Victim or Killer? Victor “Pele” Parris recalled: Shakirah Bourne analysis
No other case has spawned more controversy and accusations than the murder of 29 year old Victor “Pele” Parris on May 17, 1978. Two lengthy and costly enquiries which drew testimonies from over twenty witnesses, led to the suspension of three police officers and destroyed the reputations of several politicians; yet, the killer of Pele still has not been prosecuted. Hyacinth Goring, former bank employee and girlfriend of the victim, remains the subject of scandal as a result of her weak testimony regarding the suspicious circumstances surrounding the murder.
At first, the murder was thought to be a haphazard attack on two lovers ‘parked out’ in Atlantic Shores, Christ Church. Heather Williams and Everest McComie were driving through the residential area when they stumbled upon a frantic and screaming Hyacinth Goring, dressed only in a blouse and underwear. She claimed that a man had just been shot, and that the shooter was trying to rape her.
McComie told her to get into the car, and Goring relayed how she and her boyfriend had gone to look at the area, and were sitting in the car talking when a man approached them and tried to rape her. Her boyfriend tried to intervene but was subsequently shot in the arm. Goring begged the couple to help her lover, but McComie was afraid that the shooter might still be there and left the scene for the nearest police station.
At that instance, Goring stated that she was unwilling to enter a police station because her father was a policeman and would be upset if he saw her in that condition. Instead, she asked them to take her to the house of a friend who lived nearby so that she could telephone the police from there. The couple carried her to the requested destination, and sped away as soon as she exited the vehicle.
But was Goring a victim or a killer? Pele died from the bullet wound later that night at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital, and dismay pervaded throughout the community. He had resided in Mount Friendship, St. Barnabas, was survived by six siblings and father Egbert Parris, and had been an upstanding member of his community. He was involved in sports, cultural and youth groups, church affairs and entertainment, and was widely respected and admired. At the time of his death, Pele was the Coordinator and Public Relations Officer of Pinelands Youth Group. He was described as affable, and always ready to give a helping hand. Given his popularity, then, members of the public demanded to know the full truth about his death.
According to Sylvester Williams, retired Assistant Commissioner of Police, Hyacinth Goring was “one of the most difficult witnesses he ever came across in all his policing. She answered like a police and never volunteered any information for a follow-up question. She answered what she was asked and nothing more”.
However, rumours claimed that the police had treated Goring with kid gloves, and had even carried her to a hotel to be interrogated, since she was the daughter of a high ranking member of the Force.
In October 1978, more scandal was to be endured by the police department when Coroner of the District “A” Court, Keith Simmons, completed his enquiry into the death. He concluded that Pele was murdered, that the witnesses had lied under oath and that a member of the Royal Barbados Police Force had acted with indifference towards the case.
Simmons added that this member of the police force had intentionally refused to cooperate with the court in its attempt to enquire into the unnatural death of a citizen. By this time, Goring had already left the island, although she was the key witness in the case, and was residing in the United States.
Responding to cries for justice, a lengthy Commission of Enquiry was conducted by former Chief Justice of Belize, Dennis Malone. Malone and other members of the commission were forced to travel to New York in order to secure a testimony from Goring, since there was no legal authority that could force the witness back to Barbados for the hearing. After testimonies were taken from more than twenty witnesses, a section of a 231 page report submitted to parliament in November, 1980 stated that “Pele was murdered by his lover Goring, and that three members of the police force and others, conspired to pervert the course of justice.”
Upon the recommendation by Sir Dennis Malone, Inspector Byron Clarke, Sergeant David Callender and Constable Victor Mason were suspended. Callender and Mason were the first to reach the crime scene at Atlantic Shores, and Clarke had led the investigations. The policemen were allowed to retain legal counsel at hearings but, given the clandestine nature of the case, it is not surprising that the nature of the charges was never made public.
However, despite Malone’s report, no charges were ever formally brought against Goring, because there was not enough evidence to do so. Goring returned to Barbados in 1988, and reporters from the Advocate were unable to obtain a statement from her at her home. The only public statement made by Goring was in 1980, when she said, “It’s not the way people think it is. Someday I will return to Barbados and clear my name.”
Since that time, many speculations have been made on the circumstances surrounding Victor “Pele” Parris’ murder, and why there were no arrests. For instance, rumours of a drug bust, intricate involvement of illegal activities with politicians, and some claim that Pele and Goring were just “in the wrong place at the wrong time”.
In 1981, candidate for St. Andrew, Vernon Smith, an attorney who worked with the enquiry, promised that Pele’s ‘murderers’ would be made known to the public by July of that same year, if the Democratic Labour Party were returned to office in the June election. He dismissed the findings of the Malone commission as “ridiculous and absurd”.
Unfortunately for the public, Pele’s family, and the Barbadian justice system, the DLP lost the election, and so this information was never revealed.
With the formation of the new Cold Case unit, Egbert Parris hopes his son’s murderer will be found. So until then, Gabby’s calypso song still captures the air of stony silence and cover-up’s of the sensational murder case…“Who kill Pele, nobody won’t say.” – Courtesy Shakirah Bourne