Acting on information received of a Home Invasion, police visited the north side of the island at an apartment complex in the Tres Cocos area of San Pedro Town where they saw three persons with varying degrees of injuries. Douglas Kelly had a cut wound to the wrist, hand, stomach and head, Ms. Gail Neal had cut wounds over left eye and mouth and Mr. Thomas Fiorille had a cut wound to the chest and wrist. Initial investigation revealed that at 12:10 a.m. Friday Sept 12th, 68-year-old Douglas Kelly and his wife 65-year-old Gail Neal both retired Americans were inside their condo sitting in their living room watching TV when they were alerted by a noise coming from the direction of their front veranda. Upon investigation, Mr. Douglas was attacked by a tall male person of dark complexion armed with a kitchen knife. The male person then entered the building and inflicted cut wounds to both Douglas and his wife. Upon hearing noise, American citizen 40-year-old Thomas Fiorille went to investigate and he too was attacked and received cut wounds also. A struggle ensued where both Douglas and Thomas fended off the culprit who reportedly received injuries to his head. The culprit then managed to make good his escape. Nothing was reported stolen.
This is the police report. It is formal, straightforward and informative. As it should be.
If you linger on certain phrases, like “attacked with a kitchen knife,” “inflicted cut wounds” and “a struggle ensued” and let your imagination float free you can begin to gather a sense of the terror our neighbors in The Cloisters endured on Thursday night.
Here’s another one: “Nothing was reported stolen.” I may be wrong but the sense I got from Doug, Gail and Tom was that this guy broke in to kill them. He screamed as much at them, Gail said.
Doug and Gail put up a terrific fight. Gail hit the guy with a bar stool.
Tom and Crystal, who live directly above Doug and Gail were the first to hear the commotion. It was around midnight and Tom was awake, sitting in his living room finishing up a smoke. When he heard the crashes and screams he didn’t hesitate.
He ran downstairs and barreled his way into the condo. “Doug and Gail are like family to us,” he said yesterday after returning from Belize City, where they all went to have their wounds and injuries double-checked.
Tom tore into the guy and the guy tore into Tom.
By this time I was wake and had figured out where the noise was coming from. I called 911. Crystal did the same. (I called a second time what seemed like ages later but was probably only 10 minutes. “Send an ambulance, too. These people will die if you don’t hurry!” The dispatcher was calm and professional but I wanted her to reflect the same urgency we felt. I feel bad for that now.)
As I set my gaze on Doug’s veranda, a big guy in a red shirt and jeans leaped over the railing and sprinted south. When I got downstairs, another neighbor, Randy, was tending to Doug and Gail. I could hear Gail crying in pain and Doug moaning and I could see blood-smeared walls.
“You don’t want to go in there,” Randy said calmly. “It is a crime scene now.”
Tom, bleeding from a deep chest wound and two stabs, was walking around outside, in shock. I tried to get him to sit down so the blood wouldn’t pump so quickly but he just couldn’t. He saved their lives, I have no doubt of that.
The police arrived by 12:20 a.m. and quickly made arrangements for the Polyclinic to open and called in enough medical staff to work on all three at the same time.
I met Doug at his door and walked out with him, trying to think of something meaningful to say and failing miserably.
He paused, with a bloody towel on his head, smiled weakly and said “Ah, I’ve been in worse bar fights.”
The first few days after we moved into The Cloisters, Doug came over and gave us a fatherly lecture on safety. He told us of the recent break-ins. He even gave us some rods that would prevent the sliding glass doors from opening more than a few inches.
He and Gail are such warm and caring people. This just made no sense at all.
As Crystal prepared to drive them all to the Polyclinic, Gail tried to ignore her own pain as she organized care for the dogs and secured their condo. Randy helped take charge of that.
A police team returned at around 3 a.m. and took pictures and made notes of the crime scene. Little did I know they already had a solid description of the guy and a suspect in mind.
Friday morning, Randy arranged for two people to come in and clean up the condo. One of the first things they found was the tip of a finger, which they placed in a plastic bag.
They called the police who asked “Did you find another one?”
And they did.
I’ve heard of stupid criminals leaving fingerprints behind but this was at a whole new level.
I began to understand what Tom meant when he said “That guy got the worst of it.”
The police had the attacker locked up by morning.
He’s apparently well-known in the Boca Del Rio area, for his thuggery and a scar that runs down the center of his chest. Now he is short two fingers. He won’t be hard to spot next time.
Friday afternoon Tom and Crystal, Doug and Gail all returned from Belize City where they received the extra scrutiny for their injuries. A small group of us were waiting to greet them. They were exhausted but in good spirits. And like Tom had said, they seemed like a family. Rose made vegetable soup and made sure they all had enough for their first night home. One way that we can offer comfort.
I don’t know how this will ultimately affect our neighbors. They all strike me as resilient people who won’t soon forget this nightmare but will be able to move on at some point. At least that is my hope.
Doug and Gail, Tom and Crystal all bought into the dream that is Belize, much as we have done.
Not a fairy tale Paradise, but a really nice place to live with its own set of challenges.
The only people who hold illusions about life on Ambergris Caye are the tourists who check into a resort for a week, spend their time fishing, snorkeling and drinking and then head home with a hangover and sunburn proclaiming the island beautiful, its people the friendliest on earth, and its rum the best in the world.
And they are not wrong. But that is not real island life.
We have a beautiful life and we are surrounded by good and caring people, both natives and ex-pats. We have fresh and healthy food and plenty of inexpensive beer and rum. And yes, we have crime, we have drugs, we have poverty, we have fraud and corruption, we have trash, we have all the challenges you will find in any other town in the world.
It is just that we can sometimes look out the window past the palm trees and gaze upon the bluest and greenest body of water you have ever seen and forget about it all. And we can gather at any time of day with friends and share a story or two, swap island survival tips and simply enjoy the unhurried companionship an island affords.
We live a far simpler life by choice and we easily do without many things that are deemed necessities back home.
It can be joyful. It can be a struggle. But this is where we have made our stand.
This is the place we have chosen to call home.
This morning at 3 a.m. I awoke and walked to the open veranda door. Outside a newly hired security guard stood vigil, a pair of handcuffs hanging from his belt twinkled in the moonlight.
And prayed that the healing has begun for our neighbors.