(Jamaica Gleaner) A manhunt for the presumed shooter was still under way across St James Sunday night in the wake of a spine-chilling murder of a bank executive as she prayed in church.
Investigators theorise that the murder was part of a conspiracy hatched by family members over wealth left behind by the woman’s late husband, triggering a series of death threats that haunted her for months.
The Trelawny police confirmed that three suspects have been taken into custody in connection with the death of 50-year-old National Commercial Bank employee Andrea Lowe-Garwood, who was shot and killed by the lone gunman while worshipping at a church in Falmouth, Trelawny, on Sunday morning.
One of the suspects detained is a stepson of the victim’s husband, Jeffrey Garwood, a tour bus operator who died last July in a motor vehicle accident along the Rose Hall main road in St James. The other two men have been identified as the driver of the getaway vehicle and the owner of the vehicle who had rented it out.
The latter detainee is expected to be released shortly.
One of the men was picked up in Ramble Hill, at Bogue, while Mr Garwood’s stepson and the third man were picked up in Rose Heights, also in St James, during two operations carried out approximately 3:30 p.m. on Sunday.
Reports are that about 10:30 a.m., Lowe-Garwood, who resides at Stone Brook Manor in Trelawny, and was the regional credit card manager at the Montego Bay branch, was among other congregants worshipping at the Agape Christian Fellowship Church on Market Street when the killer entered the building and sat in a pew behind her.
Shortly after the praise-and-worship segment started, the man reportedly pulled a handgun and fired multiple shots, hitting Lowe-Garwood in the upper body, before fleeing from the building and escaping in a white Toyota Allion motor car.
Lowe-Garwood was rushed to the Falmouth Hospital, where she was pronounced dead.
A police source disclosed that Lowe-Garwood started receiving serious death threats from relatives of her late husband right after he died last July – a revelation corroborated by a close relative of the deceased.
“Andrea had been receiving death threats on her life from the very day Jeffrey died. She even had to ask police officers to escort her to his funeral in Hanover because she was told that if she turned up at his funeral, she would be killed,” the relative, withholding identity out of fear, told The Gleaner on Sunday.
The nub of the row appeared to revolve around Lowe-Garwood’s Stone Brook Manor home, which had been willed to her.
But enmity was sown among relatives of Mr Garwood, who had children with another woman, triggering threats over several months that Lowe-Garwood should sell the house and give them a share of the proceeds.
Investigators confirmed the allegations and believe that a hit was contracted on Lowe-Garwood’s life because of resistance to those threats.
“We are aware of the dispute over the house between Lowe-Garwood and the family of her deceased husband and also of the dozens of threats made on her life,” one investigator said. The lawman requested anonymity because he was not authorised to speak about the case.
Commanding officer for Trelawny, Superintendent Carlos Russell, told The Gleaner that he was pleased with the investigators’ swift work, which led to the arrest of the suspects.
National Security Minister Dr Horace Chang also visited the scene shortly after the gruesome killing and said that the incident reflected the brutality that stalked Jamaica. He framed the killing against a canvas of chaos that has seen the murder rate climb at six per cent in 2021 compared to last year.
Appearing to hint at his lobbying in favour of states of emergency, Chang said that Jamaica’s notoriety as the most murderous country in the Americas, at 47 homicides per 100,000 people, was an indicator that the epidemic of crime needed extraordinatory treatment by high-level physicians.
“The reality is, the police have to be able to do pretty much the same. You surround a community and you find those who are carriers of criminal activities, and if necessary, detain them to save lives,” Chang said.
States of emergency were halted the month before the September 3, 2020, general election. The Government has appealed a decision by the Supreme Court ruling the aspects of the detention of five men under SOEs as unconstitutional.