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From The Archives: He lived and died by the gun


Anthony Blackman

From The Archives: He lived and died by the gun

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ANOTHER NOTORIOUS Barbadian criminal who lived on one end of the gun, died on the other end yesterday.

Alfred Harding’s near 40 years of crime came to a sudden end when his blood was spilled on the streets of a small St Lucian village that was his playground as a prison escapee, in his final, chilling face-off with police.

Like his long-time partner-in-crime Mark Steve Young who fell to police bullets over 12 years ago, Harding hated policemen and liked a challenge.

Like Young, he would use his wits to commit heinous crimes, spend short periods in prison, cleverly work his way out of incarceration, daringly hide from those who pursued him, boldly return to new criminal activity, only to be caught and sentenced then to re-enter the revolving prison gates.

He tried once too often.

Harding, 51, died just after one week on the run from a St Lucian jail.

Young died in a torrent of police bullets, as he and Harding, then on the run from local lawmen, were cornered in house at Promenade Road, Bush Hall, St Michael on May 5, 1987.

After that Harding lived to fight many a new day and many a new battle with police here and overseas, but inevitably his luck ran out on him.

The violent end of the former Brittons Hill, St Michael resident’s life, capped a career that defied Barbadian, Canadian, Vincentian and St Lucian police.

The bespectacled man known for eloquence in defending himself and his acute knowledge of the law, spent most of his adult life behind bars, or on the run.

Harding, who gained local notoriety for his three dramatic jail breaks from Glendairy Prison, two with Young, resorted to his daring and slippery life again when he vanished from a Castries jail a week ago, right under the noses of prison warders and police officials whose main offices are just next door.

He was on the run for eight days, after serving just over one of four years of a prison term imposed for gun offences last August.

In 1996, Harding was released from prison in Barbados after spending nine years in maximum security. He was at first sentenced to 20 years behind bars for the infamous Bush Hall shoot-out with police in which Young died, but on appeal it was reduced to 12 years.

Questioned by a reporter about the shoot-out when he was released on October 31, Harding replied: “I have amnesia. I can’t remember lots of things, but that is one thing that I will never forget.”

However, four months later, he was back in a very familiar place, the dock of a courtroom, this time to answer a charge of wounding a security guard.

From there it just snowballed, with him in court again, but this time in St Vincent where he was held in August 1997, during a police raid on a house that he rented in the capital, Kingstown where police found a .38 calibre revolver and six rounds of ammunition.

He pleaded guilty, was fined EC$5 000 or one year in jail. He spent a week in jail before paying the fine and being deported back here and banned from ever entering St Vincent again.

Back here for just over two months, Harding was again in trouble with the law; this time charged with conduct endangering life and was remanded to Glendairy where he spent a week before being granted bail.

While on bail, he slipped into St Lucia where he was picked up on gun offences. During his incarceration, he successfully brought a charge against prison authorities for undue restriction and hardship because he was shackled in prison. He won the case and was awarded EC$25 000 damages, but was not satisfied with the quantum and had appealed it.

Hearing was pending when he met his death.

All that time police in Barbados were waiting to get their hands on him. They wanted to charge him for attempted murder, robbery and burglary.

Not only does Harding leave a legacy of crime, defiance of the law and a slate of prison escapes, but also unfinished business in the courts of both Barbados and St Lucia, both as an appellant and a defendant.

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