Church under Probe - Schoolgirl Allegedly Gang-Raped While Deacon Watched
By Daraine Luton and Keisha Hill
July 6, 2006
A SENIOR member of a church run by retired Appeal Court judge, Martin Wright, stood by and did nothing while schoolboys in a van he was driving gang-raped a teenage girl and video-recorded the act.
Justice Wright, pastor of the Dayton Avenue Church of God, confirmed that he knew of the incident, but rejected suggestions of a cover-up, saying that there was no evidence a deacon had participated in the act.
"He [the deacon] was present, but we don't have any evidence of him molesting the child," Justice Wright told The Gleaner.
The Gleaner obtained a copy of the 35-minute amateur recording, with its graphic details of the assault, from sources dissatisfied with how the incident had been handled by the management of Justice Wright's Dayton Avenue Church of God, in St. Andrew. At least one of the boys may have had a connection with the church.
The church is reported to have taken disciplinary action against the deacon but Justice Wright declined to explain what this meant, saying it was internal church business.
The retired judge said he has attempted to find the girl to offer counselling but has so far been unable to find her.
After a team of senior Gleaner editors viewed the amateur recording, the newspaper's chief crime reporter called in the police. They are now investigating the case and late last night, two persons were picked up for questioning.
NO STONES UNTURNED
Senior Superintendent George Quallo, head of the St. Andrew Central Police Division, pledged to pursue the case with energy. "We are pursuing it vigorously," he said. "No stones will be left unturned to find the perpetrators of this hideous act."
The teenagers were being given a ride home from school when the assault reportedly began. In the recording, one boy held the hands of the protesting girl firmly behind her back while the others took turns fondling and forcing themselves on her.
Gleaner staffers who reviewed the recording, scenes of which Justice Wright said he saw, found enough evidence to suggest that there might have been an observer other than the person who shot the video. At least once, a voice was heard instructing the girl how to place her legs.
There have been suggestions that most of the leaders of the Dayton Avenue Church, an evangelical congregation, wanted to deal with the issue internally. But Justice Wright, who indicated the incident came to his attention 10 days ago, suggested that it was the deacon, who first spoke out. Neither, however, went to the police, although Justice Wright confirmed that church elders met on Monday to discuss the matter.
"... From what I understand the news is quite widespread so I had no reason to go to the police," Justice Wright said. "He said he was so disturbed by it that he went to the ... school to report it."
Under the Child Care and Protection Act, lawyers say, any adult knowing of the assault had a responsibility to report the incident.
On Tuesday at the Dayton Avenue Church several members denied knowing of the incident. However, several white-robed congregants spent most of day praying for deliverance and forgiveness.
One member insisted that it was not a special prayer session.
"We are fasting today," he said. "We gather like this on the first Tuesday of every month."
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