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FUNERAL FEUD

By Ryan Hamilton-Davis Thursday, April 17 2014

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The funeral of 13-year-old Brandon Hargreaves, who died on April 8 after falling and hitting his head at the St Michael’s School for Boys, was supposed to be a sombre one, however, he was instead sent off with quarreling and bickering.

The scene at St Ann’s RC Church, St Ann’s Road, St Ann’s went from a service celebrating the life of a young boy to a family feud.

As the coffin was being carried to the hearse to take Hargreaves to his final resting place, relatives of his father, Nigel Hargreaves, and those who were related to the boy through his mother, Natasha Gabriel, argued with each other over who should be allowed to view the body before the coffin was closed.

A woman had to reach over the coffin to restrain an angry male relative. “Take your time with me!” he said, gesturing aggressively to relatives of the boy’s father.

A man shouted back and as tempers flared other mourners had to step in and take the two men away. The angry scene made the farewell even more painful for Hargreaves’ mother and aunt, Nikisha Bowman. The women wept uncontrollably and Gabriel had to be helped away by two women.

When the men were separated, passions finally cooled down and the coffin was taken away in the hearse.

Over a week ago, Hargreaves hit his head while horse-playing in a dormitory at St Michael’s School for Boys in Diego Martin. The boy was taken to the St James Medical Complex where he was treated, but he died at about 10.25 that night.

Members of St Michael’s as well as Minister of Gender, Youth and Child Development Clifton De Coteau joined relatives to pay respects to the 13-year-old.

“I loved him with all my heart, I loved him like he was my own son,” Bowman said during her eulogy. She described Hargreaves as a loving child with a great sense of humour. His laugh was infectious, and he was the kind of child that always found humour in any situation, she said. However, the family trouble that led to him sent to St Michael’s by the court compounded the hurt she felt while speaking of him.

“It is hard to stand here reading from this paper knowing the truth; knowing who fell short and who could have done better in his life. For years I have been praying and fasting for Brandon with the situation he was in. I went everywhere and did everything I could but there was nothing I could do because I was not his parent. I loved him with all my heart. I tried my best to make known what was happening,” Bowman lamented.

She concluded by saying she was glad he was finally at rest, and free from pain, hurt and broken promises.

Claude Berkley extended condolences on behalf of St Michael’s.

“As believers in God and Christ we look for the resurrection and we pray for that same hope, life and end for Brandon. The school continues to commit to taking the best care possible of our charges. May he rest in peace and rise in glory,” Berkley said.

Clyde Mottley, Hargreaves’ great-uncle, also said he was a very loving child.

“That boy had more love in him than I could imagine. He had so much love in him, and he needed someone to express it to, and there was no one there for him to express that love to, look at how many people he has now. Where were half the people here when he really needed someone? They were partying, liming and having a good time. You should be ashamed!” Mottley chided mourners. “In the abundance of plenty of food, shelter, he was neglected. As I look at his coffin I know there are things that I should say but I can’t because I have to respect God. That is a lost child, he had been forsaken. He was troubled and forsaken. The whole village knew him but they didn’t love him. May his soul rest in peace, he will hunger no more, and he will hurt no more,” Mottley said.

On July 18, 2012, while responding to complaints from neighbours, police rescued Hargreaves, then 12-years-old, who they found locked in a kennel with a dog at a house in Cascade. The boy was naked, hungry and had dog bites about his body.

His father Nigel, common-law wife Nasha Baboolal and a cousin, Kendall Baptiste, were arrested. Nigel and Baptiste were charged with cruelty to a child and Baboolal was charged with assault. They were all denied bail when they first appeared in the Port-of-Spain Magistrates’ Court on July 21, 2012. They were eventually released on bail and the case is still before the court.

Nigel was present at the funeral where several mourners wore T-shirts with his son’s picture printed on them. He did not speak during the service.

Hargreaves was initially in the care of an aunt after his rescue until the court had him placed at St Michael’s, which falls under the Ministry of Gender, Youth and Child Development. The ministry is reviewing the management of the school in light of the boy’s death.

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