ON September 29, 1959, a young man named Samuel Jacob, 22 years old, incriminated himself by deciding to reveal the details of four murders and a string of robberies he had committed over a period of months earlier that year.
He had nicknamed himself the Black Archer, inscribing the initials BA on the body of one of his victims.
He told his tales to a young police officer named Cecil Matthews in a room on the compound of the Tunapuna Police Station. He had waived his right to representation by legal counsel. He listed the murders as follows: the Wallerfield Murder; the Sonny George alias “Cobra” Murder, the Kumarsingh Murder and the Dookanie Murder.
Among the robberies he confessed, there was one in which he relieved a man of $500 from a briefcase, having followed the man who was on his way home from a meeting of a friendly society organisation in Tunapuna. A few nights later, he relieved a man of a wallet which contained a single dollar note after flagging down the man’s car along the Lady Young Road in Morvant. Moments later, at the Lookout further up the Lady Young Road, he shot a man and a woman in a car.
As he ended his confessions of these crimes, Jacob told Matthews and the other attending officers that the man he held up on the Lady Young Road handed over the wallet with the single dollar in it. “He handed over the wallet, otherwise he would have got shot, too. I did this act first and the other one. This my whole miserable life,” he said.
From his several interactions with Jacob over the period in question, Matthews said he (Jacob) had “just burst on the scene at Tunapuna”, taking up lodging in a one-room apartment owned by Sonny Jattan and his wife, Sumintra. He slept in a bag on the floor. He left home sometimes at sunrise or at sunset, depending on the stomping ground he had chosen for that day.
“He had little trust in anyone, and why should he? He was given to an aunt by his mother at an early age, and that aunt never gave him love. Only food and clothes.”
Up to his final moments, Matthews writes, Jacob never revealed anything about his parents or whether or not he had siblings. “He refused to give the names of his parents or his aunt. But he emphasised his loveless childhood. Here was a young man suspected of murder, speaking about the deprivations of his childhood—love and attention,” he writes. At points during their several interactions, Matthews said Jacob could not understand the police officer’s attitude to him. Matthews had earlier noticed a wound on one of Jacob’s big toes, and arranged to have it dressed. “Time and again, I would catch him looking at me enquiringly. He could not understand my attitude. I had given him the attention that he craved as a child, then cut him off as though he was not worthy of it. He now directly sought my attention.” It was on this basis that Jacob decided to confess to the four murders and the robberies.
In the Wallerfield Murder, for which he was tried and convicted, he had shot dead a taxi-driver named Faizool Khan; raped, stabbed and left for dead the woman with whom he had been intimate on the day in question. Her name was given as Chan.
During Chan’s testimony, Matthews writes, Jacob “stared at her blankly, his face devoid of emotion. He would say afterwards that he regretted not finishing her off”.
Reports from a medical examiner at the trial revealed that Chan had suffered from gunshot wounds due to pellets in her ribs, and lacerated wounds to her head, resulting from blows with a blunt instrument. Jacob had told the investigators he had hit her about the head with the butt of the gun with which he killed Faizool Khan.
Beside the police investigators, the sole witness for the prosecution was the man in whom Jacob confided, the person Matthews describes as his “suspected partner in crime”. He was identified as Percy Lennard. “Now he would betray Jacob in order to save his own skin.” He said he knew nothing about Jacob’s criminal motives, but would often drive him to Wallerfield “to catch birds”, and pick him back up in the evening. He did that on the day in question, he told the court.
The Samuel Jacob case was a national sensation at the time, and was still being talked about in the early to mid-1970s. The impact of childhood neglect, the effect of a lack of care and attention, and the absence of love in their upbringing are cited here as primary elements in the making of a social monster.
Even with the abundance of evidence before us in succeeding decades, the problem has metastasised, in frightening defiance of our best efforts to date.
—Andy Johnson is
a veteran journalist