said this— I’d hear them whisper to each other, “Abigail looks like mom.” The other would proudly say, “da Shirley;” the other would start coughing while uttering the words, “da Rona,” and the other would whisper under his breath, “da Tiffy.”

Those without daughters would pick one of us girls and say we looked like our grandmother. That was a thing they came up with among brothers, but I have a feeling Uncle Earl had a lot to do with that, because he is the loud one, and he likes to bring out the fun, jokey side of his brothers, who grew up to be very respectable and mannerly, but also very, very conservative.

I understand, though, that this was way before I was even born. Sssshhh, don’t tell them I said this, either. They don’t know I know this. Whenever they had a daughter, they would look for their mother’s features in them —whether it was the lips, the hair, the nose, the mouth, or something as simple as a mole. I knew that their doing this was just an effort to have their mom with them for as long as they possibly can. One of my uncles even named his daughter after Grandma Nora: Shirleymae Nora Parham.

I grew up not knowing much about grandma, because my dad and uncles seldom spoke about her. Others knew more about her than I did. All I knew was that she had been hanged, and although appeals were made on her behalf from people all over the country, she was taken to the gallows anyway in just a matter of 4 months.

I knew better than to bring it up to Dad for fear that I might hurt him, or fear that I would change his mood and spoil the rest of his day.

Questioning her trial was always a sensitive and delicate issue, so I never bothered asking Dad what happened. I saw him, as well as all my other uncles, suffering in silence. Dad never brought up her name in front of me unless I’d make mention of it. I’d hear other people say, “Your grandma Nora was a very beautiful lady. She played the guitar; she sewed the most beautiful dresses and wedding gowns. She was kind, humble and sweet.”

Whenever I’d hear these things, I would anxiously look for a time when I could tell dad everything. I’d usually do so as he sat down to watch television. Me: “Dad, I hear grandma used to play the guitar like you and me.” Me again: “Dad, I hear grandma was the most beautiful lady in all of Belize.”

Note how I rephrased it? That’s because, in my dad’s and uncles’ eyes, she is the most beautiful lady that will ever live. Me again: “Dad, I hear she sewed the most beautiful dresses.” That’s when he’d crack and finally give in, saying with a grin on his face, “Yes, and she made us try them too.” We both laughed, and in that moment, I knew just how much he cherished the very little memories he had with her before she was so quickly taken away. He was only 12 at the time.

I spent a lot of my childhood years around my mom’s side of the family, and still, whenever we attended wakes or funerals, the older ladies from around Toledo would look at my sister and say, “da lee one she only favah ih grandma Nora.” I could see dad grinning from ear to ear and his face brilliantly lit up. No one knew what those words did for him that day. No one will ever know what it continues to do for him.

Many people knew grandma back then, and if they didn’t, they heard about her and boasted of how beautiful, kind and innocent she was. Up to this day, many still utter these words.

In the year 2005, at the University of Belize in Belmopan, I was approached by a complete stranger who asked me if I was related to Nora Parham. I told him “yes, she is my grandmother”. He immediately pulled out a book and asked me to sign it and went on and on about her history and how she was given an unfair trial and how her appeal fell on deaf ears here in Belize and when the pardon came from the Queen, it was already too late.

For him, she made history, as she is the first and last woman to be hanged in Belize in the year 1963. I will never be able to relate to his excitement, because for me, grandma made history, yes, but history in not being able to raise her sons. She made history in not being present for my dad and uncle’s birthdays, dedications, baptisms, graduations, engagements and marriages.

She made history, yes, in not getting to meet her daughters in-law, grand-kids and great-grand-kids. She made history in not getting to see who her sons turned out to be. She made history, in not getting to be the person she was born to be.

As far as I can remember, we had our first grand family reunion when Uncle Earl first returned for a visit from the U.S. We all came together in a big upstairs house in Dangriga. During those days, I knew little about the conversations the big people were having, as I was captivated by toys, candies, cookies, and was preoccupied playing with my little cousins.

Subsequently, larger reunions were held when Uncle Earl and his family returned for vacation and/or Uncle Tony and his wife and Uncle Gilbert and his wife visited.

For the brothers who remain in Belize, they would use Christmases and birthdays as a means of getting together and seeing each other. Our last grand family reunion was in 2015. By then, I was married and I was now an adult.

[Linked Image]
Nora’s 8 sons in 1963

During the daytime, we played games, danced, shared hearty discussions and, of course, ate from the overflowing pots of love provided by my aunts. They enjoyed cooking and seeing their husbands and brothers-in-law sit down eating and conversing over good food. That was special.

That day, my dad and uncles, as usual, kept pointing out who they believed resembled grandma Nora out of us girls, trying their best to be discreet about it. They were always laughing and hugging one another almost every 5 minutes and telling tales of their childhood experiences. Note: they were separated as little boys, but it was obvious just how happy they were to be together once more. They share a bond I could never comprehend. I want to say that it stems from the tragedy of losing their mom — nonetheless, whatever it is; it is priceless.

When night approached, it was the time for the ceremony in honor of Grandma, where special songs, poems and messages were shared. We started off with the grandchildren and great grandchildren singing songs and reading poems. It went on fine until it was time for the brothers to stand up and sing a melody to their mom.

I will never forget that night. I saw Dad and my uncles break down in front of everyone. In all my 33 years, I had never seen dad cry. He couldn’t even catch his breath. He couldn’t get through the song and was uncontrollably sobbing. He made me out standing in front of them behind all the tears and signaled me to go up. I’m sure if it was anyone else standing there that night, he would have called them in like manner for comfort. I failed miserably at that. I could never give him or my uncles what they longed for. No one could.

After that song, Dad went down and stayed in the back with Mom. It was time for Uncle Harry, the eldest of the sons, to recite something he wrote for his mom. Imagine having to do that after your brothers all broke down. Nonetheless, he kept his composure and read very proudly the words in honor of her.

I believe we will all remember that night for the rest of our lives. My entire family watched Dad and our uncles sob like babies over their mom. Their grandkids looked on clueless as to what was going on, not knowing they are a part of a history that will remain with them forever. We all felt helpless that night. We could never restore the loss or relieve the pain my dad and uncles went through.

Let me rephrase that —we can never relieve the pain they are enduring still, up to this very day. Every time Grandma Nora Parham is brought to light, they relive the pain and the suffering of losing their mom when they were just little boys. Imagine being so young and having your mom taken away in such a manner.

Now imagine being old enough to comprehend what was happening at the time — so much so that my eldest uncle, Harold Parham, would offer his own life in place of his mother. I am lost for words. Let me pause for a second…….. The Bible says in John 15:13, “No GREATER LOVE has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.”

Grandma Nora Parham will always be the most beautiful and most delicate flower in the eyes of my dad and uncles. They are so careful to protect and water her memory to keep her alive.

Today, Nora Parham’s sons are all alive and in close communication with each other. They are respected men in their communities, they are role models for us, and most importantly they display what it means to have unconditional love toward one another. They are Harold Parham, James Parham, Kent Parham, Gerald Parham, Gilbert Parham, Anthony Williams, Dean Williams and Earl Williams. They have all perfected their careers and skills to the best of their abilities. From educators to agricultural managers, construction workers, surveyors, personal business owners, and the list goes on and on. I see them as wise, confident and brave men.

However, when it comes to their mom, they are as fragile and delicate as newborn babies. I am careful to watch my tongue around them. I am careful not to speak out and share my opinions and views about grandma in public or even among my own family members.

Despite this being a very sensitive and delicate issue, I could recall once in the past, that my aunts came together (the wives of my uncles) and thought it was time to clear their mother-in-law’s name on behalf of their husbands. The entire family got together; we drafted an appeal and got support from members in our community who were willing to bring justice and clear Nora Parham’s name once and for all.

With all the planning going on, we got distracted and missed the pain and suffering dad and my uncles were going through in silence. I watched as their faces darkened and sorrow took over. It was a cold and dark time for them. No one will ever know what they endured and continue to endure in the present. We ended up putting it aside, and my aunts and mom opted to comfort them.

There was no question with regards to her innocence. My dad and uncles know her to be true and innocent. Because they know this, they believe, it’s not worth the fight. After all, they are all peacemakers. If they’d see Shari and I get into a fight, dad would call me out and say, “Samantha, you shouldn’t have done that. Go and apologize to your cousin.”

He wouldn’t even make mention of Shari or even entertain explanations as to who was right and who was wrong. Uncle Jerry (Shari’s dad) would call her out as well and say, “Shari, you shouldn’t have done that; you’re the older one, set the example. Go and apologize to your cousin.”

They treated each other and everyone around them that way. They made peace, even if it means being the bigger person and apologizing on behalf of someone else. I grew up this way too, so much so that I acted out of consideration for everyone else but myself. I’ve always tried to be the bigger person, even if it has meant humbling myself and giving in to someone else’s opinions and disregarding mine.

I can’t take it anymore, though, and neither can my siblings and cousins. We want my dad and my uncles to stop being the bigger person and to stand up for what they know to be true and right. We want them to have a voice and not to be silenced for wanting to be peacemakers. I have watched them suffer in silence all my life. Their wives know this all too well and more profoundly than any one of us could ever understand.

This is in honor of you, Dad, and uncles. We say, clear Nora Parham’s name once and for all and rewrite history. The history, my dad and uncles know to be the truth. Give them the chance to talk openly, confidently and proudly about their mom to others and to their own children. Give them the chance to wear a crown on their heads whenever her name is mentioned, instead of having a spear pierce their hearts.

GIVE THEM BACK THEIR MOTHER ONCE AND FOR ALL. THE MOTHER THEY KNOW TO BE TRUE AND INNOCENT. GIVE THEM JUSTICE WHILE THEY ARE STILL ALIVE. WE SAY, RESTORE HER NAME ONCE AND FOR ALL!

Written by: Dr. Samantha Parham-Casey
Inspired by: Sons of Nora Parham and, by extension, the entire family of Nora Parham
Date written: 29th April, 2020.

Amandala

==============================

On this day (June 5) in 1963, the first woman to be executed in Belize, Nora Parham was hanged at Her Majesty's Prison in Belize City. She was a victim of domestic violence and prejudice, the same violence and prejudice that still plagues this country in 2020.

Nora Parham did not kill her habitual abuser. The abuser lit a cigarette while covered in gasoline. May she continue to rest in peace. -

“While he came back in the bedroom, I had a gasoline iron [in] my hand with a pan of gasoline.

“He came in the bedroom with a stick in his hand and hit me on my head. When he was going to hit me another hit, I threw the gasoline on him and he grabbed away the pan from me, and I went through the backdoor and he stone me with the said pan.

“After he stoned [me], I ran around the house and he never see where I got to. I went in the house through the front door, then I took the gasoline iron from where I left it and put it in the box.

“While I was inside I heard a noise and I run to see what it was. When I went I saw Ketchell Trapp come out of the latrine under fire. I then run up to help him but I see I could not, then I continued running towards the Hospital back street, running towards the station."

-Nora Parham, at trial

==============================

IN LOVING MEMORY OF GRANDMA NORA PARHAM

Isabella Williams aka Chabby or Chabella (Sister of Nora Parham): “Nora Parham maiden name: Nora Williams, was born on the 1st of January 1927 to parents: Caroline Emelia Williams and Alexander Williams. She is of East Indian decent and was approximately 4ft 8inches tall. She had 3 sisters and 2 brothers. I am the only living sister left. This year marks 57 years that she left us and it feels like it was just yesterday.”

Harold Parham (Eldest son of Nora Parham): “Mama was very hard working and ambitious. She taught us to work toward what we wanted in life and to receive sound education.”

James Parham (son of Nora Parham): “Mama was very strict; she’d line us up and lash us when we’d take something without asking.”

Kent Parham (son of Nora Parham): “Mom made us try on dresses she’d sew for the people in the village. She was a great seamstress.”

Gerald “Gerry” Parham (son of Nora Parham): “Mama played the guitar beautifully.”

Anthony “Toni” Williams (son of Nora Parham): “Mama would never allow me to run around bare feet. She’d always make me wear slippers or shoes.”

Dean Williams (son of Nora Parham): “People told me, mom was a very beautiful and kind lady.”

Gilbert Williams (son of Nora Parham): “People told me mom believed strongly in education and the importance of getting us to school.”

Earl Williams (son of Nora Parham): “People say mama was a beautiful and caring person.”

Sons of Nora Parham: “The last thing mama said to us before she was taken away was for us to hold on to each other and to grow up as brothers caring and loving one another for as long as we live.”

Everyone: “Nora Parham was a very beautiful lady. She will never be forgotten. May her memory live on.”

Re: Nora Parham: The only woman ever hanged in Belize [Re: Marty] #542813
06/06/20 07:32 AM
06/06/20 07:32 AM
Joined: Oct 1999
Posts: 72,769
oregon, spr
Marty Offline OP

.
Marty  Offline OP

“She was Brave” – the Nora Parham tragedy

“She was brave. She believed that she was great. She was not sorrowful nor nothing…”. Those are the words of Eustace Pandy, the man who said he escorted 36-year-old Nora Parham to the gallows. Those are the words he used in an interview with Amandala (published 16th October, 2015) when he described Nora as she walked to the gallows to face her fate decided by 12 men of the jury.

“No black flag, no bell, and not even any noise audible to the public was made when eight o’clock came and Nora was hanged,” —the Belize Billboard of Thursday, June 6, 1963.

An unmarked grave
Today, 5th June, 2020 at exactly 8:00, will mark 57 years since Nora Parham nee Williams was executed in this country. It was a state execution and the only execution of a female in Belize! She was hanged by the neck until she could not breathe, and thereafter, she was declared dead and buried in an unmarked grave. For those of you who do not know it, being placed in an unmarked grave is an effort to seemingly punish you even after death. Your family does not get your body to give you a proper burial, and the idea is that your crime of murder was so heinous that you do not deserve a marked grave to be remembered. Your family and loved ones are further punished, as there is nowhere they can go to take you flowers or anything or visit on the anniversary of your death, your birthday or any day.

Capital punishment, or the death penalty as we call it, is really cruel, and even more so when committed against an innocent woman. Nora Parham was at the time of her death the mother of eight sons, four of them from her first marriage and the last four for the man she was accused of killing — PC. Ketchell Raymond Trapp, her live-in partner, who was a serving member of the British Honduras Police Force.

Credible reports from then and from her testimony at court, that he was an abusive husband and very much given to drinking and smoking, seem to be undisputed. From the records of those times, what can be ascertained is that on the morning of 6th February 1963, Ketchell Trapp caught on fire in the pit latrine at the house in Orange Walk, where he lived with Nora and the children. As a result he sustained third-degree burns to 90 percent of his body, except for his neck and head. He died the following day at the old Belize City Hospital, which was on Eve St.

Not much is known about Ketchell Raymond Trapp thereafter, except, he was not buried in an unmarked grave. He got full funeral rites and a proper burial, as we say in Belize, and was buried with full police honours. His name is only remembered as the man whom Nora Parham killed or for whose death she was sentenced for murder and hanged. Stark cold truth, but his grave was not unmarked, despite the fact that the history of the relationship, up to that morning of 6th February, 1963 is that he would regularly be physically abusive to Nora, even in the presence of the children and out in public. He did not get an unmarked grave, despite being a drunkard and woman beater.

On 7th April, 2009 in an article in this newspaper, it was reported as follows: “On Tuesday, Eric Williams, 62, a security officer with the US Embassy, told our newspaper that he was a teen living in PG at the time, when he remembers seeing Trapp kick Nora down a flight of stairs, while he was on duty at a night spot – Dream Light – where a dance was in progress. The side of Nora’s face was bleeding when she got up.” This was in direct contradiction of an allegation by a member of Trapp’s family that Nora was the aggressor. There are no known reports of anyone ever seeing Nora aggress or abuse Trapp. On the contrary, the reports of his abuse to her are legendary, to say the least.

The men who killed Nora Parham
Based on the reports, Nora was detained at the Orange Walk Police Station on the same day of the incident and transferred to the Belize Central Prison on Gaol Lane, which is now a museum, on 16th February 1963. Her case was heard within two months from the incident, in the April session of the Supreme Court. That was a speedy trial indeed. The presiding judge was Chief Justice, Sir Clifford de Lisle Innis, and the Crown Counsel was J. K. Havers, while her defence attorney was Sidney A. McKinstry.

In case you missed the irony of it, those at the helm of the case were all men, and so were the twelve jurors, who ultimately sealed her fate. Their names were: (1) Joseph Dennis Robateau (foreman), (2) Norman Richard Kemp, (3) Theodore Fuller, (4) Basil Vernon, (5) Antonio Aguilar, (6) Claude Moody, (7) Keith Wallace, (8) Norman Saldano, (9) Joseph Adolfo Vasquez, (10) Sydney Swift, (11) Kent Badillo, and (12) Alfred Haylock.

Our law then and now said that you would be judged by a jury of your peers, but none of those sitting as jurors were her peers, to say the least. According to an account in the Amandala of 7th April, 2009, “On Tuesday, April 30, the jury was advised that it could arrive at one of three possible verdicts: guilty of murder, guilty of manslaughter or guilty of nothing at all. It is clear that the jury disbelieved Nora, and the 12 – all men – concluded that she had murdered Trapp. The justice system allowed for clemency, and even C.J. Innis had assured the jury before they delivered the verdict of guilty of murder that a plea for mercy could be considered. But in the end, no mercy was granted… When the death sentence was handed down by the judge, the jury was told that the recommendation for mercy would be sent to the Governor – at the time, Sir Peter H.G. Stallard.”

I think in present-day cases, the judge could not get away with suggesting to the jury that even if they find her guilty, they need not worry about her being executed because they can consider the option of prerogative of mercy that can be granted by the governor. This seems to suggest they should find her guilty and such a suggestion in and of itself, would be basis for an appeal.

Governor Stallard had appointed an all-men special committee to advise on whether to use the prerogative of mercy in favour of Nora, but they decided that the law must take its course and Nora must be hanged. By then, Belize had its own political luminaries, in the persons of First Minister, George Price, and Chief Secretary Michael Porcher, but they supported the death penalty. Only the Belize Billboard, whose leader was Philip Goldson, kept pressing and begging for mercy and seeking to prevent her execution. It is because of the news reports in the Belize Billboard that we can recount with so much details the trail of Nora and the happenings around that time.

At the time, Nora’s children were ages 15 years to 14 months, and now, like then, they are still begging for a pardon for their mother. It is said that the children even asked for an audience with Governor Stallard, but he refused to meet with those 8 boys. At the end of the day, we know well who are the men who killed Nora Parham, and history will not exonerate them.  At the time Nora was killed, her son, Dean Williams says, the letter from the Queen of England granting a stay of the execution was barely on its way.

Female inequality
Let us not forget it’s 1963 we are talking about. Mail was very slow and “backwards”, compared to now, and so was the thinking regarding women. Nora was not only an “East Indian”, a descendant of the indentured labourers who came into this country working for slave wages, but she was also a woman. She was a woman who was still legally married to a first husband, from whom she had become estranged, and was now living with another man for seven years, with whom she had four more children. There was also accusation against Nora, reportedly that Trapp would indeed be abusive to her and that the source of such abuse was that he claimed that she gave him “shall-eye pickney,” because two were black and two were East-Indian looking.

I say all of that which was reported then, to put in context the prejudices against women and the social stigma associated with women of Nora’s characteristics and life realities. Then, like now, society was very judgmental, and then it was the men who would have an absolute final say. Some of that has changed today, as women press for equal treatment and opportunities, and fight back against the judgment of society, but Nora was not in a position to fight the prejudices of those who arrested, charged, judged her and ultimately condemned her. We must nonetheless applaud the 2,461 persons, who signed the petition pleading for mercy: 1,815 from Belize, 310 from Stann Creek, 268 from Punta Gorda, and 68 from Salt Creek, according to the reports in the Billboard newspaper.

To understand the Nora Parham story and tragedy, you have to understand too the context of the society and the race relations, elitist thinking, the discrimination against women, the political environment and the dominance of men over the lives of women at that time. You also have to appreciate that in those days, no matter how much you reported domestic violence to the police, nothing was done, and worse yet, where the abuser was one of the their own… yes, that still happens today. Also, you have to remember that there were no special laws, like we have today, to protect women against domestic violence, and there was no defence based on ‘Battered Women Syndrome’ and the like. Honestly, from the evidence of the case, I believe Nora’s account that she was innocent and did not light that match.

In Nora’s own words
“…he was going outside, saying to me he was going to the toilet. While going to the toilet he used threatening words to me. I then replied to him, saying, I will make the Sergeant know about your threatening words. He then returned back in the bedroom. While he came back in the bedroom, I had a gasoline iron [in] my hand with a pan of gasoline.

”He came in the bedroom with a stick in his hand and hit me on my head. When he was going to hit me another hit, I threw the gasoline on him and he grabbed away the pan from me, and I went through the backdoor and he stone me with the said pan.

”After he stoned [me], I ran around the house and he never see where I got to. I went in the house through the front door, then I took the gasoline iron from where I left it and put it in the box.

”While I was inside I heard a noise and I run to see what it was. When I went I saw Ketchell Trapp come out of the latrine under fire. I then run up to help him but I see I could not, then I continued running towards the Hospital back street, running towards the station.”

She went running for help, and that is not the action of a killer, yet she was executed in the end, even though there were no eyewitnesses to prove that she did lock Trapp up and light the match. Over the years there was one constant eyewitness, Pinita Espejo, who was present when Trapp gave his statement to police from his hospital bed in Orange Walk. She has always been adamant that Trapp on his dying bed told police that he lit the cigarette while he was in the outhouse and that’s when the fire started. However, she heard a different version read at court and protested the change, but was ignored. That makes sense to me, especially since he was a known smoker and it was not unusual for men to sit in the outhouse, located in the backyard, to relieve their bodily needs while taking a smoke.

I know today, from the evidence we could unearth in the archives, this case would have been decided differently, and Nora would not have been found guilty, because she was NOT guilty! However, even 57 years later, her sons have not given hope that their mother can be vindicated posthumously.

Amandala


According to British Honduras Court History 2461 persons in Belize City Stann Creek, Punta Gorda, and salt Creek signed a a petition that was handed over the the British Governor, do you know even the the 12 men that sat on her case asked for mercy hoping that her life would be spared according to historical fact a petition signed by only women was also submitted to the First minister at that time they were informed it was not within his power to exercise the prerogative of mercy but the petition was refer to the British Governor .History also reveal that this case started in Orange walk Feb. 14-15 before Travelling Magistrate Mr.A.B Balderamos 23 witness testified to include the following Police Assistant Superintendent James Lennan Inspector Gilbert Williams and Corporal Esmond Willoughby.

The Chief Justice at that time was Sir.Cliffoerd de Lisle sat on the Bench Mr. John Kingsley Havers Solicitor General represented the Crown And Mr. S.A. McKinstry for the Defense these are Historical Facrs Mr. Gargan. British Laws in operation at that time note in 1974 William Robinson was also tried under the British Laws for Killing a police constable by Paslow Building he was also found guilty and was executed within the wall of the Prison.

Bernard Adolphus


Re: Nora Parham: The only woman ever hanged in Belize [Re: Marty] #542815
06/06/20 07:44 AM
06/06/20 07:44 AM
Joined: May 2000
Posts: 6,961
San Pedro Town, Ambergris Caye...
Amanda Syme Offline

.
Amanda Syme  Offline
A tragic story from beginning to end. And attitudes, it seems, have not changed much despite the fact that we have the ability to effect many changes.


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