Musician Don Drummond guilty of lover's murder by reason of insanity

Sunday, November 25, 2012

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BEARDED, and with fingernails looking like claws, trombonist Donald Drummond, popularly called 'Don Drummond', appeared in the No 1 Home Circuit Court for his trial in 1966 on a charge of murdering his live-in lover, 23-year-old rhumba dancer, Anita 'Margarita' Mahfood.

Followed keenly by lovers of ska, for which Drummond was regarded as almost magical in his handling of the trombone, the trial attracted a packed courtroom for every day it lasted.

And it was with great sadness for the man — said to be rated by George Shearing as one of the five best trombonists in the world — that his fans heard the jury find him guilty but insane. This was evidenced by the reaction of the majority of people in and outside the courtroom when the jury's verdict was delivered.

But Drummond showed absolutely no emotion. He just stared blankly ahead.

A deafening silence descended on the court as trial judge, the late Justice Fox (later Judge of Appeal) ordered that he be kept in strict custody as a criminal lunatic until the Governor General's pleasure was known. Drummond was kept at the General Penitentiary for a few days before being taken to the Bellevue Hospital not far away in eastern Kingston.

One of the original members of the Skatalites, composer and rated Jamaica's top trombonist, Don Drummond died on Tuesday, May 6, 1969 in the Bellevue Hospital as a criminal lunatic. He was 37 years old.

Not to be forgotten though, was the silent grief of the Mahfood family. Anita's father, a well-known wholesale merchant in the fisheries business, had operated out of premises at Torrington Bridge, near to the now National Heroes Park. With trembling lips, her sister, Coochita Buckland told of identifying her sister's body at the morgue.

Drummond was defended by the late attorney Anthony Spaulding (later QC and minister of housing in the 1972 Michael Manley-led administration) and PJ Patterson (later QC and prime minister of Jamaica).

It was the prosecution's case that in the early morning of January 2, 1965, Drummond stabbed Mahfood to death in an apartment they shared at 9 Rusden Road, Kingston 2.

At the trial, Dr Harrihar Pershadsingh, medical officer for Kingston, testified that he performed a post mortem on Mahfood's body three years earlier, on January 3, 1965.

He told the court he found four stab wounds; one, an oblique, incised wound on the left side of the chest; one on the upper half of the front fold of the armpit; an oblique, incised wound on the edge of the left areola of the left breast coinciding with 10 o'clock on the face of a clock and an incised wound along the same areola of the left breast coinciding with 4 o'clock on the face of a clock.

The four stab wounds, he said, were of such severity that the first one could have caused shock. Death was due to massive haemorrhage.

Earlier in the trial, Justice Fox had ruled that a statement allegedly made to the police by Drummond shortly after the fatal stabbing of the young woman — who was a night-club dancer nicknamed "Margarita" — was admissible in law and he admitted the statement in evidence.

The jury of 12 men had, prior to His Lordship's ruling, heard legal arguments on the point after defence counsel Patterson had sought to get this evidence from Acting Corporal Aston Pennycooke of the Rockfort Police Station.

An objection had been taken by Crown Counsel Churchill Raymond (later Supreme Court Judge, deceased) to the giving of the evidence, on the ground that it was inadmissible.

Pennycooke had testified earlier that he was on duty at the station that early morning when Drummond came there and told him something resulting in his sending a constable to the premises.

Pennycooke said that Drummond told him: "Ah woman in di yard stab herself and ah would like di police to come an see her."

Pennycooke said he sent Constable Reid to the scene and later, Drummond and Reid returned to the station where, in Drummond's presence, Reid reported to him (Pennycooke) that the woman was dead. Drummond was arrested by Detective Corporal Acquilla Elliott of the Rockfort Police Station.

Dr Kenneth Royes, senior medical officer at Bellevue, told the judge and jury that the day of the killing, Drummond did not fully understand the nature of what he was doing. However, by the time the trial started, it was his view that the accused was now normal.

The doctor explained that when he saw Drummond in March 1965, he thought Drummond had had an abnormality of mind in January of that year that could have been triggered by some annoyance, disappointment or by the use of drugs.

Leonard Hibbert, musician of 39 Colbeck Avenue, Pembroke Hall, said he first met Drummond at Alpha where Drummond had been leader of a small band. Hibbert had gone there to help the band. He thought that Drummond was a young genius: he was quiet, studious, willing to help other musicians. But he was also a very withdrawn person.

Drummond, according to Hibbert, was the youngest of Jamaica's great musicians. He regarded him as Jamaica's number one trombonist and in the top five trombonists in the world. He told of having worked with Drummond over the years and also that he had visited Drummond in the madhouse about three times. He also knew that after the last episode, Drummond resumed his career as a musician once he was released.

Dr Matthew Beaubrun, registered medical practitioner, said that he would not come to the conclusion that the wounds were self-inflicted until he had done an autopsy and even then he might not be in a position to say categorically that it was homicide or suicide.

Dr Noel Clinton March, also a registered medical practitioner and pathologist, testified that given the description of the wounds on Mahfood's body, it was his opinion that her death could have been homicide or suicide.

Dr Leonard Arnold of the Police Forensic Laboratory said he found similar bloodstains on Mahfood's and Drummond's clothes.

Constable Horace Reid, stationed at the Bull Bay Police station at the time of trial, related that he had accompanied Drummond to 9 Rusden Road where he saw Mahfood's body with a knife stuck in her left breast lying on a bed in a room.

Cross-examined by Spaulding, Drummond's lawyer, Reid said Drummond actually wanted to summon an ambulance for the dead woman.

David Bowen, a tenant on the same premises where the murder took place, said about 4:00 am on the day of the murder, he was in bed when he heard "a stumbling sound" coming from the room occupied by Drummond and Mahfood. This was followed by a shout of "Help! Murder!" by the woman. There were also sounds of the two persons fighting. But it was not the first time he had heard Mahfood shout for murder, he said.

Bowen said he came out of his room and went to the room occupied by caretaker Alvinel Studdard. About 15 minutes later, he saw a district constable sitting on the verandah. At no stage did he go into Drummond's room.

Cross-examined by Patterson, Bowen said that the stumbling sound lasted for about a minute. On previous occasions he had heard Mahfood bawl for murder when she and Drummond were "fighting and playing". Mahfood, he told the court, also swore a lot. The only shout he heard that morning was that given by Mahfood. He said Drummond and Mahfood fought about three or four times during the previous December and on one of those occasions he saw Drummond hit Mahfood and throw her onto the verandah.

At the end of the prosecution's case, the defence pronounced that Mahfood had committed suicide.

But in a moving address, Spaulding asked the all-male jury to "send Drummond back to the dancehalls to continue to make the contribution that he has already made in Jamaica and live to develop our culture to carry on the work that he has started".

"He deserves it," pleaded defence counsel. "Give him a chance. He needs it."

But Counsel for the Crown, Churchill Raymond countered, advising the jury that: "It's not a question of giving anybody any chance. You are here to pronounce guilt or innocence."

He told the jury that the question of suicide advanced by the defence had failed, as had the question of insanity. He asked them to return a verdict of guilty and the jury obliged, but by reason of insanity.

And so it was, that Don Drummond, Jamaica's finest trombonist, who had first played with the Eric Deans All-Star Band, was the leading figure in 'Skatalites', a band which emerged during the early days of Ska and took popularity among music lovers, was to leave the stage of glamour, lights and tantalising music for life in an asylum as a criminal lunatic. He died at Bellevue a few years after his incarceration, reportedly of natural causes.

An exponent of jazz and all-round music as well as a competent music writer, Drummond's big hits included Occupation, Scrap Iron, Far East, Eastern Standard Time and Green Island which was released in 1967.

Next week: Easter Monday night horror as killer fulfilled promise of bloodshed in St Mary

Sybil E Hibbert is a veteran journalist and retired court reporting specialist. She is also the wife of Retired ACP Isadore 'Dick' Hibbert. Send comments to




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