On Wednesday, May 7, police respond to reports of a topless woman, who had allegedly walked into two downtown eateries armed with two machetes.
They arrest the woman (age: 39, home: none) without further incident and take her into custody.
On Friday, May 9, the woman appears in Summary Court. Crown prosecutors have decided to charge her with threatening violence, having a machete and knife, and robbery (a slice of carrot cake). The woman may appear before Mental Health Court on the first two charges. The robbery charge must be dealt with in Grand Court.
The judge orders the woman into custody, and she is sent to Fairbanks women’s prison.
On Sunday, May 11, the woman begins to scream. She will not stop.
According to a police report, the woman then had scalding hot water tossed on her — presumably by other prison inmates. The water — heated in the microwave in the prison’s common room — scalds the woman badly enough that she is taken to the hospital to be treated for her burns.
Consider the savagery we have just described. Does it not harken back to the Middle Ages when the mentally ill were hidden in attics or cellars or secreted away in custodial cells? Consider the inhumanity of scalding this woman to keep her quiet.
For decades since the modern era of Cayman’s prosperity, successive governments have been perfectly content to spend hundreds of millions of dollars on projects such as Cayman Airways, the Turtle Farm, Clifton Hunter High School and the $85 million dollar-plus Government Administration Building.
And yet, they have not seen fit to fund an adequate facility to look after the mentally ill on this island.
Anyone who lives here is well aware of a fellow often seen in the Strand parking lot, screaming at passersby, or another woman, sometimes threatening, who constantly walks up and down West Bay Road. Downtown George Town, the heart of our capital district, also has a cast of mentally ill characters who harass both visitors and residents alike. We all know and notice these forlorn and forsaken individuals who clearly need help.
A number of questions, for starters, arise from this current incident:
Health Minister Osbourne Bodden, what specifically are you doing to protect this woman? Have you intervened and, if so, to what result? It is our understanding she is back in the prison where she was apparently assaulted. Why?
- Why did Crown prosecutors charge her over the carrot cake, dragging her into Grand Court?
- Why was she sent to Fairbanks, a facility that officials have long known, in the words of former prison head William Rattray, “is not adequate as a place of safety for mental health patients”?
- Why was the woman’s alleged assault with the scalding water not reported to police until nearly 14 hours after it happened?
- What has happened to the official in charge of Fairbanks when the woman was scalded?
The events described above are not worthy of the people or the government of the Cayman Islands. What will be of great, and immediate, interest will be the response of our leaders in power.