GRIEF: Richard Green (r) is comforted by Rev. Devere Nugent during his daughter Imani Green's Jan 26 funeral in Trelawny, Jamaica
BRITISH SCHOOLGIRL, Imani Green, was buried on Saturday (Jan 26), two weeks after she was shot dead by a gunman while holidaying in Jamaica.
Tears flowed amid song as mourners gathered at the Falmouth Baptist Church in Trelawny parish, Jamaica as people remembered the eight-year-old, whose charm delighted those who met her.
Imani brought laughter to many persons in her adopted community of Duncans, Trelawny – and at the Jan 26 funeral, people reminisced about how amusing she was as she spoke the Jamaica patois with her British accent.
She was killed on January 11, while in Duncans with her mother Donna, 47, and sister Jamila, 19.
The eight-year-old schoolgirl, who suffered from genetic disorder Sickle Cell Anaemia, travelled to Jamaica on December 27.
Her school, Tooting-based Fircroft primary school, had given her special permission to stay longer on the warm island as it could help her condition.
She was due back in London on Jan 25 but was killed by a masked gunman while she was playing at her cousin's shop.
Her father, Richard Green, mother Donna and other family members broke down in tears during the service and were comforted by those around them.
While many paid tribute in songs and by relating memories, some raised concerns over the spate of crime that had claimed Imani’s life.
Minister of state in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade, Arnaldo Brown, spoke of the need to do more to protect children from the snare of crime and violence as he delivered a message on behalf of the Portia Simpson Miller-led administration.
The Rev. Devere Nugent challenged the mourners to be part of the move to curtail crime and violence, which he noted is “not just a government problem”.
He asked: “How can there be any vision of a better Jamaica without seriously tackling crime and violence?”
SHOT DEAD: Eight-year-old Imani Green
The funeral was held just four days after hundreds of people turned out at a south London to attend a candlelight and prayer vigil, held in Imani’s memory.
The event, held at the New Testament Assembly in Tooting, south London on January 22, drew hundreds who wanted to honour the eight-year-old and show solidarity for her heartbroken family.
They also sang songs and paid tribute to Imani. Among those who came out to honour her were Imani’s classmates. They wrote a touching poem that head teacher Anne Wilson read aloud.
"Your place will never be erased," it read. "So sweet and kind. Our thoughts of you will never go away. We will miss you each and everyday.
"I will miss our morning play in the classroom playground where we stayed. In the arms of God you are embraced in love as we watch a new star shining brightly in the skies above. We love you always. From 3H."
Wilson described young Imani as "a happy, playful, sunny girl".
She told the packed church: “We foster a caring community at Fircroft and feel this loss very deeply.”
She promised the school would do what it can to offer support to Imani’s family on their return from Jamaica.
Other attendees included Jamaican High Commission representative Deidre Mills, who was representing Aloun Ndombet-Assamba, Jamaica’s High Commissioner to the UK, councillor Sheila Boswell and Reverend Barry Nichols.
Rev Nichols said Imani’s death shocked the whole country as well as her south London community.
“The whole country was shocked when we heard that a young British girl had been killed in Jamaica and those of us who live here were even more disturbed when we realised that it was Imani from Balham and Fircroft school," Nichols said.
“When a young person is taken from us, it is almost hard for everyone involved but when they are taken from us in a violent way it’s even harder. What we can do is to be there for one another."
Mills, who was representing Aloun Ndombet-Assamba, Jamaica’s High Commissioner to the UK, said: “We don't know Imani the way you do but the loss of any life and especially of one so young is something that we can't help but feel very saddened about. We wanted to come and stand with you today to demonstrate that we are with you.
“We understand your pain but we are keeping you in our prayers. We want to assure you that you have our full support and that we will work with you to keep Imani's memory alive.”
Eight people have since been arrested and taken in for questioning over her murder, said to be linked to a dispute arising from a lottery scam.