Case against clergyman heats up, Hampton principal apologises to students, says she signed bail documents

KSAC councillor insists Murray should resign

Monday, January 09, 2017

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The rape and carnal abuse case involving Moravian clergyman Rev Rupert Clarke has taken on an alarming new twist, including claims by the family of the girl he is accused of abusing that they were being harassed by people in their community to keep silent.


Checks by the Jamaica Observer with several members of the police in St Elizabeth revealed that, while they have heard of rumours of intimidation against the family, no actual reports had been made to the authorities on this particular matter.


"Yes, we have heard about these rumours of intimidation against the family of the girl in the mentioned case. In fact, we have heard of many other allegations in the case in question. We have investigated and are still investigating all these claims, but to date no one is willing to give a statement to us," one policeman told the Observer last evening.


"This is most disconcerting for us, as people must come forward for us to either provide protection, or to share any information they have to assist us with the case. We cannot operate solely on rumours alone," the policeman said.


While the new twists and turns were taking place yesterday, principal of the all-girls boarding Hampton School in St Elizabeth, Heather Murray, apologised to her students during morning devotion following her controversial decision to attend the bail hearing of Rev Clarke last week.


The embattled principal described her decision as "a breach of common sense, I believe, on my part" and apologised for the risk of putting the school "in the wrong".


According to board chairman Trevor Blake, all of the students, who he described as Murray’s daughters, were in strong support of their principal.


Murray was thrown into the spotlight last week after turning up at the St Elizabeth Parish Court, reportedly in support of Clarke’s wife, who she later explained in a statement was a "very good friend of hers", having both attended Hampton School, been educators, as well as serving on several boards, committees and commissions.


However, many members of the public have condemned Murray’s decision to attend the bail hearing, especially since Clarke’s wife was not present. Additionally, Murray’s attempts at blocking media personnel from taking photographs of the 64-year-old accused clergyman have also drawn public chastisement. On social media, especially, Murray was blasted for her decision, with many users expressing outrage and disappointment at her attendance in court.


But Murray staunchly defended her decision, releasing a statement to the media saying, "As a wife, mother of two daughters and principal with responsibility for 1,220 young ladies, I have sought always to protect and defend them and the young children of Jamaica. That has not and will never change."


While most social media users were initially condemning the principal’s decision, the view has somewhat changed. Some users, including past and current students of the school, have stepped up to show their support for Murray, with some stating on various social media platforms that, while her decision may have been ill-advised, such drastic action would not be necessary.


In another development, People’s National Party councillor for the Trafalgar Division in St Andrew South Eastern Kari Douglas renewed her call for Murray to resign.


In a statement, yesterday, Douglas said she welcomes news that Murray has apologised for attempting to bar the media from taking photographs of the accused clergyman.


Douglas said she was shocked at Murray’s admission that she signed documents in relation to Rev Clarke’s move to secure bail.


Commenting further, Douglas said, while it is not wrong to sign documents as a justice of the peace in furtherance of bail being processed, Murray should have recognised that her sensitive and substantive post as principal of Hampton, along with her duty of care to hundred of young girls, should have compelled her not to associate herself with the process of such a matter involving the alleged abuse of a young girl.


Douglas further stated that she very much believes in forgiveness, however, Murray’s apology for one aspect of her series of errors is not enough.


"Mrs Murray has contributed much to the education sector and should be thanked. Nobody is trying to detract from or deny her positive contribution. However, I am appealing to Mrs Murray to recognise that her position is untenable, because there are individuals who no longer have confidence in her ability to protect hundreds of our nation’s girls and do not consider Hampton High as a suitable destination for their children with her at the helm," Douglas said in her release.


She went on to say she is encouraged by the knowledge that the alleged victim and her family are in touch with the Child Development Agency and relevant authorities. She renewed her call for the education minister to ensure that the board of Hampton High, which serves at his pleasure, intervenes should Murray not do the right thing.


Murray and the chairman of the Hampton board are expected to attend a meeting with Education Minister Senator Ruel Reid tomorrow regarding the matter.

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