Gayle and Charlie Anderson had recently retired to Jamaica when they were fatally stabbed at their dream home in Jamaica. Photograph: FCO/PA
Mark Shields, Jamaica’s former deputy commissioner of police, said returnees were seen as easy pickings by criminals, who see them as wealthy and naive to the country’s security risks. “I’ve always considered them to be an extreme risk,” he said, adding that police chiefs had previously “under-appreciated” the scale of the crime but that it was becoming a major issue. “There’s a significant risk to returning residents for robbery, fraud and the ultimate crime of murder,” he said.
Shields, who now runs his own security firm in Jamaica, advised Jamaican expats to “think very carefully about immersing themselves in local Jamaican culture in a rural community when they haven’t been back that much”.
Some gangs are known to wait until retirees’ pensions land before striking, while others tail them in rental cars from Kingston or Montego Bay airports and rob them once they reach their destination. Undercover police officers patrol the two airports on the hunt for corrupt baggage handlers or taxi drivers, who have been known to tip off gangs about new arrivals returning to live in Jamaica.
One such gang was led by a police officer and convicted several years ago of 20 robberies, all involving returning residents, although it was suspected of having committed many more crimes over the course of a decade, said Cornwall “Bigga” Ford, a former senior superintendent who caught the group before he retired in 2015. “Once returning residents come back they need support. They need good support,” Ford said. “They work so hard, buy these nice houses all over the place and some of the places are remote. They need security, they need to put up alarms, cameras and have dogs.”
Both the Andersons and Delroy Walker are believed to have been exploited financially before their murders. Detectives told the Jamaica Gleaner newspaper that the Andersons, from Gorton in Manchester, were victims of a £50,000 credit card fraud which they reported to police before they were killed. One suspect has so far been arrested by police.
Steve Walker, a television technical operator from the Midlands, said his brother was murdered following a dispute about money with a painter who was decorating his retirement home near Tower Isle, on Jamaica’s north coast. Delroy Walker died on 19 April after suffering multiple stab wounds. The painter and at least one accomplice have been charged over the murder.
“If you’re from Britain, the US or Canada, you’re seen as having money,” Walker told the Guardian. “My brother might have agreed one price but they think you can surely afford another – that’s what caused the grievance. People need to be aware of their security but there definitely should be a lot more communication with people who are thinking of returning.”
Jamaica experiences twice as many murders in an average year than Britain, even though the UK has a population 20 times higher. Last year the country recorded 1,616 murders, the highest in six years and equivalent to 31 a week, as the homicide rate rocketed by 20% in just 12 months. So far in 2018 there have been more than 600 killings, mainly linked to gang activity, yet only 44% of homicides result in arrests.
At least 85 British, American and Canadian nationals have been murdered in Jamaica since 2012, a Guardian analysis of government data has found. Of those, at least 30 were British and eight were murdered in 2017, the highest annual murder toll of Britons on the island in at least five years.
There are thought to be around 30,000 returned residents in Jamaica although the number coming back each year has dropped substantially since the 1990s, a trend that has heightened concerns about the country’s troubled economy. The newly-appointed police commissioner, major general Antony Anderson, has suggested he will make the issue a top priority.
“The commissioner knows the optics, he knows reputation, he knows how this can reduce footfall in Jamaica and reduce GDP,” said Leroy Logan, a former Scotland Yard superintendent who met Anderson earlier this month and who runs the Jamaica diaspora crime intervention and prevention taskforce in the UK. “There needs to be specific protections for returnees – from the Jamaica constabulary force, the Foreign Office and the Department for International Development – while they’re in the UK and once they arrive. I don’t think they’re doing a sufficient risk assessment in preparation for their return.”
Latouche, a 77-year-old former London gas station operator who now runs the island’s biggest returning residents group, said his warnings about the pattern had for years fallen on deaf ears. He met the Andersons four years ago in Manchester and was devastated by news of their murder. “This country is anarchic, there’s no law here,” he said. “It’s going to have a devastating impact on the economy.”