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Oh brother, who art Thou?

'He received lashes with the cat. He did tell me about that. And I felt that pain.'

  • 5 min to read

Ralph (not his real name) during an interview at Maximum Security Prison (MSP), Arouca last October.

Family, it is said, are the people you love before you know your own name.

Arthur* carries that original love for his brother, Ralph*, a convicted rapist and paedophile, a man distorted by violence and fantasies of more violence.

Arthur*, 77, speaks of his brother, 78, with heartbreaking tenderness.

“One of the biggest pains I experienced was when a relative who loved gossip said to me ‘Your brother is a monster, boy!’ I felt it was so heartless. He said he hoped they beat him bad in prison and kill him. That was a very painful memory.”

Because for Arthur, that man in convict whites sitting behind a sheet of glass in the Maximum Security Prison (MSP)’s visiting area is not only a sadistic paedophile rapist but also a brother with whom he shares jokes, who is proud of Arthur’s achievements in the free world and with whom Arthur reminisces about their youthful escapades in Port of Spain of the 1950s and 1960s.

“We grew up together, real together. If we fight, we fight each other. If we going to a fight, we going together. We did everything together.

“Our mother died at childbirth when I was 11 and he was 12 going on 13. I was blessed to be the one who had what you would call the brains. He was a bit slow in that area so that I was the one who ended up going to college and university but I always followed his life—when he got married, had children. So when the incident occurred and he had to go to court, I think the only person in court and who visited him, was me, other than those who had to be there, like his wife.

“Through the years I have been the one who visited him whenever the opportunity presented itself.”

During these visits, Ralph’s attack of his seven-year-old daughter is never discussed.

“I have never asked him if he did what they said he did. When we meet, we don’t discuss that. We have never discussed it. I have never put him in a spot to say what really happened.

“When you see us together you would marvel at how much fun…we laugh almost non-stop. People look across at us, getting on as if we are in a party. It’s a very entertaining visit when I go and time always too short. He wants to know everything about me. And this is how we interacted over the years.”

Arthur doesn’t probe the sensitive topic with his brother, not because he does not know Ralph’s sociopathy but because “we always have spent pleasurable moments together and I want to know that I give him a plus in his life, that we have a relationship that is not about pointing fingers or holding up a placard of his life in front of him.”

While Arthur says he knew little of Ralph’s sexual deviance, he was familiar with his brother’s hair-trigger violence.

“He had a very, very short temper. If you did him something wrong, at that moment he could kill you. His temper was very violent. I remember one time I crossed him and at that moment I decided ‘Doh play with this, boy’. It’s almost like something takes over him whenever he gets annoyed, vex. And that temper was his undoing in many cases. That underlying temper he has, he got into a lot of scrapes in the early years in prison. That was a source of pain to me. One time I met him and he told me he was in a bad fight in prison and I used to feel his pain, feel it…”

Arthur trails off several times in the interview; each occasion is when he discusses his pain over his brother’s life and fate. The historic double life sentence imposed on Ralph by Justice Lennox Deyalsingh 33 years ago in the Port of Spain High Court was hard to absorb. Then Deyalsingh threw in 20 strokes with the cat-o’-nine tails. It was as torturous to Arthur as the violation Ralph had inflicted on his little daughter.

“He received lashes with the cat. He did tell me about that. And I felt that pain. I felt that pain and I remember dreaming that at this time he is being hurt. I would dream and feel I was in prison with him. A lot of times I would get a recurring dream of me being put in prison and them saying, ‘You need to be in there too.’It was a strange dream and I used to feel his pain. I used to share the pain with him, see him and experience being with him. I carried that pain for a long time…”

Arthur describes a shared childhood in which sexuality was sinful. No one was to speak of it.

“Growing up, I just used the term ‘maybe she is pregnant’ and my grandmother, when she was finished with me! She said don’t ever let me hear you use that word in this house again. Sexuality was something you couldn’t even hint at in our household. It was taboo to even mention anything sexual.

“My mother died when I was 11 and my father was so upset. He was a perfect father before that but when she died, he became just a breadwinner and deposited us on my grandmother and grandfather. My grandmother was very religious, very strict. My father distanced himself from our upbringing. There was no one to talk to us about coming of age, sexual urges, how to deal with them. What I learnt was from trial and error and some luck along the way.

“But in me was a sense of right and wrong. I always wanted a good life, a safe life, a life I could be proud of.”

I tell him his brother, who never had to testify because he pleaded guilty, had confessed to the incest and buggery of his daughter during my interview with him.

“This is a side of him I never knew…” and he trails off again.

“There was always a bad streak in him and my father recognised it from early. We always had to be watching, keeping an eye on him. At school he would get in a lot of fights. So everything you say adds up to me. I had my suspicion he had done it. I didn’t need to ask him. I just continued to support him as his brother, the one who grow up with him. At one point my father thought he might have a touch of madness in him…”

With a sigh, heard and unheard over the WhatsApp interview call, Arthur reaches into his age and experience. As dignified as he conducted the entire interview, he said, “I had come to the conclusion that the best thing for him is to stay there…It’s the safest place for him and the rest of the world. And if he came out from there, either somebody would kill him or he would end up killing somebody.

“The fact that he had reached very close to getting a pardon but it didn’t materialise…we sent letters and all sorts of things, I just accepted that he would spend the rest of his life in there and that he would learn how to handle that way of life. I decided to move on and take my life in a different direction.

“I will definitely go and see him. Of course! And I would be just as happy with him and we’d laugh and joke again. I’m sure…”

*Names changed to protect identities of victims

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