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Wednesday, May 10, 2006

-- jilted man held
By Ruel Johnson and Michel Outridge

FROM left Odella Bowling with sisters Stacy Singh and Onissa Bowling, one of the survivors of the fire. (Quacy Sampson photo)

A JILTED man is in police custody after an alleged act of arson early yesterday morning left two little children and their grandmother dead, and their mother nursing serious injuries at the Georgetown Public Hospital Corporation (GPHC).

Survivors said a channa bomb (crude Molotov cocktail) hurled into the small wooden house where a family was asleep, started the blaze that left the three dead and one badly burnt.

Anida Bowling, aged just one year and seven months, her four-year-old sister, Devika Bowling, and their 66-year-old grandmother, Victoria Benjamin, all perished after a fire broke out in their Parika Backdam, East Bank Essequibo home before dawn yesterday.

The children’s mother, 42-year-old Glarey Bowling jumped through a louvre window to save herself from the fire which destroyed her home and killed two of her 10 offspring and her elderly mother.

A YOUNG neighbour looks in at the scorched inside of the house. (Quacy Sampson photo)

When the Guyana Chronicle visited Glarey Bowling at the GPHC yesterday afternoon, she was in tremendous pain; her face was swollen, her eyes barely open and most parts of her body bandaged for third degree burns.

She was, however, conscious and recalled from her bed at the hospital’s Burns Care Unit the terror that shattered her life.
Bowling related that some unusual sounds from outside the house in the farming community woke her up at about 02:40 h.

She said she had been asleep in the upper section of the tiny two storey house – really a ten by sixteen foot hut raised on stilts with the bottom enclosed – which she shared with her mother and seven of her ten children. Her father and two other relatives slept downstairs.

Bowling told the Guyana Chronicle that by the time she had a chance to get up and investigate the noises, what was later revealed to be a channa bomb was hurled onto her bed.

A BURNT OUT bedframe, mattress, sheets and a television set outside of the house in which the two children and the old woman died. (Quacy Sampson photo)

It caught fire immediately, she said, recalling how she grabbed her two youngest children who were on fire since the incendiary device was hurled directly on them. As a result her hands were badly burnt and she could no longer endure the heat and flames that engulfed her.

“I tried desperately to save my children but the fire was too much and it was on them directly and I had to jump through the window to save myself,” she cried yesterday from her bed in hospital.

The two children, Anida and Devika, were burnt alive. So was her elderly, bed-ridden mother, Victoria Benjamin.

Glarey Bowling recalled that after she landed on the ground outside, she was severely injured and could not move from the spot so she cried out for help.
She was later taken to the GPHC by an ambulance.

At the scene yesterday afternoon, it was hard to tell a fire had taken place there with only a cursory glance at the still intact house; even the inside where the fire had started had extensive but not devastating scorch marks.

In the yard, however, burnt out parts of a bed, and a television set which was warped by what could only have been fairly intense heat, stood testimony to what had taken place there earlier.

BURNT: the TV set, bedframe damaged in the fire. (Quacy Sampson photo)

Fourteen-year-old survivor Onissa Bowling was joined by her two sisters, 16-year-old Odella Bowling and 23-year-old Stacy Singh while the Guyana Chronicle was there yesterday. The latter two, as well as another sister, do not live at the house.

Onissa told this newspaper that she was awakened by her mother ordering them to “throw water, throw water.”

She got up to find her younger brother trying to break open a window, while a fire blazed “all around”. She said by the time they had opened the door and escaped, her two siblings and her grandmother had already been burnt to death.

During her initial attempts to escape, she said she looked through a window and saw the former husband of a close relative, accompanied by another man, walking away from the house.

Onissa said the close relative and the man had separated two months ago and since then he had threatened to burn down the house which he had helped to build, and where he had lived once.

The man is reported to have been subsequently arrested and is in the custody of the Police.

Guyana Chronicle