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Death’s load

Maria Bradshaw

Death’s load

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THEIR daughter’s death by hanging was the worst for a human being to go through.
That is why John and Larissa Jackson will never come     to grips with the 16 and 21 years which their daughter’s killers – Omar McCollin and Teereth Persaud – received, respectively, for killing 16-year-old Anna Druzhinina on November 8, 2008.
They wanted a life for a life.
Anna, who was born in Russia but came to Barbados at the age of seven, was hanged from a rafter in the Jacksons’ home at Palmers Plantation, St John, a day after celebrating her 16th birthday. She died from ligature strangulation.
The gruesome death was a “revenge killing” by Persaud, 44, who three months earlier had been shot in the arm by John, after they got into an altercation following the disappearance of $100 000 from John’s wholesale business So-Lo Wholesalers in Black Rock, St Michael.
As far as John and Larissa are concerned, it was the most horrific form of punishment another human being could give them.
“He wanted to cause us the maximum amount of pain,” wrote John, who has since returned to England, in a lengthy letter to the SUNDAY?SUN?following Persaud’s sentence two weeks ago.
“If this is not murder, then tell me what is?” he asked.
The two men were originally charged with murder but pleaded guilty to manslaughter. However, John and Larissa felt that had they been tried for murder, there was no way that either could have escaped the hangman’s noose with such overwhelming evidence.
John, who lived in Barbados for more than 30 years, was Anna’s stepfather. He and Larissa, 42, are still undergoing counselling as well as medical treatment in England as the brutal killing has taken a toll on their lives.
The heartbroken couple said they would never forget the night when they returned home around 11:30 to find Anna’s lifeless body on her bed, her arms and feet bound behind her back and a kitchen towel tied around her neck.
They had driven up the long driveway not thinking anything was amiss until they reached upstairs and noticed a fire at the back of the house.
Larissa ran to that area while John headed for Anna’s bedroom. The lights were off but he was immediately blinded by rising flames from the carpet around the bed.
Instinctively, John started furiously stamping out the flames and it was at the corner of his eyes through the light which the flames provided that he spotted Anna’s body on the bed.
“I shouted, ‘Anna, what are you doing!’”
There was no answer and he ran to the body, touching Anna but getting no response. It was then that, in shock, he realized her arms and feet were tied behind her back and she had no pulse even though her body was still warm.
 “I scooped her up in my arms and started crying,” adding: “No, not Anna.”
John said he knew there and then who had killed his precious daughter.
He trembled uncontrollably as Larissa ran to the room and he told her that Anna, her only child, was dead.
They also noticed that the sheet around her bed was soaked in kerosene oil. If John had not gone to the room in time, the flames from the carpet would have caught the bed and he would have been greeted with a burning inferno of Anna’s body.
Horrified, the couple called the police as well as the Barbados Fire Service and John wasted no time in telling the cops: “Teereth did this.”
Persaud and his accomplice were picked up a few days later and from their confession statements, John and Larissa were able to piece together the gruesome events of that fateful day.
The couple went out that morning leaving Anna behind. Little did they know that Persaud, who had babysat for Anna for several years and knew the house inside out, had just been released from the hospital and had rented a room at a house a short distance away from their home.
He had hired McCollin, a 26-year-old, who was described as a “simpleton”, to help him in his dastardly crime by telling him that he was going to commit a robbery.
The two entered the house around 5:30 p.m. and immediately started working on Anna. According to their statements, they placed a wire around her neck, threw it over the rafter and placed her to stand on two paint cans at the top of the stairs.
John told the SUNDAY?SUN?that Persaud, who worked as a security officer at So-Lo, knew that Anna had celebrated her birthday the day before and that her biological father had hanged himself in the same manner when Anna was just a toddler.
“She pleaded for her life. She told him, ‘Please don’t kill me like this, my daddy [John] will give you anything you want’ but he stuffed a cloth in her mouth to stop her from screaming. He did this to hurt Larissa. He knew Larissa was devastated at the way Anna’s father had died and he wanted her to feel it all over again.”
As to the fire at the back of the house, John said Persaud also knew that it was his labour of love for Larissa; that he had worked on it for five years and it was finally completed.
“He knew it was my labour of love and he started the fire there. He did not burn the house to hide any evidence as he told the police. He started the fire at the back of the house where I had built this beautiful room for Larissa,” he cried.
John also now believes that Anna was not the only one who was supposed to die that day. According to Persaud’s statement, when they reached home he was still there hiding behind a door with John’s speargun in his hand. The gun jammed.
“They entered the house at 5:30 p.m. and waited for five hours until we got home at 11:30. They sat on our balcony drinking drinks from our refrigerator while Anna was inside the house hanging. When they saw our headlights approaching, they set the house on fire, put Anna on the bed, soaked it with kerosene oil and lit it so that we could come in and see her body in flames.”
They said McCollin’s statement was proof enough that Persaud’s sole intent was murder. He told the court:?“In no way I wanted her to die. I tried my best to prevent it but I couldn’t do anything about it. I also feared for my life but I saw the anger go through him [Persaud]. I tried my best.”
The happy memories which John and Larissa shared with Anna at Palmers Plantation have all but been erased by the cruel events of that night.
The couple believe that had the police arrested Persaud while he was still in the hospital for wounding their caretaker Alan Akeer, Anna might still be alive today.
While they have found some comfort in Justice Maureen Crane-Scott’s statements that “ . . . in the view of the court the victim suffered a thousand deaths before her inevitable death by strangulation took place. Surely such a death recklessly brought about by you and your accused must place this offence on the borderline of murder”, John and Lariss believe that with such strong evidence against them, Persaud and McCollin should never see the light of day again for their callous actions.
“Anna is dead but they get to walk out prison some day soon,” John lamented.
When contacted about this matter Director of Public Prosecutions, Charles Leacock, stated: “I do not discuss matters with the press.”