Family land dispute erupts on Cemetery Lane

vlcsnap-2013-10-29-08h30m24s0They say you can choose your friends, but you cannot choose your family. That quote from American author Harper Lee’s “To Kill A Mockingbird” was dramatized this past Saturday on Cemetery Lane in Belize City. In 1933, two families lived on the same plot of land, #404 Cemetery Lane. One was the family of prominent attorney Rodwell Williams; the other, the Yearwood family. The Williams’ family were allowed to live in a small corner of the property, but they eventually moved. However, the attorney apparently still has enough of a claim there that he told a fast food shop owner on Albert Street West, located behind the old premises of his firm Barrow and Williams, that she could move her shop to the Cemetery Lane property as compensation for losing her property to an expanded parking lot. He also has a document purporting to subdivide the property. Problem is, the Yearwoods’ matriarch Elaine says she gave no such permission to subdivide. Her daughter Sharret says Rodwell Williams never approached them about his plans.

vlcsnap-2013-10-29-08h31m48s0Ms. Sharret Yearwood- Daughter of Elaine

“It was brought to our attention yesterday.” 

Reporter:  “And then, you think now the police is here to enforce that?”

Ms. Sharret Yearwood: Exactly, today we didn’t get a notice a from Rodwell Williams or whatsoever; somebody came yesterday to measure the spot.   When my family asked them what they are doing, they said they are measuring the spot to bring a structure that Rodwell Williams is putting here.   Nothing has come from the police, nothing…nobody…no lawyer, nobody has shown up to say that this is Rodwell Williams’ property and this is what we are going to do na d we haven’t seen or heard from Rodwell Williams”.

The attorney was not present on Saturday, but he apparently approached the police to ensure that the fast food owner’s

property was moved onto the Cemetery Lane property without the Yearwoods’ approval – and they came out in numbers, armed with guns and a tow truck, along with BDF soldiers. PLUS News’ cameras caught the frustration and anger as the Yearwoods remonstrated with police – one of whom, a sergeant, is also a blood relation. It got to the point where that Sergeant threatened to arrest his kin. Here is that dramatic exchange.

vlcsnap-2013-10-29-08h32m41s189Disgruntled Male Citizen:   “Dis da the country weh we live eena!   Dat da ,y e me wah dis, fuh chance poor people taking the country to the hustlah!   Go tek you test and your property!

Land dispute rival:  “This da private prawpatty.   No be wah fool”.

Disgruntled Male Citizen:   “Whatever happen to you eenyah, you dezerv.   No come eenyah!

Land dispute rival:  “Thank you.

Disgruntled Male Citizen:   “And I no ker, you could send to the whole port for me…the whole port cuh come!   But we no dih move!

Sergeant:  “A wah detain you, you know?

Disgruntled Male Citizen:   “Detain me!”

Land dispute rival:  “He’s holding a firearm! E hav wah fayaraam”.

“A wah send you da jail!

Eventually, the police convinced another relative, Shawn Martinez, to move his vehicle from the area so that they could move the building in. They did and thereafter the contractor returned with the zinc roofing for the building. But by that time, the family had gotten in touch with attorney Audrey Matura-Shepherd, who demanded that the officers show a court order supporting their actions.

Sergeant:  “Listen to me, this matter noh deh up fuh dispute, you know?”

vlcsnap-2013-10-29-08h33m41s172Mrs. Audrey Matura Shepherd- Attorney at Law :  “E deh up fuh dispute, yes.”

Sergeant:  “A wah arrest everybody, you know?  Listen to me, bring in your material”.

Ms. Audrey Matura Shepherd:  “No, no, no.   Where is yourcourt order?  Bring in the court order now!”  

Sergeant:  “Watch yah, just bring your material”.  

Ms. Audrey Matura Shepherd:  “The thing is that the police could only enforce if they have a court order.”

Sergeant:  “They need the use of a court order?”

Ms. Audrey Matura Shepherd:  “They need a court order”.

Though they could not produce the order, Ms Matura-Shepherd reached senior Police officials who convinced her and her new clients to let the matter rest until Monday.

Ms. Audrey Matura Shepherd:  “Everything can be solved in a legal way.   What happen to unuh this morming da the abuse ah the authority of the Police.   That’s an abuse of the state.   The state could come and enforce a court order against unuh.   If wah man show up with wah title to the land and unuh dispute that, da noh dih police fuh decide who right or who wrong.   Unuh two have to go da court, and the court ahn decide, but once dehn get wah court order, then deh could go to the police and seh, “police, deyah people no obey.   Help me enforce it”,  But you all have not reached that stage yet.   They had no right to touch anything; they had no right to do that…and unuh had to do that right?   So, I talked to the Senior police officer and said that yes, everything pahn hold.    Monday, they ah mek the two parties go talk with the police, and then, if the police realize that they are wrong and they wah have to move the structure, they wah move it.   So, of course, that means that unuh have to go da court.   You have to go da court fuh either seek wah injunction or enforce some kind ah unuh right.

We will continue to follow the story.

About the Author